Sophie is the Manager of Trends for EMEA, responsible for ensuring content in the region is insightful, while also working with the wider team on developing new trends.

The cult beauty brand Lush is involving its customers in the product development process by releasing limited edition runs of new products. Fans are asked to provide feedback via social media using #LushLabs, with Lush then deciding whether to launch, reformulate or ditch the products based on the comments.

Asking customers to vote on a preferred colour, flavour or name for a new product is becoming increasingly popular. However, Lush is taking this one step further by opening up the conversation fully to its audience and actively inviting them to become part of the product testing process. The initiative should help strengthen its reputation as an innovative brand, with fans likely to be excited at the exclusive element of being the first to try a new product.

In particular, inviting feedback via social media is a bold and confident move, potentially opening the company up to public criticism. However, we’re now in an age where online ratings and reviews are increasingly important to shoppers. Mintel’s UK report on beauty online highlights that 50% of UK online beauty shoppers say good ratings online are an important factor when buying beauty products online. Therefore any risk is likely to be outweighed by the opportunities to drive enthusiasm and demand for products long before they are officially launched.

As a next step, brands could ask customers to directly compare similar versions of the same product, helping them decide which variety should be officially introduced. Such an approach has previously been seen in the food sector, with a German supermarket selling multipacks of its chocolate pudding, each with a different sugar content, to discover how sweet customers wanted their desserts.