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When I wrote my topshop.co.uk review I read some high (and some low) rated reviews on other service providing websites. As an old user of the topshop site I did not want to miss out any important information that I might overlook as an accustomed visitor of the site. I came across numerous reviews on cosmeticresearchonline.co.uk. so, as a break from the Topshop review, I decided to investigate for myself. I signed up and I would like to share with you my experience as a new volunteer with this company.
~~~~~~ The Site ~~~~~~
Although the colour scheme is a bit to be desired, the general navigation of the site is self explanatory and accessible. The home page houses the name of the company 'Ayton-Moon', information for potential volunteers, a mission statement and brief information concerning the testing and development of the cosmetics.
There is a site tour for the internet-phobics detailing each page of the site with example pictures. There are two ways to access the signing up page, either the pink button bottom right or one of the lilac tabs along the top. For registered volunteers, sign-in boxes for a username and password are situated on the left panel.
After registering (more on that later) and signing in you are presented with your personal message board. Tabs along the top allow you to select your trials, profile and information. You are required to answer some simple questions to build up your profile before you will be offered any trials. From the family list you can enter other members of your family by clicking "add family member" (a parent of guardian is responsible for any child under the age of 16 in accepting, undertaking and reporting back on a specific trial). Profiling is done by selecting a family member from your list and clicking "Profile Family Member."
In the family list, you can see who is fully profiled, their age and gender plus their punctuality rating. Punctuality is important to Ayton-Moon since they test cosmetics on behalf of their clients. If questionnaires are not filled out promptly then they are failing their clients. A volunteer with excellent punctuality is more likely to be selected for additional trials. Repeated poor punctuality may incur removal from Ayton-Moon's volunteer list, which is perfectly reasonable.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Background To The Company ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In 1995 Sue Ayton established Ayton-Moon Consultancy at the City of bath College. Peter Black Toiletries were the first company to use Ayton-Moon's research service and since then the company has been expanding. They currently test products for Accessorize, Boots, Marks and Spencer, Next, Superdrug, Tesco Healthspan and Virgin Vie. You can read more about Ayton-Moon's background by clicking the Information tab from any page of the site.
I use the term "testing" lightly since all cosmetics that pass through Ayton-Moon to volunteers have previously been toxicologically tested and are deemed perfectly safe. Volunteers are concerned with determining the suitability of the product. The questionnaires are designed to determine what advertising a new product and confidently claim. These are blind trials where the volunteer is unaware of the claims, the price or the brand. Additionally none of the products Ayton-Moon deal with have been tested on animals.
~~~~~~~~ Joining Up ~~~~~~~~
Filling out the profile section involves checking boxes (or dotting circles!) in 6 major sections: Hair, Face, Hands & Arms, Lifestyle, Feet & Legs and Body. The questions are designed to assess your skin type (oily, dry, combination or sensitive), to gather information on what products you use in your normal daily routine and to detail which brands you usually use. This allows trials to be matched well to your profile. For example, someone with oily skin would not fair well with an oil-based moisturiser and equally a trial of an anti-wrinkle cream would not be suitable for a young adult.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My First Email Invitations ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Within 5 days of registering, I received two emails inviting me to log on, view the details of these trials and if I wished, join them. I accepted and two days later Mr Postman delivered me two parcels.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Receiving The Samples ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Each trial was packaged separately. They came in white bubble packaged envelopes containing two samples and an A5 piece of paper with clear instructions. The samples were also clearly labelled with a 3 digit number, a short description and a list of ingredients. They were packaged in clear plastic tubs or upright screw-lid tubes.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Trial Period ~~~~~~~~~~~~
In the first week I was instructed to use a certain product (with only a 3 digit code to distinguish them) and in the second week to use the other product. It was so simple and not time consuming in any way. I found it very easy replace my normal item with these products and in no way was my daily routine changed.
Following the trial period, the remains of the products may be recalled by Ayton-Moon but otherwise volunteers are allowed to keep them.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Questionnaire ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
After the second week I logged into the site. Filling out the questionnaires for my two trials was not too taxing. I was asked approximately 10 questions for each trial concerning my likes and dislikes about the appearance, smell, use and benefits of the products. I was also asked about any irritation and to confirm that I had conducted the trial completely and as instructed.
After completing both of the questionnaires for my open trials I was very pleased to see my punctuality status at the highest rating because I filled them out on the day indicated. It could not be easier.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As An On-Going Member ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have since been offered, accepted and am currently conducting another trial for Ayton-Moon. They do not email any spam and the only emails I have received from them were trial offers.
A volunteer may go for sometime without any offers for trials. However this is a positive point since my profile is up to date and honest so current trials that I am not offered are likely to be of no interest to me. I have never experienced it myself but trials can fill up quickly so a regular email checker might be able to accpet more trials.
There is no payment for completing trials. However, volunteers are allowed to keep the products they are testing if there is no recall on them. The trials I have completed so far have provided ample amounts of product to see me through well after the trials have finished. The samples are great for going on holiday as they are somewhere between travel and full size.
The only drawbacks are that the volunteer is only given a brief description and ingredients list of the samples, no brand or price information is provided. My shelf might be accruing lotions and potions that resemble no-frills items as the clinical trial containers are less than pretty but I have not been wasting as much money in Boots either!!!
Plus how many people have read "95% of people questioned said this product was better than the leading brand" or other wild claims manufactures make and completely disagreeing? Well because volunteers' questionnaires are used to formulate what manufacturers can legitimately claim you can either blame these volunteers or become one yourself and have your say.
~~~~~~~ Summary ~~~~~~~
Signing up is quick and even though the profiling is a little more time consuming, it is in the best interests of Ayton-Moon's volunteers and clients.
I am not keen on the visual appearance of their website or the essay of a url (www.cosmeticresearchonline.co.uk) but viewing trial details, accepting trials, filling out questionnaires, changing or adding to your details and profile could not be easier.
Trial offers may be like buses (none for ages then three at once) but I have never experienced a closed trial after reading an email offer too late. The trials fit easily into your normal routine and all you have to do is remember to change products and report your opinions on the correct date.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes trying new cosmetic or toiletry items but cannot afford to do so as much as they'd like to. However, with no labelling if you find a product you love you won't know what it is to buy it in the shops! The freebies are nice and, for the sake of a questionnaire, are well worth the effort.
I joined them about a year ago, but have yet to be invited to a trial :0( Maybe it's because I don't normally use lots of cosmetics, but that doesn't mean I won't want to try some! Great review.
a-true-ben 28.08.2005 23:42
I think this is one of those I registered for ages ago and never hear from (though I've tested moisturiser and shampoo for other companies). Perhaps more for girls...
gemax2 23.08.2005 20:15
You must be one of those lucky ones i joined up after reading a few reviews on here about this site i have recieved about 5 emails inviting but god knows when they send them because when i pick them up after work the trial is always full !!! what a bummer i have yet to experience free tirals !!! :-(