Beauty Store Business magazine - January, 2020

Online Shopping Proves Successful for Beauty Sector

Forty-seven percent of U.S. online shoppers of beauty and personal-care products have shopped more frequently in 2014 than 2013, according to a study out Dec. 16 from A.T. Kearney. “Beauty and the E-Commerce Beast: 2014 Edition” lays out the results of a consumer survey of online beauty and personal-care shoppers.

The research found that beauty and personal care—an industry traditionally rooted in the ability to touch, smell, sample and experiment with products in stores—is being played by a new set of rules. The results of the study are encouraging for some and may be threatening for others, but one thing is certain: Ecommerce is now an integral part of the business of beauty.

The study also found that:

  • Prestige beauty and personal-care products have higher online shopper penetration (11%) than mass products (6%).
  • Amazon is dominant with 73% of online beauty and personal-care shoppers, followed by Wal-Mart (42%) and Sephora (35%).

In the survey, participants also revealed a significant increase in shopping for more experiential products, such as fragrances and color cosmetics; both saw a 16% increase over 2012 in the number of people who frequently purchase these items online.

Hana Ben-Shabat, A.T. Kearney partner and co-author of the study, said, “Beauty online is so much more than just a transaction. It’s, in fact, one of the most active categories on the Internet. So online is becoming one of the most important paths to purchase. And those who buy beauty products online make frequent purchases. For example, what we’re seeing in this year’s study is that there is an increased willingness on the part of consumers to buy fragrances and makeup online versus habitually used products that they simply replenish.”

At sales of $4.3 billion and growing, online sales in beauty and personal care represent 6.5% of total sector sales. The study found that beauty categories, such as skin care, have above-average ecommerce penetration compared to personal-care products, such as bath or hair care.

Kosha Gada, A.T. Kearney principal and co-author of the study, stated, “As ecommerce penetration is still only an estimated 6.5% of the total category today, the store remains the main channel for beauty and personal care. But the role of the store is shifting from a transactional platform to an experiential one, and increasingly every consumer who walks through the door is doing so armed with product information and opinions to a degree unlike ever before. This requires brands to rethink elements such as shelf planograms, retail staffing, and integration between online and in-store experiences.”

Ben-Shabat added, “It’s no longer sufficient for beauty and personal-care brands and retailers to invest experimentally in digital. Winning companies are those that can figure out how to make the link between online and off-line, digital and physical. And collaboration between manufacturers and retailers in the quest for engaging today’s online consumer is more important than ever before.”

In addition to the analysis of the survey data, the 2014 “Beauty and the E-Commerce Beast” study provides a segmentation analysis of online beauty and personal-care shoppers—of which 50% are defined as “creatures of habit,” those who purchase online to replenish items they are familiar with. This type of shopping behavior gave rise to a variety of “replenishment programs” offered by some online retailers. A resounding 38% of the survey participants reported having subscribed at least once for such a program. Convenience and the ability to incorporate beauty and personal-care products with a larger aggregated basket of household goods on a periodic basis were cited as the main reasons for the adoption.

[Image: / Peter Cade]