Lucy Shelley Lucy Shelley Junior Reporter, Performance Marketing World

Beauty is in the eye of the in-person sales

Despite the growth of influencers and AR, in-store is beating social for beauty and personal care. Here’s what performance marketers need to know about shifting consumer habits in a post-lockdown world. 

Since stores have opened up as lockdowns are eased, few retailers have been more pleased than the beauty industry. Even though e-commerce sales are ever increasing, six in ten of us still prefer in-store as our favourite way to shop for beauty and personal care products.

Only 15 percent of shoppers prefer using a brand’s social media page for make-up compared to in-store, despite shoppable functions and AR try-ons launched by platforms like Pinterest.

A study, conducted by retail innovation agency Outform, shows that almost four-in-ten (38 percent) say in-store displays help shoppers discover new beauty products, with only 16 percent saying that brand updates on social media are useful for this.  

Comparison is also a key lever for purchases. Over half of shoppers say being able to compare products in-store is important, compared to slightly less at 48 percent online. 45 percent also rely on price comparison sites.

The global beauty industry is worth $511billion, and estimated to hit $716.6billion by 2025 with 46 percent of the market share held by the Asia Pacific region. Digital channels remain fundamental in the rapid expansion of the industry and are invaluable in influencing customers’ propensity to purchase.

Social is still the influencer 

Whilst in-store experiences like speaking to consultants on the shop floor influence four-in-ten (39 percent) of us, 42 percent of 35-44 year-olds say that brands’ social platforms are key to deciding whether to purchase.

The same percentage of 18-24-year-olds are also inspired by social media influencers when it comes to make-up, and men are 7 percent more likely to feel this way overall.

Simon Hathaway, Group MD EMEA at Outform, says: “Online shoppable functions and AR testers aren’t yet a patch on in-store shopping. But platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are fundamental in engaging consumers with beauty brands’ values and ethos.

“And while they’re not yet the primary checkout tool, social platforms are influencing behaviours, particularly if it’s user-generated content that customers can trust.”

It’s all about the blend 

When consumers are 40 percent more willing to try new beauty products than before the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that marketers augment both in-store and social sales platforms to harness the changes in consumer behaviour.

“Capturing online and offline data will help to identify where different cohorts are engaging with products - which isn’t always where they’ll make a purchase - and this knowledge can be used to make browsing and buying seamless through different channels”, says Hathaway.

Although beauty consumers are eager to return to shops, some virtual innovations have stayed the course. More than a third of 18-24-year-olds say online skin consultations are valuable to purchase decisions and a similar number say the same for virtual make-up tutorials. Men are also 2 percent higher (28 percent) in finding the latter important across all age groups.

Hathaway adds: “Different channels can be connected while making the best use of each one. Virtual consultations and online tools are having a positive impact on how consumers' shop, particularly on men who are likely to be less comfortable trying and buying make-up in a public setting.

“But this should also be a lesson for bricks and mortar retailers. Shoppers are eager to experiment with beauty and are less deterred by ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ labels. It’s time for store layouts to compliment the brands and influencers who are making beauty more gender-neutral and a safe space for everyone.”