Beauty is a category that has always lagged behind regarding e-commerce. Indeed, with just about 8% of worldwide beauty retail sales happening online in 2017, the industry is below the cross-category average of 10%. But brands and retailers alike have upped their game over the last few years, and 2018 is looking brighter than ever. Here are 6 beauty e-commerce trends already reshaping the landscape of cosmetics and fashion online.

1) Communities

One thing you have to admit: most beauty brands are excellent at building communities. Communities are great: highly engaged customers who are willing to recommend your brand. What’s harder though, is to fully engage these individuals in leveraging their goodwill.

A French startup called TokyWoky has come up with a great solution: have website visitors interact with each other. Their product is a collaborative chat. While most chats let you speak to a sales rep or support engineer, this one puts you in touch with other visitors. Sephora has implemented their collaborative live chat experience on their US website.

Of course, not everyone has time to give to strangers, but some people do! And TokyWoky does an excellent job at promoting great contributors and work with brands to reward them. Also, TokyWoky says that customers who interact with each other are 4 times more likely to buy.

TokyWoky collaborative live chat on Sephora.com
TokyWoky collaborative live chat on Sephora.com

2) Browsing

E-commerce is often analyzed in conversion terms. On that point, it cannot rival with retail stores. Online, only about 3 website visits out of 100 ends up with a sale. On mobile phones, the conversion rate is even lower.

Google how to increase e-commerce conversion
Increasing e-commerce conversion is a priority for many sites.

For many people, this is a problem, and the answer is based on a subtle combination of cohort analysis, retargeting, cart abandonment campaigns, etc.

But some brands and retailers understand that conversion is not everything. Cart abandonment campaigns can indeed increase short-term conversion. But most of the time, they are just plain annoying and hinder long-term loyalty. Some choose the opposite stance and embrace the fact that many visitors are, well, just browsing.

While most sites still feature banners, aggressive “Shop Now” mentions and prices everywhere, you will find more and more sites that look like art galleries: gigantic, beautiful pictures, bold statements, and very discreet price tags.

The homepage of byrdhair.com has very little text, no price tags and beautiful imagery.
The homepage of byrdhair.com has very little text, no price tags, and beautiful imagery.

3) All skins matter

Women with dark skins have long regretted the little consideration they received from mainstream brands. The major stir up to the hornet’s nest came last year with Rihanna’s launch of Fenty Beauty, with the help of French group LVMH. The new line of cosmetics featured a foundation with 40 shades. Brands like MakeUp For Ever had offered products with that many nuances in the past but were criticized for emphasizing white skin shades.

This move forced the beauty industry to acknowledge the demand for more inclusive shades of foundations and, to a greater extent, cosmetics adapted to all types of skins, from the darkest to people with albinism. Now mainstream brands like Dior (also owned by LVMH) have followed on Fenty’s heels and widened their ranges of foundations.

Although this trend is not only about e-retail, this move is associated with more digital experiences, like online shade finders.

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Fenty Beauty Shade Finder (left) and Dior's Shade Selector (right)
Fenty Beauty Foundation Shade Finder (left) and Dior’s Shade Selector (right)
Coumba of the BlueBoard team trying Dior's shade selector
Coumba of the BlueBoard team trying Dior’s shade selector!

4) Subscriptions

Beauty subscriptions boxes are a hit. Since the launch of Birchbox in 2010, boxes have swarmed. This article found 36 of them in the US only. For a long time, boxes worked hand in hand with new beauty brands by allowing potential customers to sample their products. But now, established brands and retailers are using them, not only as a sampling technique but also as a legitimate sales channel.

PLAY! by Sephora Monthly Subscription Box
PLAY! by Sephora Monthly Subscription Box ships products straight from Sephora’s shelves.

Subscriptions do not solely take the form of boxes. Services like Dollar Shave Club and Amazon’s Subscribe & Save let you save on recurring purchases.

5) Amazon

Speaking of Amazon… Is there an e-commerce trend that they missed? Like for most emerging e-commerce categories, Amazon is having their ducks lined up in a row. For a while now, Amazon has sold baby care (diapers, baby food) and hygiene (toilet paper, deodorant…) products as a one-off or repeat sales via the Subscribe & Save program mentioned earlier. Since the launch of the program in 2007, they gradually added more and more personal care and beauty products.

Bestsellers in the category now includes L’Oréal mascara and Maybelline eyeliner. Fragrances include brands like Coty, Axe, Adidas, and Chloe. Skincare has Dove, Neutrogena, Bioderma, Garnier… Although the assortment might not be one you could find at Boots or Sephora, the array of premium brands is still impressive.

Recent signs indicate that Amazon does not plan on just assorting the best sellers of each brand. Lancaster (which belongs to Coty) has an e-shop with 93 products on Amazon.co.uk for instance.

Lancaster e-shop on Amazon.co.uk
Lancaster e-shop on Amazon.co.uk

6) Bonus: Viral videos from Korea

If you are a woman and have already traveled to or lived in South Korea, you may have stumbled across video cosmetic ads.

These videos are everywhere. They advertise all styles of cosmetics: day creams, lipsticks, fat burning creams, foundations, eyeliners, mascara, shampoos… They gain incredible traction and great engagement metrics. The recipe for virality lies in the following ingredients:

  • a falsely amateur video, with little to no branding
  • before/after mechanics
  • mostly exaggerated claims (4kg in 14 days by spreading cream on your thighs?)
  • unblushing body shaming (thigh-gap veneration anyone?)

The recipe can indeed not be imported as is in the West, but it is worth noting as it certainly has a significant impact in Asia.