Beauty e-commerce is a little more challenging than some other kinds of e-commerce (such as pet food, for example) because customers can’t “try before they buy”, but with a few tried-and-tested beauty ecommerce tips, you can grow your online sales and build up a loyal customer base. From educational content to subscription boxes and influencer marketing, there’s a lot that beauty brands can do to make their online stores a success.
1. Hone Your Unique Value Proposition
The first tip for business owners in the online beauty industry is to develop a clear unique value proposition that connects with their target audience. This unique value proposition will communicate your brand values as well as the ways in which your products can help your potential customers.
- Keeping your skin balanced – naturally
- Daily rejuvenation – express your inner glow
In order to be effective, your unique value proposition should appeal directly to your target market. For example, a brand that markets to mums looking for non-toxic skincare products for their children should emphasise the safety of their ingredients. Likewise, a brand marketing to older adults would want to emphasise the moisturising and elasticity-promoting features of their products.
Beauty Customer Demographics
Common clienteles to which beauty brands cater include:
- College students
- Working professionals
- Older adults
For an online beauty brand, you are more likely to be selling to college students and up, because teens are less likely to have their own credit or debit cards that they can use to make purchases through your online payment gateway.
As far as the age of online beauty shoppers, millennials (customers aged 25 to 40) make up the largest percentage of customers who shop for beauty products online, followed by Gen Z (customers aged 18 to 24), Gen X (customers aged 41 to 56) and baby boomers (age 57 to 75). As almost 70% of online beauty customers are aged 40 or less, make sure your website is mobile-friendly and that you have an active presence on social media to maximise your sales.
2. Answer Customer Queries and Concerns
Since the pandemic, beauty customers have expressed higher expectations as far as sustainability in beauty products and product packaging, according to a 2020 survey from Euromonitor. Furthermore, 24% of U.S. adults want “clean” beauty products, a trend that is likely to reflect customer attitudes globally.
When selling beauty products online, it’s important to display product ingredient lists prominently, explain ingredient names with which customers may not be familiar and make it clear if you have a special angle, such as:
- Petrochemical free
- Sulphate free
- Phthalate free
- Paraben free
- Locally sourced
- Locally made
- Wrapped in sustainable packaging
- Shipped using a carbon-neutral carrier
In addition, take advantage of your on-site blog or education centre to answer common questions and allay customers’ concerns. For example:
- Does wearing makeup age your skin?
- Does wearing makeup cause wrinkles?
- Does makeup cause acne?
- Is mineral oil safe in cosmetics?
You might also make educational videos about how to apply your beauty products and how to take them off at the end of the day. Product demonstration and product comparison videos are especially effective at influencing customers’ decisions to buy.
3. Give Customers a Personalised Website Experience
Hopefully, you’ve got a wide range of beauty products available in your online store to cater to several kinds of customers. However, while you don’t want to offer too few options for each product type, too many choices can be overwhelming and make the customer journey stressful.
To prevent customers from becoming overwhelmed and to better meet their needs, many beauty brands invite new customers to personalise their website experience by selecting their:
- Skin type
- Skin concerns
- Preferred look
- Colour palette
- Frequency of makeup usage
In fact, website personalisation has become such a common e-commerce strategy that customers now expect it. According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, 71% of online shoppers expect personalisation and 76% feel frustrated when they don’t find it. So this is definitely something to consider for your website.
4. Give Customers a Chance to Try Before They Buy
One of the unique challenges that online beauty retailers face is that customers can’t test the products before they buy them. This can make it hard for customers to select the right shade or to imagine what a certain foundation would look like when applied (shiny vs matte).
Fortunately, cosmetics brands have two main options when it comes to “trying it on”:
- Run a pop-up store
- Use virtual try-on technology
Online beauty brands don’t have to limit themselves to operating only online. You can meet your customers and give them the chance to try your products for themselves by opening a pop-up store once a week or once a month.
When allowing customers to try beauty products, make sure you have a dedicated tester for each product and have customers put lipstick on the back of their hands rather than on their lips (for hygiene). If the pop-up store is a raging success, you might even end up opening a shop!
Virtual Try-On Technology
For customers who are too far away to visit a pop-up store in person, virtual try-on technology allows online shoppers to see how they would look with your beauty products without actually putting them on.
Using artificial intelligence, these applications “apply” the selected products to the customer in the same way that filters and effects change what Snapchat and Facebook Messenger users see on the screen. The result is increased confidence in the product’s colour and finish.
5. Offer a Satisfaction Guarantee
To give customers complete peace of mind, it’s essential to offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, happiness guarantee, satisfaction guarantee or a similar kind of reassurance. Buying anything online is a risk, and when we’re talking about beauty products, there’s a risk that a product won’t work as advertised, will be a different shade to what the customer saw on the screen (especially if screen filters were used), will cause an allergic reaction or will be damaged when it arrives.
When wording your returns and money-back guarantee policy, be sure to include the conditions under which you will accept product returns, where to send the product and the timeframe for refunds. And while you can’t typically resell returned beauty products, it’s still important to limit refunds to products that are actually returned (with most of the original product unused). This helps to protect you against credit card chargebacks from customers claiming they were unsatisfied with a product while continuing to use the product for free.
6. Create Beauty Subscription Boxes
The beauty industry has seen several successful subscription business examples in recent years with the advent of assorted beauty boxes (e.g. Birchbox) and replenishment boxes. If you already have a strong customer base, offering subscription boxes could figure among your growth strategies.
Assorted Beauty Boxes
For an assorted beauty box, include several unique products along with a few products that the customer chooses ahead of delivery. If the customer likes a particular product, he or she can buy the full-size version separately on your site. To increase the variety of products in each box, you can try brand partnerships and create boxes featuring product lines from both brands.
Replenishment Beauty Boxes
For replenishment boxes, health and beauty brands typically invite first-time customers to select a specific need or category to help them put together their custom box. For example, Dollar Shave Club invites new visitors to select their skin type, shaving habits, shaving frequency and main concerns. Then, the website suggests a subscription box based on that information that the customer can modify manually.
Streamlined Recurring Billing
Whichever kind of subscription model you choose, make sure that you choose a payment processor that offers recurring billing as one of their merchant services. Most importantly, your processor needs to be able to handle things like subscription cancellations and expired cards.
7. Offer a Loyalty Program
In addition to beauty boxes, another effective way to encourage more purchases from your existing customers is to invite brand loyalty with points and rewards. More than 90% of brands have a loyalty program of some kind, and 57% of customers spend more on brands to which they are loyal. You can give points for every Euro spent or for every Euro spent above a threshold amount to increase your average order value while encouraging customers to purchase from your e-commerce store again.
8. Build Community on Social Media
Beyond points and subscriptions, brand loyalty grows when customers feel like they are part of something bigger than just a purchase—that they belong and are valued as part of a community. As a beauty brand, you can build your own community through e-newsletter subscriptions or a members-only area on your website, or use social media to connect with your customers and share experiences and tips.
If you go with the social media option, inviting user-generated content is a great way to increase trust with “social proof”—photos posted by customers on Facebook and Instagram showing your products and tagging your brand. Several beauty e-commerce brands choose some user-generated content to be featured on their website, offering an additional incentive for customers to post a photo and tag your brand.
9. Invest in Influencer Marketing
Finally, partnering with beauty influencers in your niche can be a great way to build brand awareness and reach more potential customers. According to a 2019 study from Harvard Business School, 62% of women follow beauty influencers on social media, making this an important marketing strategy for beauty brands.
To get started, look for influencers on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and TikTok with similar values to your brand (sustainability, hypoallergenic, natural-look, costume makeup, skin care for seniors etc.) and offer free products and payment in exchange for being featured on the influencer’s channel. Make sure that you provide the influencer with thorough training in the featured products, who they’re for and how to use them correctly (and safely) so that they can relay this information to their fans.
Try These Beauty Ecommerce Tips for Yourself and Grow Your Sales
Selling beauty products has traditionally been a brick-and-mortar endeavour, but online beauty brands can be highly successful with extensive customer education and a solid satisfaction guarantee.
When trying out any new strategy on your site, it’s usually a good idea to start with one product line or try out the strategy with a small focus group first. Once you’ve got it right, you can apply the strategy on a larger scale and watch your sales grow.