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60% of beauty shoppers opt for stores rather than social to buy, but turn to online for inspiration



In-store beats social when it comes to beauty and personal care. Six in ten (59%) UK consumers cite it as their favourite way to shop for make-up, as well as for experiences such speaking to consultants on the shop floor influences almost four-in-ten (39%).

The findings come despite shoppable functions and AR try-ons launched by platforms such Pinterest and show only 15% prefer using a brand’s social media page for make-up. Fewer than two-in-ten (16%) also feel that brand updates on social media help to discover beauty products, whereas four-in-ten (38%) say in-store displays are useful for this. 

The study, conducted by retail innovation agency Outform, covers a representative spread of more than 2,000 global respondents across the UK, USA and Germany. It explores how consumer habits are continuing to shift when shopping for beauty and personal care products in a post-lockdown world.

Despite the in-store preference, social does play its part in influencing propensity to purchase. Four-in-ten (42%) 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% (32%) 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. 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.”

Although beauty consumers are  eager to return to shops, some virtual innovations have stayed the course. More than a third (34%) of 18-24-year-olds say online skin consultations are valuable to purchase decisions and 33% say the same for virtual make-up tutorials. Men are also 2% higher overall (28%) in finding the latter important across all age groups.

Comparison is also a key lever for purchases. More than half (53%) of shoppers say being able to compare products in-store is important, but it matters slightly less online at 48%. 45% also rely on price comparison sites.

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 & mortar retailers. Shoppers are eager to experiment with beauty and 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.”

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