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Beauty shoppers buy more online, but stick to the brands they know – unless they can try new ones virtually

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While nearly half (44%) of beauty shoppers in a new survey agree that they have bought more beauty and skincare products online with stores closed these past six months, research reveals that 56% tend to stick with brands or products they’ve purchased before, rather than trying anything new when shopping for beauty and skincare online – unless there is access to reviews, samples and new virtual ‘try on’ services.

The study of Millennial and Generation Z shoppers by Nosto finds that the presence of customer reviews throughout the website is the factor most consumers say will increase the chance of them making a purchase among 74% of the sample. Second is the opportunity to receive free samples to try before they buy (72%), which some online beauty retailers are offering as brick-and-mortar stores remain restricted or closed due to the pandemic. 

And, while it is a relatively new offering, 45% of the survey sample said the presence of virtual try-on facilities using Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality to try out a product online on an ecommerce site would mean they were more likely to buy.

This is borne out by last week’s launch of ‘Try On’ by Pinterest and the roll out in October by L’Oreal Paris of a digital make up line that works on live video streams, to name but two.

Also high on the list were the various ways that retailers can personalise the online shopping experience. For example, 66% of survey participants are more likely to buy from brands that use technology that “recommends new or relevant products to me that are similar to what I am shopping for” and 63% are more likely to buy from brands that “remembers my shopping preferences and customises the online experience accordingly”.

In addition, 58% of consumers are more likely to buy from a store that offers an online quiz-like experience to recommend the right products to fit their unique needs.


“With lockdowns and continuing concerns over COVID-19 likely to lead to the continued shutdown or restrictions of physical retail, beauty and cosmetics retailers face a huge opportunity online – despite challenges around encouraging shoppers to try out new brands and products,” says Jake Chatt, Head of Brand Marketing at Nosto. “We’re working to help our brands optimise their online stores to replicate the in-store experience of trying on products and getting advice from specialist consultants, which is supported by the evolving consumer preferences revealed by our survey.”

Separately, Nosto’s survey reveals that out of a list of the various ways that beauty brands describe or promote the types of ingredients they use, or their stance on ethical or social issues, ‘clean’ and ‘cruelty-free testing’ are the most likely to drive online purchases among 16 to 35 year-old consumers. Products described as ‘vegan’ were less likely to make a difference.    

68% of the survey respondents agreed that when shopping online they are ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’² to buy beauty and skincare products that use ‘clean ingredients’. 65% say the same for products advertised as ‘cruelty-free testing’ (no testing on animals) and 59% for products advertised as having ‘sustainable packaging’ and also for those promoted as ‘natural and organic’.  

However, only 41% of 16-35-year-old shoppers surveyed said they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to buy beauty and skincare products described as ‘vegan’. 

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