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Beauty and cosmetics are difficult retail to sell outside of brick-and-mortar stores. Because of their personal nature, shoppers find these items easier to visualize and understand in person, no matter how many pictures and tutorials they see. Though beauty and personal care items do sell better when accompanied by photos and videos online, shoppers still like to sample products in-store before purchasing. But once they decide which products they like, their preferences solidify, and shoppers refill online.
US health and personal care retail ecommerce sales are slated to increase from $19.7 billion to $27.6 billion between 2015 and 2018 and account for 5.6% of total retail ecommerce sales in the country over the next several years, eMarketer estimates.
June 2014 polling by Harris Interactive found that US internet users were buying cosmetics and beauty products online more than they were two to three years ago. When shoppers bought beauty products digitally, they looked first to online mass merchandisers, especially for facial and skincare products (17%), nonsunscreen products with SPF protection (13%), hair color products (13%) and hairstyling products (12%), among other items. Respondents said they turned to online specialty beauty vendors for cosmetics, especially when they wanted to find a certain brand or a more specialized categorization of products than they would find on an Amazon.com or a Target.com, for example.
For every shopper who feels comfortable purchasing cosmetics and beauty products online, though, there are another few who would prefer to shop in-store for those products. According to Harris, when it came to sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner, hairstyling products, hair color products, facial and skincare products, and cosmetics, over half utilized big-box retailers as opposed to pharmacies, grocery stores and beauty specialty stores.
However, when internet users were asked why they felt more comfortable buying cosmetics in-store rather than online, 62% said that computer screens could skew colors, so they really needed to see the items in person before purchasing. And when there are new products to try, shoppers feel the urge to shop in-store even more: 69% agreed that they were more likely to go to a physical store to purchase health or cosmetic products in those instances. To these shoppers, shopping online still doesn’t quite mirror the offline experience, but for shoppers who know what they want, 88% agreed that once they find a product they like, they’ll shop at any store—online or offline—that carries it for the best price.
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