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Millennials Dominate US Beauty Market

They shop online, but tend to buy in-store

December 14, 2016 | Demographics | CPG

Millennials are dominating the US beauty market, fueled by a constant stream of trends on social media, a vast network of digital influencers and a number of millennial-friendly brands that have recently entered the market.

Locations/Retail Sites Where US Internet Users Purchase Cosmetics, by Age, Oct 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

According to a 2015 report from TABS Analytics, millennial women ages 18 to 34 are the heaviest buyers of beauty products in the $13 billion cosmetics industry. “Millennials are twice as likely to be heavy buyers and account for 47% of all heavy buyers.”

But while millennials are browsing, comparing and learning about cosmetics and beauty products online, when it comes to making a purchase, in-person buying trumps online buying, according to new research. For many beauty users—young and old—the convenience of online shopping can't compete with the ability to try before they buy.

October 2016 research from The Harris Poll looked specifically at the locations and retail sites where cosmetics buyers are purchasing cosmetics, and found that millennials are most likely to purchase cosmetics in-person from big box retail stores (51%) and pharmacies (44%).

Purchasing online from specialty beauty product stores such as Sephora was the third-most popular way to buy (35%), followed by in-person at grocery stores (29%) and specialty beauty product stores (27%).

Though millennials are more likely to buy cosmetics in-person than online, millennials over-indexed in buying from all the digital locations and retail sites included in Harris’ Poll compared to cosmetics buyers in general. When looking at millennials next to total cosmetics buyers, millennials skewed especially high for making cosmetics purchases online from specialty beauty merchants (35% vs. 22%) and online sampling programs such as Birchbox (23% vs. 12%).

Millennials’ tendencies to shop across a range of brick-and-mortar locations and online sites for cosmetics may be due to the emphasis that millennials—and cosmetics buyers in general—put on finding the best deal. According to Harris’ study, 85% of 18- to 34-year-olds agreed that “Once I find a product I like, I'll buy it wherever I can get the best price. ” Of cosmetics buyers overall, 87% agreed with this statement.

—Alison McCarthy

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