Key points included

  • Online activity is integral to the path to purchase
  • A mix of informative and inspirational content will engage more consumers
  • Beauty consumers want simple reassurances in order to increase online shopping

Covered in this report

The focus of this report is on the role online plays within the beauty and personal care categories, including where and how consumers access online beauty resources, how and why they incorporate online activity into their beauty purchase journey and how digital will continue to evolve within the beauty industry.


For the purposes of this report, Mintel’s definition of the beauty and personal care category includes the following: color cosmetics; facial skincare; body care including soap, bath and shower products; haircare; nail care; women’s and men’s fragrances; skin protection products; beauty appliances (hair and skin) and accessories (hair and makeup). Medicated skincare and footcare are not included in this report, rather covered in Mintel’s specific Reports on these topics.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Alexis DeSalva, a leading analyst in the Retail & Apparel sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Online beauty behavior has evolved beyond just purchasing to include a wider variety of steps, which depend on the consumer, the situation and the purchase. Many beauty consumers will utilize online and offline channels throughout their path to purchase, creating a variety of opportunities for retailers and brands to learn about customers’ behavior pre- and post-purchase. Because of the tactile nature of beauty’ persisting hesitation regarding buying without seeing, brands must find ways to fill the gaps of in-person shopping online. Alexis DeSalva
Retail & Apparel Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Market overview
          • Top takeaways
            • Online activity is integral to the path to purchase
              • A mix of informative and inspirational content will engage more consumers
                • Beauty consumers want simple reassurances in order to increase online shopping
                  • Key trends
                    • Social media becomes a source of commerce
                      • Video gets prioritized in social strategies
                        • What it means/what’s next
                        • The Market – What You Need to Know

                          • Online beauty has evolved past transacting
                            • Younger shoppers’ have differing preferences
                            • Market Perspective

                              • Category Evolution
                              • Market Factors

                                • Gen Z’s beauty interests will influence product development and shopping expectations
                                  • Figure 1: Population, by generation, 2024 projections
                                • Diversity of younger consumers leads to demand for broader beauty representation
                                  • Figure 2: Generations, by race and Hispanic origin, 2019
                                • Young men can help drive growth
                                  • Figure 3: Men aged 18 or older, by age, 2014-24
                              • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                • Social media becomes a natural part of consumers’ shopping journey
                                  • Endless space means room for overlooked consumers
                                    • Virtual reality will be more than a perk
                                    • What’s Working

                                      • Social media as a destination for discovery and exploration, not just for consumers
                                        • Figure 4: Kohl’s Instagram post, November 2019
                                        • Figure 5: Ulta Instagram post, November 2019
                                      • Re-thinking consumer marketing in the digital age
                                        • Figure 6: Goop Instagram post, November 2019
                                      • Making online beauty shopping personal
                                        • Figure 7: Prose Instagram post, October 2019
                                        • Figure 8: Atolla Instagram post, October 2019
                                    • What’s Struggling

                                      • Digital overload can turn off consumers
                                        • Limitless digital space needs to make more room for diversity
                                        • What to Watch

                                          • Social media: the modern day window shopping
                                            • Virtual reality will be necessary to appeal to multichannel beauty shoppers
                                            • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                              • The beauty purchase process mixes online and offline
                                                • Consumers seek a mix of informative and inspirational content
                                                  • Visual nature of social media compensates for the void of in-person shopping
                                                    • Consumers want convenience of online but seek reassurance when buying without seeing
                                                    • Online Beauty Consumers and Online Activity

                                                      • Analyst Perspective
                                                        • Most consumers are navigating across channels
                                                          • Figure 9: Online activity and types of online beauty consumers, October 2019
                                                        • Beauty consumers invest time in pre-purchase research
                                                          • Younger adults’ emphasis on beauty opens the door for more brand engagement
                                                              • Figure 10: Types of online consumers, by age, October 2019
                                                          • Types of Online Content

                                                            • Analyst Perspective
                                                              • Curious beauty consumers crave content
                                                                • Figure 11: Types of online content, October 2019
                                                              • Young women want to master their look, but need guidance doing so
                                                                • Figure 12: Types of online content, by gender and age, October 2019
                                                                • Figure 13: Ulta’s top creatives, November 2018
                                                                • Figure 14: Sephora top creative, July 2019
                                                              • Hispanic consumers’ interest in ingredients signals focus on holistic wellness
                                                                • Figure 15: Types of online content, by Hispanic origin, October 2019
                                                            • Activity by Item

                                                              • Analyst Perspective
                                                                • Consumers seek validation from multiple sources
                                                                  • Figure 16: Activity by item, October 2019
                                                                • Women conduct more activity, regardless of item
                                                                  • Figure 17: Activity by item, by gender, October 2019
                                                                • Shoppers seek instructional content to maximize their purchase
                                                                  • Sources of inspiration
                                                                  • Preferred Online Resources

                                                                    • Analyst Perspective
                                                                      • YouTube is a preferred resource nearly as much as beauty websites
                                                                        • Figure 18: Preferred online resources – NET, October 2019
                                                                        • Figure 19: Ouai YouTube video, October 2019
                                                                        • Figure 20: Ouai YouTube video, October 2019
                                                                      • Brands see the worth investing in YouTube
                                                                        • Figure 21: Sephora site spend, October 2018-November 2019
                                                                        • Figure 22: Ulta site share, October 2018-November 2019
                                                                      • Older women turn to category experts
                                                                        • Social media is a crucial resource for younger beauty shoppers
                                                                          • Figure 23: Preferred online resources, by age, October 2019
                                                                      • Social Media Use

                                                                        • Analyst Perspective
                                                                          • Social media is the virtual version of window shopping
                                                                            • Figure 24: Social media use, by gender – October 2019
                                                                            • Figure 25: Everlane Instagram stories, September 2019
                                                                          • Informative and instructional content adds value for young women
                                                                            • Figure 26: Social media use, by gender and age, October 2019
                                                                          • Young men are shopping through social
                                                                            • Figure 27: Social media use, by gender and age, October 2019
                                                                        • Brand Awareness and Discovery

                                                                          • Analyst Perspective
                                                                            • Consumers are paying attention to beauty ads online
                                                                              • Figure 28: Brand discovery, October 2019
                                                                            • ColourPop products live up to their name
                                                                              • Figure 29: ColourPop Instagram post, November 2019
                                                                            • Goop is sleek, chic and clean, just like its products
                                                                              • Figure 30: Goop logo
                                                                            • Glossier pink has evolved beyond a catchphrase
                                                                              • Figure 31: Glossier Instagram post, August 2019
                                                                              • Figure 32: Glossier Instagram post, July 2019
                                                                            • A variety of marketing tools prove effective for engaging young men
                                                                              • Figure 33: Brand discovery, by gender and age, October 2019
                                                                            • Influencers and peers are equally effective for promoting discovery to youngest beauty consumers
                                                                              • Figure 34: Brand discovery, by age, October 2019
                                                                          • Desired Improvements

                                                                            • Analyst Perspective
                                                                              • Simple reassurances will encourage more shopping
                                                                                • Figure 35: Desired improvements, October 2019
                                                                              • Gen Z wants VR and IRL
                                                                                • Figure 36: Bite Beauty Instagram post, August 2019
                                                                                • Figure 37: Desired improvements, by age, October 2019
                                                                              • Better product selection will drive more shopping among multicultural consumers
                                                                                • Figure 38: Desired improvements, by race and Hispanic origin, October 2019
                                                                                • Figure 39: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna YouTube video, January 2019
                                                                            • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                              • Data sources
                                                                                • Consumer survey data
                                                                                  • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                    • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                      • Abbreviations

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