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Study Finds 60% of U.S. Online Shoppers Purchase Beauty and Personal Care Products Online

Posted: June 5, 2012

A.T. Kearney and its Global Consumer Institute released Beauty and the Beast, a summary of findings from an e-commerce survey focused on consumers who purchase beauty and personal care products online. The study examines the shopping behaviors of consumers and the implications for retailers and beauty brands.

Of the study, A.T. Kearney partner and study leader Hana Ben-Shabat said, “The world of e-commerce has been, for quite some time, ‘the beast’ that beauty retailers and brands were trying to avoid. We are at the point where we have to beat the beast’ There is simply too much at stake if businesses do not address this opportunity.”

The report notes that both beauty brands and retailers will have to embrace multi-channel marketing to meet customers where they are. In this regard, brands have an opportunity to extend their roles as category captains on retailer websites to maintain control over brand image and integrity.

The study, based on survey responses from 1,381 participants across 50 U.S. states and Canada, finds that 62% shop online regularly, and of these, 60% purchase beauty and personal care products online. Among the most frequently purchased categories by online shoppers are skin care, personal care and hair care.

The analysis identifies four key beauty customer segments: Information Seekers, Online Aficionados, Creatures of Habit, and Traditionalists.

The Information Seekers group is characterized by consumers who research products online, but make the purchase in the store. The Online Aficionados are very active online, search for information, share information, and shop. Creatures of Habit know what they are looking for and use online shopping to replenish their beauty products. And Traditionalists do not shop online, preferring to make their purchases in stores.

Those who shop online identify product selection, price incentives and convenience as their key motivators, while those who avoid shopping online cite the need to “look and feel” and the “social experience” of shopping as key de-motivators for online shopping.

In retailing, Amazon and Sephora seem to dominate the online beauty market, with 46% of respondents listing these sites as their favorite online destinations.

The study highlights two main implications for retailers and beauty brands. First is the increasing need to create a seamless multi-channel experience as consumers split their budget almost in half between online and store purchases. Brands must work with retailers to make sure that the e-channel is not “just another door,” but a place where consumers can find what is offered in stores and more.

Second is the need to maintain control over brands. In the e-commerce environment, where many third party players sell brands that in the past could only be found in stores, they take the freedom to place, price, and display products in a way that is not always in line with the brand aspirations and values.