Given the increased internet penetration and widespread digital connectivity, web sales are becoming a solid line of revenue for the beauty and personal care industry. While these sales only accounted for eleven percent of the segment’s total retail revenue in early 2020, and consumers still largely favor physical stores for their beauty purchases, a systemic shift is slowly but surely re-shaping the U.S. beauty landscape. Beauty e-commerce sales have been experiencing impressive year-over-year sales growth for years. As consumers spent over 36.17 billion U.S. dollars on health, beauty, and personal care products online in 2018, the ever-increasing potential of e-commerce becomes apparent for companies and marketers alike.
One of the earliest and most successful e-commerce players in the U.S. beauty industry is Sephora. The French beauty retailer launched its first website in 1998, catapulting the company into a digital future and generating over 778.8 million U.S. dollars in e-commerce revenue twenty years later. The largest share of the online beauty sales market in the United States is held by e-retail giant Amazon, mainly attributable to the broad spectrum of beauty brands and items available on the platform, as well as the easy navigation of the site.
But how do U.S. consumers choose which beauty and personal care products to buy and where to buy them? One major contributor to this decision-making process is social media. When asked about their primary discovery channels for online beauty brands in a 2019 global survey, a majority of respondents listed ads, recommendations, and comments seen on social media as their number one source. Digital content and online video content, in particular, have become some of the most lucrative forms of marketing during the last decade, and nowhere is the influence of such channels more evident than in the beauty industry. Today’s consumers no longer have to frequent brick-and-mortar stores for beauty and make-up advice, but instead, expand their beauty horizons from home. Millions of digital natives are turning to tutorials and reviews on social media platforms like Instagram and video-sharing site YouTube for the latest trends in the beauty world. By clicking on content and subsequently buying the products on offer, beauty shoppers are boosting sales numbers and simultaneously producing a new type of online celebrity. For beauty companies, this rise of self-made beauty experts like Jeffree Star provides a new platform to connect with beauty audiences and expand brand awareness. In turn, such cooperations help influencers and beauty content creators earn six-digit sums each year.