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Updated Research: Where Female Consumers Buy Beauty Online

04 Jun 2020 Elizabeth McHugh

in Beauty, Digital, Glimmer

Latest Consumer Behaviors, Predictions for Navigating Post-Pandemic, and Verbatims from Female Beauty Shoppers

In a rapidly evolving COVID-19 and cultural landscape, we have found it essential to keep an open dialogue with our research community to understand evolving behaviors. We’ve tracked her shift to e-commerce, her feelings toward TikTok, and her emotional connection to makeup and skincare. Here is a quick snapshot of our latest research—regarding online beauty retailing—within the context of the larger behavioral changes we expect post-pandemic.


When asked if she is shopping differently for beauty now, 32% responded that they are spending less, have stopped shopping, or are using their existing beauty stash. Wrote one user: “I accumulated so many beauty products over the past year that I'm using all of them first before I go out and buy anything. Besides… I'm not wearing much makeup!” Makeup had reached a point of hyper-consumption pre-pandemic, and the average beauty category growth rate of 4% from the past few years was expected to slow. Described another consumer: “It’s been the perfect time to review samples!” Many women are re-examining their relationship with consumption as they watch their finances and are using what they have on-hand; we expect these consumers to shop again soon, though likely for fewer or multi-tasking products.

However, the majority of female consumers have prioritized self-care in the past few months, initiating a lipstick effect and driving a lift in digital beauty revenues. Within the Stella Rising client portfolio, beauty e-commerce revenue is up 51% vs. the prior period and 35% vs. LY (ending May 31st, 2020). To better understand the online retailer preferences of the consumers investing in beauty we asked:

Is Amazon your online go-to or have you been shopping at Sephora.com, Ulta.com or the brand website?

  • 31% are shopping online generally (either at a mix of the listed retailers or they did not specify)
  • 23% are choosing Amazon for beauty needs
  • 17% are shopping at Sephora.com
  • 11% are relying on Ulta.com
  • 5% are still shopping for beauty in-store

The beauty shopper, under normal circumstances, is highly omnichannel; it is unsurprising, therefore, that her digital dollars are split. She is a consumer who researches on Sephora, reads reviews on Amazon, and then converts the brand website—as an example—or progresses in myriad similar patterns. Describes one shopper: “I've been trying to buy less lately, but if I run out of any type of makeup, I have got to order it off the brand’s website or Amazon.” Writes another: “I am definitely doing more beauty shopping online, and I shop at all of these places at the moment.”


Just as COVID-19 has accelerated the shift toward all or more online shopping, we anticipate another behavioral shift to quicken: beauty consumers are looking for brands to share their values. COVID-19 has prompted consumers to examine their purchases and the brands they select; 61% of adults find it important that the brands they buy from are ethical, while 43% are looking for more beauty whistleblower accounts on social media (Estée Laundry being a top example). New websites, like DidTheyHelp.com, specifically rank companies and celebrities for their Coronavirus efforts, with categories for “heroes” and “zeroes,” as well as a leaderboard.   

We will continue to provide updates as we progress, but results are clear and unsurprising: the beauty brands with relevance, that meet consumers in multiple places, and that authentically help will have post-pandemic staying power.


Sources: Glimmer 2020 Survey, Mintel, “Beauty consumption will shift post COVID-19,” 1 May 2020, NPD 2019

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