Online now the Main Channel of Beauty Purchases

Digital is now the main channel of beauty purchases according to a recent Facebook IQ and Poshly study. Data shows that 1 in 2 beauty consumers surveyed in the US use their phone to buy skincare, makeup and nail products.

“For beauty brands, digital beauty is the next major wave that will create a dramatic shift in the beauty industry and how consumers interface with their products,” say Sinead Norenius-Raniere, Board Member of the Bay Area Beauty Association to Premium Beauty News.

“Many brands are still trying to navigate how to embrace and adjust to this new generation of beauty buyers.”

Online Beauty Influences 

Somewhat unsurprisingly, millennials are driving this digital revolution. Instagram’s 2015 reports show that beauty accounts attracted a jaw-dropping 20 million unique followers in the US, a year which saw beauty sales reach $80 billion.

“Women now have a vibrant array of content creators to gather advice on the latest beauty products and techniques from the ease of their mobile phone,” says Norenius-Raniere. “Whether it’s a friend who shares their same skin concern or a blogger with a great smoky eye, women are relating to other women who they feel have less to personally gain from sharing their beauty know-how.”

Beauty data intelligence company, Poshly, conducted a survey in 2016 on 175 women between the ages of 18-35. They found that 65% of millennials trust the recommendation of a makeup artist or beauty influencer on Instagram or YouTube over that of an in-store salesperson.

Online beauty influencer Michelle Phan
Online beauty influencer Michelle Phan

The digital age gives these new consumers the ability to not only see the product, but to learn how it works. They view these online beauty influencers as authentic and real, and in turn, these social media gurus adapt high-end cosmetic and celebrity trends into easy-to-apply day wear.

“So many brands have experimented with social media influencers. Everyone sees the influence they have over millennials, but few know how to really get them to believe in their brand,” writes Barry Shaich, CEO of Egg Beauty Labs, in a Perfect365 and Bay Area Beauty Association report.

“Making the connection to a community of makeup gurus active on social media and getting them to believe in your brand, while they continue to grow their followers, can create a more authentic and real relationship. It’s that level of authenticity that millennials really respond to.”

Instant Access

Social media’s beauty influencers are only one element of this digital revolution, however. The ‘try before you buy’ theory has never been more prevalent than what it is now in the digital age.

Millennials are a generation that has been raised with a laptop in one hand and a smartphone on the other. The seamless connection and rapid turnaround have conditioned them to expect everything – fast. This is where digitally accessible virtual reality comes into play.

“72% would like to try on makeup using their smartphone camera before they buy and 78% say they are more inclined to purchase a makeup product from a brand online if they could virtually see what it looks like on their face before purchasing,” reports Perfect365 and Bay Area Beauty Association.

“Instant access is the name of the game and the faster they can experiment, engage and interact with a product, the more likely they are to believe in it.”

Facial recognition app Try It On
Facial recognition app Try It On

Advancements in face recognition technology allow the precise placement of eye shadows, lipsticks, eyelashes, liner, brows, and blusher.  Sephora, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Shiseido, Shu Uemura, L’Oreal, Rimmel, CoverGirl…The list of big beauty brands that have harnessed these new findings and integrated digital technology into their sales and marketing department is growing every day. This phenomenon is directly linked to the evolution smartphones and the generation that grew up with them.

“Millennials are the driving force in the digital beauty evolution,” says Doreen Block, CEO and Founder of Poshly, in Perfect365 and Bay Area Beauty Association’s 2016 report.

“This is a group that does everything on their phone. Online sales of makeup are often missing an important piece and that is being able to see what that makeup looks like before making a purchase. Digital beauty is changing that. And as a result, the beauty industry will continue to evolve in the coming years.”


Influencer marketing, social media and advancements in technology would appear to be the notable impacters behind this digital revolution, however there’s one factor that’s just as important, or even more so, to it – price.

Finder, an Australian comparisons website, reported in June that between April and March of this year, there was a 29% increase in Australian’s buying skincare online, noting there was also a 17% rise for digital cosmetic purchases.

“Part of the appeal of purchasing skincare and make up via the internet is that it’s often cheaper than shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores,” Roy Morgan industry communication director Norman Morris told Finder.

“However, while people who buy these products online are slightly more likely than the average Australian to agree they’ll go out of their way in search of a bargain…”

Sephora's online only beauty sale
Sephora’s online only beauty sale

Finder noted that in the week the article was written, SkincareStore has had 25%, 30% and 40% off Dermalogica, ASAP Skincare and MD Formulations respectively.

“Even, if these kinds of discounts are replicated in store, there is still the matter of hearing about the sale and making it to the store before the promotion ends,” wrote journalist Mia Steiber.

The Future of Beauty Buying

While this new era might sound somber to some, it heralds an age where beauty brands can quickly and easily access a new and booming customer market. Mobile-friendly sites, an influencer presence, and a virtual reality app are the pillars of successful digital and millennial engagement.

This digital age has presented a huge opportunity for not just consumers, but the beauty industry. Makeup brands, salons and clinics can, should and must optimise this new-age way of doing things if they want to thrive in today’s market.


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