A.T. Kearney study sizes up online beauty shoppers

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NEW YORK — Amazon is consumers’ retailer of choice when shopping for beauty products online, followed by specialty chains Sephora and Ulta, and discount store giant Walmart, according to A.T. Kearney’s latest beauty and personal care e-commerce study.

Of 800 U.S. online beauty shoppers surveyed by A.T. Kearney, 69% said Amazon is where they search for and buy beauty and personal care products. Forty-one percent cited Sephora, followed by Ulta (37%) and Walmart (36%).

Drug chains Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy were named by 25% of respondents as online beauty shopping destinations, behind Macy’s and Target, both cited by 33% of shoppers. Rounding out the field were JCPenney and eBay at 17%; MAC Cosmetics at 15%; and Kohl’s, Dollar Tree, Drugstore.com and Nordstrom at 14%.

A.T. Kearney noted that Walgreens and CVS dropped in popularity as online beauty shopping venues — down three and one spots, respectively — from its 2014 study.

“When it comes to selecting their single preferred online destination for beauty and personal care, 29% of online shoppers choose Amazon, followed by Sephora at 15% and Ulta at 12%,” A.T. Kearney’s “Beauty and the E-Commerce Beast” study observed.

Hana Ben-Shabat_A.T. Kearney

Hana Ben-Shabat, A.T. Kearney

“Sephora and Ulta shoppers tend to have a higher income and focus on color cosmetics and skin care,” the report said. “Walmart has lower-income consumers who focus on personal care and fragrances. Macy’s and Amazon see strong interest in fragrances and skin care, respectively.”

However, A.T. Kearney partner and study author Hana Ben-Shabat noted that online beauty shopper loyalty has proved elusive, even as digital channels snare more beauty and personal care products market share.

“The study finds that 67% of consumers use four or more websites to fulfill their shopping needs,” Ben-Shabat stated.

What’s more, 47% of respondents said they’ve done more online shopping for beauty products than last year, 66% indicated that they prefer the online experience to the in-store experience.

A.T. Kearney’s findings classified online beauty shoppers into three categories: Online Enthusiasts (55% of those polled), Information Seekers (36%) and Showroomers (9%).

Online Enthusiasts primarily browse and shop for their beauty and personal care needs online, though they do shop in stores. Information Seekers research beauty and personal care products online, but they generally prefer shopping in a store. Showroomers prefer to browse in a store but shop online.

When asked what they’re looking for online, 72% of the beauty and personal care shoppers surveyed named the best prices as “very important.” Also cited as “very important” were free shipping and site security (68%), free returns (67%), special promotions (54%) and favorite products (50%).

Of lesser importance were easy site navigation (cited by 46% as “very important”), free samples (45%), loyalty point programs (31%), peer reviews and endorsements (25%) and new products (24%).

“The growing challenge of loyalty, the daily demand on retailers and brands to deliver a seamless experience between online and offline, and the need to ‘give up some power’ to new sources of influence are indicators of the current state of the beauty industry,” according to Ben-Shabat. “Succeeding in this new environment will require an artful integration of all channels and adoption of new technologies to enhance personalization and authentic communication.”


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