Over a third of online shoppers in UK buy beauty products, AT Kearney reveals

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Over a third (38%) of people who shop online in the UK have bought beauty and personal care products via the internet in the last 12 months, according to research by global strategy consultancy AT Kearney.

It claims this percentage is set to increase with online beauty sales growing almost four times faster than overall retail sales. In the period 2006-2011, online sales in the UK grew by 14% compared to a 4% growth in total retail sales for the sector, according to Euromonitor statistics.

However, the findings – based on survey responses from 3,942 participants across Europe – reveal despite this impressive online growth, consumer spending is still split roughly in half between in-store and online purchases highlighting the need for a multi-channel approach.

Other major findings include:

  • More UK respondents buy beauty products online than apparel (36%), jewellery (22%) and furniture (16%)
  • 40% of those surveyed in the UK buy beauty and personal care products online due to convenience
  • Those who avoid online shopping cite the need to touch or try products and delivery costs as key de-motivators of buying online
  • Amazon.co.uk is the most popular online beauty shopping outlet in the UK (26%), followed by Boots.com (16%) and eBay.co.uk (14%)
  • Amazon is also the leader by far in Germany (41%), and only in France does Amazon not top the table, occupying fifth place with 8%. Yves Rocher is the most popular amongst French respondents (32%)

The survey reveals most beauty and personal care products purchased online are for replenishment – to find specific products consumers already use (usually fragrances and skin care) at the best possible price. These online shoppers currently don’t value features such as free samples and product reviews, said researchers. However, as the e-commerce market matures and technology develops, other products and attributes will gain importance and brands and retailers will find new ways to differentiate themselves beyond price, said AT Kearney.

Karina van den Oever, senior consultant at AT Kearney, said: “Beauty brands and retailers have made a good start with e-commerce but there is still some way to go. Online is clearly an area with immense growth potential for the beauty sector but firms will need to embrace a fully multi-channel marketing approach to engage successfully with the modern-day customer. There is a golden opportunity here for brands to expand their online presence and for retailers to re-think the role of their physical stores in an increasingly online world.

“Retailers need to develop strategies to differentiate their websites from market-leader Amazon if they want to remain competitive in the new online world. Boots, with its store portfolio of 2,500+, much-praised loyalty point scheme and trustworthy reputation, has perhaps the most to gain by adapting to new consumer habits such as ‘showrooming’ and click and collect. Ultimately, those who manage to improve their online shopping experience while ensuring consistency with offline channels will be the winners in tomorrow’s beauty market.”