In the UK, online sales of beauty products in 2016 accounted for 10.6% of total sales. This was an all-time high, and an increase of 17.3% year-on-year.

You might be forgiven for thinking this means physical retail sales are on the wane. Yet these also grew in the same period, by a not-insignificant 2.1%.

So what does this tell us about the changing dynamics of the market?


The main reason more consumers are purchasing online is price. The UK offers the most generous online discounts in Europe, with the increasing influence of Amazon doing nothing to buck this trend.

Text advert for a beauty product sale, advertising 30 percent off

Younger consumers are primarily behind this drive. Women over 45 still have a strong preference for purchasing beauty products in-store. They’re also less price-conscious than younger buyers.

However, interestingly, when it comes to conversion beauty retailers perform comparatively poorly. 3% of visits convert to purchases, compared with the UK average across large e-commerce sites of 4.45%.

Nearly 90% of purchases are still made in-store. So could this suggest that many people visit sites to check products out before buying in-store?


It may well do. Not only are most purchases still made in-store, but multiple surveys report that consumers of all ages, from teens to women over 45, prefer this method overwhelmingly.

A retail space by MAC, the cosmetics brand

The reason? The act of trying and experimenting with beauty products, particularly cosmetics and fragrance, simply can’t be replicated effectively online. A recent Facebook report on the modern beauty shopper states that:

“the need for physical experiences is strong: beauty shoppers want to touch, feel and smell products”

To capitalise on this, beauty retailers are taking steps to make their environments as engaging as possible. From Sephora’s innovative use of touchscreen kiosks to MAC’s “authentically artistic experiences”, retailers are increasingly understanding that a powerful, immersive experience is the difference between an in-store purchase and a click online.

A touchscreen experience at a Sephora store, inviting customers to interact with the products                  (Image: Marketing Land)

But it won’t work for everyone. As long as products are cheaper online, many younger consumers will continue to use store environments for everything except the purchase.


Going forward, brands need to make sure that people looking to purchase their products have a positive, consistent and frictionless experience. Particularly in-store, but essentially through whichever channel they use.

Although most consumers purchase in-store, many research online first. Some do it vice versa. Brands must accept this, and make the process as seamless as possible across every touchpoint.

This is a snippet of the findings in Ready’s upcoming new report entitled BEAUTY AND PERSONAL CARE: PURCHASING HABITS ACROSS THE GENERATIONS.

The report takes a detailed look at how UK consumers of different ages discover and purchase beauty products today, and what that means for the industry tomorrow.

To be notified when the report is released, get in touch on