Five most common online beauty myths debunked

A survey commissioned by feelunique.com has shed light on online behaviour

The five most common myths about online beauty retail have been addressed by insight and strategy consultancy Flamingo.

The survey was commissioned by beauty etailer feelunique.com, which wanted to find out more about the direction the online market is heading. To conduct the research, Flamingo tracked 12 women aged 16-55 for a week. The women wore a pair of glasses with an in-built camera whenever they experienced beauty, be it personally, online or in conversation.

Myth #1

Myth: Online beauty lacks diversity. It’s only for the young and leading edge, isn’t it?
Reality: Online beauty is increasingly diverse in age range and race/ethnicity, while minority and mature beauty are becoming mainstream. The survey found consumers are now looking for identifiable voices – ones that reflect “people like me”. Evidence of this is the rise of once minority voices such as black skin and hair vlogger Patricia Bright who has roughly 628,187 YouTube subscribers; mature vlogger Melissa55, who has 21,571 subscribers; and transgender vlogger Jazz Jennings, who has 176,694 subscribers. Besides this, the survey found consumers are increasingly looking to other cultures for inspiration; the rise in popularity of Middle Eastern vlogger Huda Beauty is testament to this. Similarly, hijab make-up is becoming a category in its own right, generating almost seven million Google results.

Myth #2

Myth: Online beauty is purely transactional. Ease, speed and convenience are the main priorities, aren't they?
Reality: The survey found that in fact, online delivers a richer experience than one might think, and consumers are increasingly looking for online shopping encounters that leave them feeling entertained, inspired or informed. Four mindsets were identified through the survey: 'guide me', 'inspire me', 'entertain me' and 'serve me'; each of these mindsets are thought to be applicable to women at different times during their path to purchase, but their desire to buy can be sparked by any of them. Content was highlighted as a key driver for successful business online. The survey noted that: "Brands and retailers need to be present in relevant formats all the time."

Myth #3

Myth: Online beauty is empty and soulless, isn't it?
Reality: In short, no. The survey found that online is actually the most trusted space when it comes to advice. For more on the power of the online review, click here. The connection that viewers make with bloggers and vloggers online should not be underestimated and this relationship – albeit a virtual one – fosters high levels of trust. The survey found that online shoppers might even trust vloggers more than they do sales assistants because they tend to be unbiased and don't have commissions or targets to meet. However, a word of warning – the survey also found that brands need to be careful to select the right blogger or vlogger to partner with. The endorsement needs to appear genuine and not staged, and even then a degree of objectivity is still preferable.

Myth #4

Myth: Brands only become visible in-store. There is overwhelming choice online, isn't there?
Reality: The idea that a consumer will not be able to experience a product online in the same way as in-store is rapidly shifting. The survey found that many women nowadays discover new brands and products online, on sites such as Pinterest or Instagram. The report noted: "If your brand is not thriving online you will not be on the radar." The idea of 'staying cult' was also identified as an important factor for success. The more consumers think a brand is not mainstream or easily accessible, the more they will want to get their hands on it. The report recommended that brands choose retail partners carefully so as not to become accessible too quickly, while stockists should equally monitor market trends and be alert as to what new brands are emerging in order to curate the best cult brands.

Myth #5

Myth: Online can't offer the same sensorial experience of a store though, can it?
Reality: Surprisingly, despite online offering little physical engagement, emotionally consumers are more connected than ever. In a sample of 25 YouTube videos with more than one million views each, there were 723 'sensorial' references found in the comments section underneath, including words such as 'love'. But rather than replacing the in-store experience, digital needs to be supported by it and vice-versa. The report noted: "Digital is challenging many of the traditional functions of the store. Flagships become meccas of creativity, experimentation and play, becoming experience spaces for brand building." Importantly, there was no one channel found that meets all consumers' needs.

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