2020 proved to many retailers that they couldn’t rely solely on physical stores, which meant they had to find new ways to offer the store experience online. Cosmetics retailers adapted quickly by adding, upgrading and investing in web tools to help shoppers feel more comfortable making beauty purchases online. The just-released 2020 Online Cosmetics Report offers an in-depth analysis of the top retailers selling cosmetics, skin care and hair care products online, as well as trends in the category and consumer insights.

Historically, retail sales for cosmetics have largely come from physical stores, with a relatively low share of dollars flowing through the web. And despite the robust 30.5% growth of online cosmetics sales in 2019, a 9.3% ecommerce penetration is normally low for a product category. But compared with 7.5% in 2018 and only 6.1% in 2017, the nearly double-digit penetration shows that consumers are shifting their buying habits.

The biggest struggle online cosmetics retailers face, however, is that consumers still prefer to test cosmetics in person and are more reluctant to commit on the web. In fact, 46% of consumers report wanting to see beauty products in person, and 18% are looking for advice from an in-store expert, according to a Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey of 1,000 consumers conducted in August 2020.

“Although COVID-19 directed most purchases online, it hasn’t changed the fact that shoppers are looking for guidance and recommendations—especially when making a personal beauty purchase,” says Thomas Cottereau, CEO of AI and AR platform provider SightCall.

In direct response to this, more cosmetics retailers have added web features to re-create the in-store experience and allow shoppers to feel more comfortable buying products online, especially as they were forced to close their stores earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of those features include interactive product-matching tools, online quizzes, virtual consultations and augmented reality.


Shoppers are beginning to take advantage of these tools and customer service capabilities to aid them in their beauty selection process. According to the August survey, 22% report using color-match tools, 15% use virtual try-on tools and 6% use augmented/virtual reality tools.

Luckily for makeup retailer Benefit Cosmetics, it enhanced its AR-powered Brow Try-On tool back in September 2019, ahead of the pandemic. The tool allows a shopper to see how brow shapes, widths and colors will look on her by enabling a shopper to superimpose brows live on her face via augmented reality on the Benefit mobile app and on BenefitCosmetics.com. And stuck-at-home shoppers began using the tool more once the pandemic hit. In fact, Benefit’s Brow Try-On tool experienced a 43% uptick in daily use from April to the end of July compared with the same time period a year earlier.

Benefit in late March also married its virtual consultations with its Brow Try-On tool, allowing a Benefit employee to give tips virtually while the consumer has the augmented reality feature up on her screen. Benefit launched this feature because it found shoppers want both help from experts and also the ability to virtually sample the products those experts suggest.

“With consumers unable to try on products in-store and with a lot of extra time on their hands, this AR experience has been a great way for them to perfect their brow looks both virtually and in real life with their online brow purchases,” says Cindy Shen, vice president of ecommerce and customer relationship management at Benefit.


Benefit isn’t alone in adopting and upgrading these features. Out of the 55 cosmetics retail sites analyzed by Digital Commerce 360, 14.5% offer a virtual try-on tool. Some of those cosmetics retailers include The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc. (No. 69 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000), Ulta Beauty (No. 67), Urban Decay and MAC Cosmetics.

The all-new 2020 Online Cosmetics Report includes an in-depth analysis of the top retailers selling cosmetics, skin care and hair care products online. The report also includes the top trends cosmetics retailers are following, consumer insights and much more.

The 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Online Cosmetics Report features:

  • An overview of the online cosmetics market including total sales and growth
  • Detailed analysis of the leading online cosmetics retailers including market share
  • Breakout sections on DNVBs and the influence of social media
  • In-depth analysis on Amazon’s cosmetics market share
  • A look at the impact of COVID-19 on cosmetics retailers so far, and how consumers are shifting a traditionally in-store experience for online shopping
  • Full rankings of the leading online cosmetics retailers
  • More than 40 charts and graphs
  • Exclusive interviews with cosmetics brands such as Il Makiage, Benefit and e.l.f. Cosmetics.

The 2020 Online Cosmetics Report can be downloaded now as a PDF for $399. Digital Commerce 360 Gold and Platinum Members receive a complimentary copy of this report as a part of their membership.