We look beyond the aggregate numbers to understand the behavior of the online beauty buyer by gender and age.

Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights surveyed 1,053 online shoppers in March 2023 to understand the behavior of the beauty buyer by gender and age.

We looked beyond the aggregate numbers, and if you are like me, you will be surprised by some of the findings. Others might be in line with your expectations. Below are highlights of 9 key survey questions that put it all into perspective.

1. How often do you buy beauty products online?

This includes, for example, cosmetics, skincare, haircare, etc. Men are buying beauty products more frequently.

The male/female split is as follows:

• Weekly or more: 41%/21%
• Monthly: 35%/45%
• Yearly: 24%/34%


Younger shoppers are more frequent buyers

This is a category that lends itself to testing and replenishment, so frequent shoppers have favored status among retailers. When it comes to purchases for those 18-29, buying daily is seen among those 18-29 at 21% and is the highest of all age segments. Conversely, for their older counterparts (55+), only 1% buy daily. Looking at weekly and other patterns, 53% of those 18-29 shop at this rate while only 7% of those 55-64 and 5% of those 65+ have similar activity levels.

2. How would you describe your approach to beauty buying online?

Younger shoppers over-index for online experimentation and learning about new brands. Meanwhile, older shoppers tend to leverage online for replenishment purposes.

It’s likely that in our early years, we want to learn about a plethora of products. The web is well-suited for that as experimentation numbers show. It’s worth noting that younger shoppers buy across online and in-store channels once they make their choices. The convenience and time-savings that come with replenishment is appealing, too. Older shoppers are seasoned and know their needs and favored channels.


3. Which types of retailers have you purchased beauty products from in the past 6 months?

Younger shoppers favor more options, starting with mass merchants, drug stores, social media ads and specialty beauty retailers.

The ease of shopping via mass merchants and drug store chains — and the convenience of both — make them real time-saving opportunities for this audience.

Women gravitate to specialty beauty retailers and brands.


The gender factor is insightful for store selection, as women favor purchasing via brands and those specialty retailers that put an emphasis on a broad assortment of unique brands. The specialty brand stores seem to serve as a playground for the younger audience, so there, too, we see heightened interest. Social media ads are a natural extension of time spent on those sites.

4. Which of the following online features are important when selecting beauty products online?

Younger shoppers focus on the details, from ingredients to imagery.

They also appreciate ample product imagery, with those 18-29 (28%) and 30-39 (31%) favoring it versus those 55-64 (15%) and 14% for those 65+. One place where the older customer expresses greater interest is product availability. Those respective findings by age are: 55-64 (62%) and 65+ (68%) vs. 18-29 (47%) and 30-39 (54%), which all compare with the 57% average.

Lastly, web tools such as the ability to profile one’s beauty needs are almost twice as important to younger segments: 18-29 (24%) and 30-39 (30%) vs. 55-64 (14%) and 65+ (7%). With the state of the environment a great concern among younger audiences, product information assumes a heightened role. One example was vegan and cruelty-free callouts.


Their penetration numbers:

  • 18-29 (31%)
  • 30-39 (29%)
  • 55-64 (15%)
  • 65+ (11%)

5. Which of the following have you taken advantage of when attempting to make the right beauty product selection for you?

Men connect more with retailers and take advantage of tools, our survey data shows. Meanwhile, women enjoy color-matching tools and beauty subscription boxes more.

Connecting comes in many forms. First and foremost, it means sending an image to a retailer, with male/female penetration as follows (22%/8%). And then asking a question of a retailer reveals a 9% gap (23%/13%). Men also were twice as likely to take advantage of augmented reality/virtual reality (14%/7%), though the overall penetration is relatively low. Just as with profiling tools, women also have used color-match tools more (29%/40%). As shoppers experiment and learn about brands, ideally, it helps them make better beauty choices.


Younger shoppers try new tools and communicate more. The younger shopper enjoys trying some of the innovative tools and the latest products from the retailer’s bag of tricks. The age gaps of 20% or more are significant and instructive about the way these groups gather information and learn about products.

6. Which of the following are reasons that you choose to shop directly from a brand rather than purchasing from a retailer that sells multiple brands under one umbrella?

Younger shoppers embrace most of what brands deliver.


They have grown up in a world of belonging, and that is reflected in these numbers. The age gap also suggests their appreciation for being part of the brand community (16%). The feeling of receiving an authentic experience (14% gap) and the belief that this brand experience is more complete online, along with transparency, shines through (16% gap). Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they also believe they can get the products quicker.

7. Which of the following has influenced your selection of beauty products online?

Social media influences resonate with the young.

Males are more influenced by YouTube (41% vs. 24%), Instagram (34% vs. 24%) and Facebook (36% vs. 26%). When looking at those same three influences, the younger shopper reinforces its more significant role.

The one additional influence that young shoppers favored is TikTok, with an age gap of 47%. Younger shoppers can be significantly more influenced by media and online activities.


8. Which of the following are reasons you choose to visit a physical store when shopping for beauty products?

Women visit physical stores more to see and test products, and they hope to save money along the way.

Needing items quicker weighs heavily for women as the biggest gap (17%) against a 47% average. The hands-on nature of buying beauty products for women should not be understated. The gender gap of 14% starts with women seeing the products in person and was 16% for testing products. Money also talks for women, as one important reason for visiting the physical store is in-store sales/promotion (14%). Another is not wanting to pay for shipping (15%). Both buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) and curbside advances have made that choice even more desirable.

Older shoppers like to see and test products in person while also saving money in the process.

Older shopper behavior is more often about the money savings. Here, in-store sales and promotions had a 13% gap against a 39% average. Not wanting to pay for shipping also was on the minds of older shoppers at a 15% gap versus the 38% average. The in-store visit means getting a full sense of the brand experience (17%) and was consistent with the 16% age gap for seeing the product.


From the younger side of things, one aspect that may be most interesting was the trust of the product more when bought in person (15%). As these shoppers are newer to beauty buying, they just may have more to learn and appreciate doing it in the store.

9. Thinking about how a site presents itself online, which of the following are important to your beauty buying experience?

Men are more focused on the brand’s presentation, particularly those that are value-oriented.

To be honest, this surprised me, as I expected the results to be just the opposite. The findings from a gender gap point-of-view were impressive, starting with the brand’s diversity stance (6%) and extending to its views on social and political issues (10%), along with fair trade and charitable giving (8%).

Women also care more about accurate swatches that aren’t photoshopped. They are in keeping with earlier color match finding and use of tools to guide decision-making. For women, they also took a greater interest when it comes to the look and feel of the site (13%).


The youth numbers came in just as I would expect.

Youth care more about brand presentation. They are passionate in their point-of-view about how the brand behaves from its diversity stance (19% gap). Additionally, a number of brand presentation elements saw a 17% gap including sustainability practices, the brand’s story, charitable giving and its views on social and political issues. The swatches finding was consistent with prior research questions from this study, with this being more important to this younger audience.

Beauty is a category that has distinct behavior by age and by gender. Knowing your audience and the implications for merchandising and marketing are important when the audience style and activity is so different.


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