An interesting result of this online shift is that ecommerce has the potential to extend the reach of direct sales. This means that – if so inclined – manufacturers could reclaim more of the beauty products supply chain, reducing the need for distributors and retailers.

In order to retain their positions in the chain, it is important for distributors and retailers to offer winning business models that combine digital and traditional assets. Through these models, they need to provide optimal customer access, orchestrate logistics, deliver value-added services and promote trusted company brands. Distributors and retailers are going to have to step up to generate new value by focussing on aspects of the business that they can do better than the manufacturers themselves – for example, local market intelligence, and customer-focussed solutions that address manufacturers' pain points.

"Manufacturers could reclaim more of the beauty products supply chain"

The shift to a predominantly online beauty industry offers manufacturers, distributors and retailers the opportunity to play to their own core strengths. Ultimately, this could result in altered business models that improve the end service to consumers. A few obvious examples may include the provision of product-related information (especially if there are regional or local differences), samples or practical advice.

A little like World War I, many of us thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would be “over by Christmas”. However, while recent vaccine approvals herald the beginning of the end, it will be several months before any countries are able to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity, so our battle against the virus will continue for the first few months of 2021, at least.

The beauty industry is among many that have had to withstand the COVID storm. People have simply been wearing fewer cosmetics and fragrances during lockdown and, even as we emerge back into public, the use of facemasks has made the application of colour cosmetics (especially on the area of the face covered by the mask) less appealing. In addition, it was mentioned to me recently that limitations on international travel have led to reduced spending at airports by business travellers passing through duty free shops, and that this has had a considerable impact on the fine fragrances sector, in particular.

With these issues as a backdrop, Christmas is going to look very different this year. Many countries will be experiencing some form of lockdown over the festivities, limiting the large seasonal family gatherings that many of us have long taken for granted. In addition, the economic downturn, reduced household incomes, and widespread bans on large-scale entertainment and parties, mean that overall spending on Christmas 2020 is likely to be smaller than usual.

Having said that, earlier this year, a survey undertaken by international market specialist Rakuten Advertising (N = 8,500) suggested that 87% of respondents from across the world were planning to shop as usual for Christmas, despite 40% reporting a reduction in household income due to COVID. Therefore, there were early signs that – when it comes to Christmas gifts, at least – there is a general lack of intent to curb our usual spending, even during the pandemic. Top Christmas gift choices for adults in 2019 were cosmetics, perfumes, food and drink. Therefore, hopefully this is good news for the beauty industry.


"When it comes to Christmas gifts, there is a general lack of intent to curb spending"


According to global market research experts Mintel, on-line shopping for beauty products was already gaining popularity prior to the pandemic, as it gave consumers more choice. For example, in a Mintel survey, 67% of online beauty and personal care shoppers said online shopping gave them access to beauty and grooming brands that were not sold on the high street.

Nevertheless, in-store shopping at physical retailers still accounted for up to 85% of beauty-product purchases prior to the COVID-19 crisis. This situation has changed dramatically as the pandemic has fuelled rapid growth in the online beauty market.

Mintel’s Samantha Dover, a leading analyst in the Beauty & Personal Care sector, has gone on record as saying that, “Although growth in the online beauty market was strong prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was slowing as retailers were struggling to increase engagement with the channel. However, 2020 marked a turning point as online demand surged amidst disruption. Whilst a reluctance to visit physical stores and an eroded in-store experience will benefit online sales for some time, retailers can more fully take advantage of the new reliance beauty consumers have on the online channel.”

"COVID-19 has fuelled growth in the online beauty market"

Last year, online purchases already made up almost half (44%) of all Christmas presents purchased. This year, that percentage is expected to dramatically increase, and that includes seasonal expenditure on beauty and fragrance gifts.




Specialist in scientific communications | United Kingdom



(Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay) 


On-line marketing is key to success in this new world but, in a crowded internet, it can be difficult to get your product noticed. This is why more and more companies have turned to social media. With the correct social media programme, a company can get its most important messages to the right audience, for a relatively low cost.

As I was writing this article, I remembered a presentation at the in-cosmetics Asia show in late 2018, when Carl Heaton, Founder of Web Courses Bangkok, provided some early insights into this trend. I think his advice remains useful today. He acknowledged that a shift in online culture (already notable in late 2018) can make social media feel like it is too much of an unknown to see any consistent return on investment. However, he recommended several actionable steps for on-line sales and marketing of beauty products:

  1. Google has become the most powerful marketing tool. The more information you provide, the more Google will ensure your pages are available to potential customers.
  2. Successful management of a well-frequented Facebook group can do wonders for positioning brands as the go-to authority in a given subject matter.
  3. Instagram is now the most frequented social media platform, next to Facebook.
  4. Video content has become some of the most viewed posts on the web. Clever marketers will reuse video content to build a sales funnel and convert viewers into leads.

The current state of the beauty industry, as it transitions to a predominantly online market, would seem to be a perfect fit for this type of strategy. Therefore, when I typed “Christmas gift ideas” into my Google search engine, I was delighted to see a proof of concept – I was immediately faced with a choice of beauty and personal care gifts from Lancome, GlossyBox, The White Company, The Body Shop and Rituals. This could be partly explained by the artificial intelligence that already knows quite a lot about me, including the fact that I have an interest in the beauty and personal care sector. However, my interests are wide and varied – I write about a lot of different topics, and as a football mom I also seem to spend a lot of time looking at things that I simply wouldn’t have even considered pre-motherhood, and certainly have nothing to do with beauty. Nevertheless, Google zoomed in on the beauty industry for “Christmas gifts” and I thought that was pretty interesting.

Opportunities for companies to provide expert advice and tutorials via platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok would also appear to be easy, low-cost activities. After all, beauty blogging is an industry of its own, these days!


When the pandemic is over, will shoppers return to the high street? Perhaps we will, but as with many trends – home working, virtual meetings, domestic sourcing – ecommerce is one that was already advancing. The general belief is that COVID-19 just made the switch happen sooner than it would have done otherwise. In fact, IBM has suggested that COVID-19 has accelerated the overall shift to ecommerce by around 5 years.

Therefore, while I’m sure many of us look forward to browsing the high street again one day, in fact our shopping habits have probably changed for good. If any companies are still holding out hope for the return to mass shopping in physical stores, they probably need to rethink that strategy pretty urgently.

The good news for those companies that have already adapted to online selling, meanwhile, is that Christmas 2020 is set to be another bumper year for spending on luxury Christmas gifts, which include beauty products, cosmetics and fine fragrances. Moving into 2021, as consumers are more accustomed to online shopping, this market should continue to show good recovery.

For the beauty industry, there is every hope for a happy and prosperous new year.