New York-based researcher L2 ThinkTank released its latest Digital Beauty report ranking the activities of the top cosmetics companies in the U.S. and finds that in 2013, the Beauty sector will register 6% growth.
More interestingly, e-commerce in Beauty is projected to grow a staggering 29.1% too which is the best growth of all the (soft goods) sectors online.
This puts extra emphasis on how the top beauty brands are utilizing their online space, with a brand’s site remaining the primary destination for consumers far down the purchase funnel, according to L2.
Among the 36 e-commerce sites measured in the Digital IQ Beauty Index, the number providing user reviews has jumped to 83% since 2011, and adoption of user Q&As has nearly doubled in a year to 24%.
On top of that, 72% of brands now offer samples with purchase, and 17% have invested in a loyalty program, with L’Oreal brand Kiehl’s having launched one this year.
Another element on these sites that has come under scrutiny is live chat; in which consumers can speak to specialists in real-time with the aim of helping meet their needs. However, these investments have been mixed.
Almay, Revlon, L’Occitane en Provence, and Urban Decay all dropped the feature in the last year; whereas Clinique has enhanced its live chat consultation by providing options for face-to-face video and separate chat options for product recommendations or more operational customer service issues.
L2 also states that the post-purchase experience is critical to brand loyalty, as, on a per order basis, repeat customers spend five times more than other shoppers.
“An examination of product delivery and return processing times for the New York City area found that 11 Index brands sent shipments that arrived the day after the order was placed,” says the market researcher.
“Among them, Burberry, for example, provides ‘Next Day’ delivery for a small fee. However, shipments of nine brands took six days or more to arrive.”
When it comes to the returns policy, which is inevitable in a retail environment, 62% of shoppers have returned or exchanged an online purchase, and according to comScore, 67% say that they will shop more frequently with a retailer that provides a hassle-free returns policy.
In the latest research, two-thirds of e-commerce-enabled beauty brands provide a return label, but only 22% offer a prepaid shipping label, with more than a fifth of the brands requiring the customer to call or email in order to make the return.
Avon, Aveda, Clarins, Estée Lauder, and Hugo Boss were the five brands with the shortest wait between customer return confirmation and credit card refund.
L2’s fifth report can be seen here .