Pretty Pleasing: How Beauty Brands Brought Some Much-Needed Fun to a Truly Trying Time

For the beauty industry, which has long relied on the in-store experience to offer customers a chance to sample products, the pandemic has presented the unique challenge of offering personalized products to consumers used to trying before they buy. Leading beauty brands understand that shopping, especially shopping for beauty products, should be fun! And even though customers can no longer browse the aisles sampling products, the beauty brands that have led the charge in personalization in previous years have also made big strides toward mimicking the fun of in-store experiences by churning out some truly exciting content on their digital platforms, a much needed bit of levity at a time when consumers need it most.

1 Sephora

Sephora has reigned supreme at the top of the Retail Personalization Index for years now, and for good reason. Its loyalty programs and recommendation engines are some of the best around. But as more and more shoppers opt to rely on the brand’s digital offerings in light of stay-at-home order, Sephora has gone above and beyond to make sure its customers still feel pampered even online. During the months when the pandemic caused temporary closures of physical stores, Sephora made sure customers could still try new products, offering content like the “Concealer Quiz” to ensure users found their perfect match from afar. These quizzes not only offer engagement, but also allow for customers to find exactly what they’re looking for.

12 ULTA Beauty

Ulta has always been a great source of information and rewards for its loyalty customers, from its personalized app recommendations based on users’ past purchases and profiles to its online/offline fusion efforts, which allow customers to order via the app and pick up in store. But during 2020, Ulta realized that customers might need even more customized content as many of the beauty services they normally seek from professionals, like nail and hair care, were likely handled at home. That’s why Ulta stepped up its content offerings, from its Ulta Beauty at Home series, which shows beauty lovers new skills for self-care such as home manicures, to an increased focus on its Glam Lab, a virtual beauty tool that allows users to try before they buy—in a pandemic-friendly fashion.

40 e.l.f. Cosmetics

As many competitors scrambled to boost lagging sales during the pandemic, e.l.f. cosmetics actually saw its sales and engagement soar. According to Vogue Business, e.l.f. saw a 60 percent jump in its website traffic, while sales shot up 40 percent. The reason e.l.f. has thrived where others flounder is thanks, in part, to the company’s knack for making its online experience nearly as fun as shopping in store. For example, anticipating a boost in online orders over the holiday season, the brand increased its focus on its AR offering, “Virtual Try On,” which allows users to use a picture, model, or even a camera in order to test out new products, helping users to select exactly the right holiday gifts and sets, even online.

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