U.S. shoppers may not have been running into stores over Black Friday weekend, but they were buying beauty online.
According to data from retail marketing technology company Bluecore, beauty was the top-performing category for year-over-year online growth on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2020, surpassing fashion, home and technology. Online beauty sales grew by 46% on Black Friday and 47% on Cyber Monday, while apparel sales declined. Beauty also surpassed total online sales growth, which rose by 26% on Black Friday and 14% on Cyber Monday. The firm predicts that beauty will have seen a 62% overall year-over-year increase for the holiday shopping period ending January 5.
Giftable categories related to self-care sold especially well. Beauty accessories and personal care brand Kitsch, for example, saw 4,800% year-over-year sales growth on Black Friday, selling over $500,000 worth of goods between its site and Amazon. Its DTC site made up 98% of sales. According Cassandra Thurswell, the CEO of Kitsch, skin-care product bundles were especially popular. The brand offered 30% off sitewide and promoted its Black Friday sales through a combination of social media ads, SMS and email.
“It’s not just one thing [that drove the growth],” said Thurswell. “So many different levers were being pulled.”
The pandemic has radically shifted consumer spending habits this year. Ninety percent of all shopping over the weekend took place online, according to Bluecore. In beauty, this provided brands with an opportunity to attract new first-time shoppers. Fifty-one percent of beauty purchases were those in which the customer was buying the brand for the first time, marking a 147% increase in first-time buyers year-over-year.
“Typically in beauty, what you see is a lot of second and third purchases happening during big promotional or seasonal sales, because people decide to stock up on a brand that they know and they trust,” said Sherene Hilal, Bluecore’s svp of product marketing and business operations. “That’s very different than what we saw this season.” Online research and browsing was up significantly, with views of beauty products in the pre-holiday week up 297% year-over-year.
Makeup, meanwhile, is still not performing as strongly as skin care. According to digital marketing agency NetElixir, makeup kit sales declined by 36% year-over-year for the shopping period.
Growth in beauty came despite the fact that overall retail spending slowed for the shopping period. According to GlobalData, consumer spending for the time period of Thanksgiving to Sunday fell by 22.4% from last year. The number of shoppers buying something over the five-day shopping period declined by 4 million, while spending per shopper decreased, according to the National Retail Federation.
As the pandemic has pushed sales online, the time period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday blurred into one long shopping period dubbed “Cyber 5” by retail experts. And looking at Black Friday weekend alone does not convey the whole picture this year, as deals started in October and throughout November.
Consumers are also becoming more price-savvy with their online shopping. According to Udayan Bose, the CEO and founder of NetElixir, latency time spent from first site visit to purchase actually went down 19%, and “within that time, people were visiting the site multiple times. A lot of folks were bargain hunting. They were really looking at if the deals changed.”