To become a top beauty ecommerce site, you likely know that not only will you need to focus on traffic acquisition, but focusing on increasing conversion rates in order to convert that traffic into buyers, is equally important.
The good news is that to achieve this, the conversion optimization process for beauty and skincare brands is similar to the process we use with fashion, lifestyle and luxury brands:
Identify problems or opportunities with quantitative research, dig deeper using human cues, and A/B test. Those are the essentials of our Testing Trifecta optimization methodology.
But sometimes knowing where to start is still a challenge. What are the top “low-hanging fruits” that are more likely to succeed than not?
What are the top beauty ecommerce brands doing to continuously increase their online sales?
As a conversion optimization agency that specializes in beauty and skincare, over the years we’ve identified trends, and accumulated data on what works, and what doesn’t.
And we’re ready to share 5 of those insights with you so you can benefit too.
Let’s dive in.
Beauty is extremely personal. It affects how people look, feel and express themselves. Makeup and skincare products go right on someone’s skin, on its most visible areas.
Naturally, this means the customer will have a lot of questions, concerns, and objections that will surface throughout their purchasing journey, and with the customer being behind a screen, not able to try the product, this creates a unique challenge for beauty brands and retailers.
“When figuring out what to include on your product pages, remember that there’s an inherent relationship between the product, your customer’s motivations to buy it, and their objections that may delay a purchase.”– Mark Macdonald in a Shopify blog post
After having surveyed thousands of customers who bought beauty products online from numerous brands (from “budget” brands to luxury), we noticed that a lot of the same objections were mentioned over and over again:
Not only are these questions quite common, but we found that a customer lacking an answer for these will usually halt their decision to buy. In other words, not answering your customers’ questions and objections – is killing your conversions.
Here’s what you absolutely need to know: the questions I listed above may or may not apply to your brand. Since every company and website is unique, there are dozens of questions that customers will have about your products that they won’t have about someone else’s.
Companies often think they know their audience so well, that they swear they know all the objections their customers might have. Unfortunately, not to burst anyone’s bubble, but we have found every single company has their audience blind spots. There are things about their customers that they don’t know. And they don’t know it.
And guess what?
These things they ignore are generally what’s causing their add to cart percentage to be low, their cart abandonment rate to suffer, and their conversion rate to be lower than they desire.
To accomplish this we usually start with 3 key methods:
1. Survey Existing Customers
By surveying customers who bought from you within the last month, you can gain an understanding of what drove them to buy what they bought, what almost made them abandon their purchase, and what questions they have about your products – among many other insights.
We wrote a post about how these surveys were used for an organic deodorant brand. Using the insights from these surveys, we were able to create data-driven A/B tests and instantly increased sales by over 21%.
2. Survey On-Site Customers
Want to know why someone is hesitant to make a purchase on your site? Ask them why!
Using a tool such as HotJar, you can launch polls on your product or cart pages after the customer has visited a specific number of pages, spent a certain amount of time on your site, or even when they’re about to leave.
By asking questions such as “What’s stopping you from completing your purchase right now?”, “What questions do you have about this product?”, or “Anything holding you back from buying this product?”; you will get to find out some of your customer’s top objections, which can then be addressed on your site to further remove conversion barriers, or used to create a data-backed A/B test.
3. Talk To Your Customers
Most marketers fall into the trap of staying behind their screens when working on increasing conversion rates. Thing is, optimizing a website is not just about making UX improvements. As mentioned above, it’s about becoming more customer-centric. It’s about modeling our stores to provide everything a customer needs (whether they know it or not), for them to make a purchase.
This is why going old-school and picking up the phone is still one of the most efficient ways to understand your customers for conversion optimization. Call them, have a conversation, try to understand what their lives look like and why they use your products. You’ll learn tons.
Alternatively, you can also do what we do when we work with a company that has retail stores: go to one of your stores, talk with the store employees and managers who interact with customers every day, and even talk with some customers. You’ll learn a lot about their hesitations, and how employees convince them to make a purchase. It may be offline, but it offers a lot of learnings that can be applied online too.
These 3 methods won’t lead to overnight success. Nor will any conversion rate optimization processes, strategies or tactics magically give you overnight results.
Diving into the qualitative, human side of research allows you to learn a lot about what may be missing on your website that stops people from buying. It’s a lot of work, and it’s why very few agencies and companies actually do it. That being said, from our experience working with countless beauty, skincare and luxury ecommerce sites, it’s one of the most efficient, and leads to high rewards.
The subscription ecommerce market has grown by more than 100% percent/year over the past five years. And it keeps growing.
Offering customers the option to subscribe is a great low “low hanging fruit” action item to implement that can build up predictable revenue for your company.
Every time a customer runs out of a product and has to take steps to buy it again, the customer may reconsider their decision. If they’re used to buying a certain concealer, the next time they need more they may look at alternatives that don’t even include your brand, and they’ll have to go through the conversion journey all over again.
By offering the option to customers to subscribe to their favorite products, where for example, they will automatically get shipped a new concealer ever 30 days, we’re removing a huge piece of the conversion journey where we could lose the customer. Essentially skipping the whole acquisition and sales process, and going to the sale right away – which is a huge win if you’re trying to improve your cost of customer acquisition.
At this point, you see the value of understanding your customers’ questions and objections and addressing them.
When implementing a recurring subscription option to your ecommerce store, be aware that simply slapping a button on your product pages asking if they want to buy this product every 30 days won’t be enough.
As I’ve explained in a blog post for LemonStand, an ecommerce subscription platform, the details of the subscription must be clear for customers to go for it. And one of our clients, Kiehl’s, is a prime example of a brand doing this well:
"Note how right next to the “Auto Replenish” feature, they have a question mark that when hovered over, displays a new window with step-by-step instructions of how it works. They make it very clear that:
1. Products will be delivered automatically.
2. You can easily manage the whole order including frequency, delivery and quantity of your products.
3. That you’ll get extra benefits from subscribing, such as free shipping and a deluxe sample (we’ll get into benefits later).
4. That you’ll get an email reminder before every delivery to make sure you don’t get any surprises.
5. That you can cancel anytime.
This is super important. This simple window and 5 bullet-points instantly answers a lot of questions that could otherwise lead to visitors leaving the site without buying. It also reduces customer support inquiries, and even complaints if a customer orders without fully understanding how the subscription works.
Tools like Chargify, Recurly and ChargeBee all integrate with ecommerce platforms such as Shopify, and can make adding this option to your store a piece of cake that can help you drive significant additional revenue.
Implement, but make sure to do it well. Let people choose the frequency of their orders, clarify that they can cancel anytime, and remind them of the benefits of signing up to a subscription.
People don’t buy beauty products because they simply want more products. They’re not buying eyeliner for the sake of buying eyeliner.
People buy these products because of the outcome of these products. People use these products to feel good, to feel confident, to feel beautiful. To give them a specific appearance. And the beauty product, whatever it is, is just a means to achieve that.
It’s the same thing in skincare. People don’t buy skincare creams for the sake of buying creams. They buy it for what it does to their skin – so they can feel more confident and more beautiful. Whether it’s to get rid of acne, redness or dry skin…
The outcome of the product is what the customer cares about.
Thrive Causemetics executes on this well. On many of their product pages, they have before and after pictures showing the “outcome” of their makeup on various skin colors.
The outcome is critical to remember when building your product pages and describing the items you’re selling. If you’re trying to sell a foundation, just on the fact that it’s a foundation, you won’t appeal to the customer’s emotions, thus reducing the likelihood of a sale.
Take this product description from a concealer made by Fenty Beauty, for example. In this paragraph, it explains how this product will benefit you: “Whether you’re hiding bags and blemishes or hangovers and bad decisions”
And then it goes further with a brilliant metaphor: “…the closest thing to retouching your skin in reality”.
And highlights a few other ways this concealer will help: “instantly brightening under eyes, concealing blemishes and dark spots, and reducing redness”.
This is a perfect example of an outcome-driven product description because:
As I’ve written before, simply giving facts about a product is not enough. But when we paint a picture for the customers and help them visualize themselves using, and benefiting from, a product, we appeal to the emotions and create motivation for the purchasing decision. This is called Perceived Ownership.
Have all the facts and information that you need on your product pages, but clearly highlight their benefits and outcomes if you want to maximize your chances of making the sale.
If you look at how beauty products are sold offline, you’ll notice that brands have been selling beauty and skincare products in bundles forever. As a result, customers often get to save (compared to buying all the same products individually), or sometimes they’ll get a a free bonus product or makeup case included.
For example, KKW Beauty offers the Glam Bible Bundle, where customers get an array of products – everything they would need as part of a makeup routine – and save at the same time.
For an ecommerce store in the beauty space, not doing bundles often means leaving money on the table. It’s not only a great opportunity to create convenience for the customer, but for a brand:
At the end of the day, not only are you getting more exposure for your products, which is key in the beauty industry as a customer often wants to try the products, but you’re increasing Average Order Value while providing savings and convenience to the buyer.
“For average order value, start by encouraging shoppers with complimentary product recommendations and geo-targeted suggestions on cart pages or product pages. Another good tactic is to create custom bundles or exclusive sets that may have a higher retail price, but have some sort of added value.”
If you’re not yet selling bundles, you can use Google Analytics to determine which products are being bought together. Using these insights, you can test a few bundle options and hopefully get to tap into this opportunity of increasing your store’s revenue.
If your store has a lot of SKUs (aka, a large variety of products), you may have a broader reach in terms of audience by having products suitable for more than a just small, narrow type of customer.
Great! More products generally means more opportunities for a sale, right?
It’s true. However, more products could also lower conversions if you’re not careful.
When you have dozens of different, but similar products, website visitors looking at your products may become paralyzed by all the choices available. This is called the Paradox of Choice, or Analysis Paralysis. And it happens when we’re giving someone a lot of options, but not helping them enough with the decision.
This is a very common problem for skincare and beauty ecommerce stores. Let’s say you offer even as little as 3 different types of moisturizers or even foundations. Can, within seconds, someone determine the difference between each of these products?
If they can’t, you’re making them work too hard to find out. You may confuse them. Ultimately, you may lose them too, and they’ll go to another brand. This absolutely needs to be avoided.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to overcome this. Knowing that people buy cosmetics for their benefits, clearly highlighting the benefits of each product, as mentioned above, will already help with differentiating one product from another.
That being said, what if your 3 moisturizers all accomplish the same thing? Our extensive research about what impacts conversions for skincare and beauty stores showed that people are increasingly concerned about whether a product will be right for their skin type (in order to avoid reactions, and to make sure it will work for them as intended).
This points to something important – let’s say one of your moisturizers works best for sensitive skin, one is better for oily skin, and the last one is recommended for people with acne… say it, and make visible!
When we designed the website for Pellu Skincare, we made sure that the difference between each of their product bundles, which are different based on skin type, was clear even on the category pages:
For beauty sites to be customer mindset, they have to think about what the customer ultimately wants, before even thinking about the products. This is a core philosophy in our website design process.
With another client for whom we’ve researched their customers and designed their website based on data, because we noticed their customers were also very “outcome-focused”, we built a way for people to shop products by their skin concerns right from the navigation bar (this panel opens when hovering over the “Product” link in the navigation menu):
This helps the customer navigate your product lines, and only shows them what they need to see – the products that are made for their skin type, and the benefit they want to achieve.
While doing conversion research for an internationally-renowned cosmetic brand, we found out that customers who shopped via what we call an assisted method (quiz, shop by concern, shop by skin type, etc) converted up to 1532% better than those who didn’t.
This was further validated when conducting the same analysis for a dozen more brands. Customers were consistently converting at a much higher percentage when they were able to filter and find the products that were ideal for them.
Sephora is a brand that definitely noticed the benefits of helping customers find the right products through quizzes – something we’ve also implemented for a few of our clients. In the navigation menu, they have a link to a multitude of quizzes that help people find the right fragrance, foundation, lip product, and so on…
As you work on optimizing your ecommerce store for a higher conversion rate and more revenue, ensure that the benefits of each product are clear, that the difference between similar products is indicated, let people filter your product selection by their needs, and consider adding quizzes to aid visitors in finding the right product.
The beauty and skincare segments are some of the fastest growing in ecommerce today. As a hyper-competitive industry, with brands fighting to showcase their differences and unique traits to attract and keep customers, if you’re not optimizing for conversions and continuously A/B testing your changes, your competitors are, and you will fall behind.
As you work on optimizing your conversion rate, the 5 points detailed in this article will provide you a great starting point.
And there you go, it’s now your turn to hit the ground running.
P.S. – We are the most experienced conversion optimization agency for the beauty, skincare, and luxury markets. Get your free proposal here if you would like to know how we can work together to increase your ecommerce sales.
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