Similarweb x Glossy Research: The longevity of pandemic beauty trends, according to Amazon sales

Though shopping online was by no means uncommon prior to March of 2020, Covid accelerated its growth. Yet, as restrictions lift and life returns to some version of normal, consumers are continuing to shop online.

Glossy partnered with analytics and traffic intelligence platform Similarweb to examine exactly how beauty shopping trends are shaking out post-pandemic, with a focus on Amazon. The research examined four categories within beauty: fragrance, color cosmetics, hair color and nails. During Covid, people who’d typically head to a store to buy makeup and fragrances were forced to buy them online. And, during stay-at-home orders, hair-color and manicure services often became DIY projects. Now, the question is: To what extent will beauty’s pandemic trends stick?

People had successful enough experiences when forced into digital that they’re choosing to stay, likely for the [channel’s] convenience and broader assortment,” said Ines Durand, beauty industry manager at Similarweb. Here’s what the data said.

Makeup

Unsurprisingly, makeup revenue was down (-27.5%, to $420 million) at the height of the pandemic (January 2020-July 2020), but it grew by 17.8% between August and December — notably, before the Delta variant. Online shopping for makeup has continued to grow in 2021, with revenue up 37% from January 2021 to July 2021, to $631.4 million. That’s an increase of 54.2% YoY, despite the return of in-store shopping.

Within Amazon’s makeup category, 47.1 million units sold, and the company earned $631.4 million in revenue from January 2021 to July 2021, according to Similiarweb, which uses its Shopper Intelligence tool to analyze shopper behavior. Amazon is not traditionally associated with makeup sales, but they now offer a wide range of makeup products in the U.S. market, which makes the marketplace interesting for makeup addicts,” Durand said. “Secondly, thanks to their geographical coverage and logistics, Amazon is able to ship orders rapidly.” Amazon also has perks like its Subscribe & Save program that allows customers who are loyal to a certain product to save when replenishing it. Subscribe & Save makeup revenue increased by 160% from February 2021 to July 2021, according to Similarweb research. And in the same timeframe, makeup sales increased among both mass and luxury brands, Similarweb found. Drugstore brands such as Essence and E.l.f. saw tremendous sales growth year-over-year of 129% and 131%, respectively. And on the higher-end of the price spectrum, Anastasia Beverly Hills saw a 112% year-over-year increase in revenue. Other high-end brands such as Benefit, Clinique, It Cosmetics and BareMinerals also saw their Amazon sales increase.

Fragrance

Initially, online sales for fragrance plummeted by 24.4% to $231.6 million, from January 2020 to July 2020. But since the start of 2021, the category has become the fastest-growing beauty subcategory on Amazon, with revenue increasing by 70% between January 2021 and July 2021 to $319 million.

Like makeup, fragrance is a sensorial purchase, and yet fragrance sales on Amazon shot up year-over-year, with 7.2 million units sold and $318.6 million in revenue earned between January 2021 and July 2021. For Durand, the growth in this category was the most surprising. “Not only did sales increase, but there was also a steep increase in conversion rate,” Durand said. Interestingly, in this category, the growth of men’s fragrance outpaced women’s; between January 2021 and July 2021, they saw 49% and 36% of YoY sales growth, respectively. “When consumers purchase fragrance, they rarely switch brands. They tend to stick to a few brands and fragrances they like, hence why there is room for growth for this subcategory,” Durand said.

Hair Color

Between January 2020 and July 2020, category revenue grew by 12% to $147 million as hair salons shut down. From January 2021 to July 2021, revenue increased by 20.6% to 150.7 million, making it the slowest growing subcategory year-over-year.

“Hair color is the slowest growing beauty subcategory on Amazon,” Durand said. “It can probably be explained by a simple reason: the return of beauty salons.” This is an area where many consumers are happy to return to professionals, now that they can. Amazon”s hair-color category saw 10.3 million units sold and $151 million in revenue driven between January 2021 and July 2021, but the category is the only one of the four analyzed segments to see a negative change in units sold YoY. “It has still grown over the analyzed period, but to a lower extent than other beauty categories,” Durand said. 

Nails

Growth in this trend has slowed substantially since the peak of the pandemic. Between January 2020 and July 2020, revenue grew by 43.2% for the subcategory to $289 million, while it only grew by 7% between January 2021 and July 2021, to $352 million.

Nail art and nail polish trails behind makeup and fragrance in growth, which can likely also be attributed to salons re-opening. Sales in Amazon’s nail art and polish category amounted to 24.9 million units sold and $352 million in revenue between January 2021 and July 2021. Revenue grew by 7% over the period, which is the smallest growth rate among the analyzed product categories, according to Similarweb. However, customers also committed to their favorite nail products, with Subscribe & Save revenue growing by 235%. Subscribe & Save units sold grew by 127%.

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