The New Mobile Primer for Beauty

Mobile devices and the visual web are making beauty more transparent and accessible than ever before. With that, real women are rewriting the rules of beauty and shaping trends in equal measure alongside big beauty brands and esteemed beauty experts. Today, our beauty inspiration not only comes from runways and glossy-magazine spreads, but from a friend’s selfie, a blog on this season’s hot look or a time-lapsed “how to” video on the latest make-up trick. And, the once linear path to purchase is much more complicated—Facebook data reveal that 34% of beauty and personal care purchases took place on mobile during Holiday 2015.

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To explore how greater access to information via mobile and more opportunities for personalization are shaping the beauty category, Facebook IQ analyzed Facebook and Instagram data and conducted an extensive quantitative survey among more than 1,700 female beauty buyers (people who reported purchasing skincare or make-up products in the past three months) ages 18–44 in the US. We also commissioned Galileo Research, a boutique qualitative shop, to interview 31 ethnically diverse women in New York City and Los Angeles to delve deeper into the evolving mindset of the beauty buyer, including her shifting attitudes, priorities and behaviors.

And to complete our picture of how mobile is changing the beauty path to purchase, we looked specifically at beauty shoppers within a recent study among adult “omni-channel shoppers”—people who reported researching or purchasing a beauty/cosmetics product online (e.g., via smartphone, tablet or computer) and in-store over the past three months.

Our key discoveries are below.

Mobile wins the beauty contest

In today’s increasingly cross-device, omni-channel path to purchase, the only constant seems to be mobile. For women ages 18–44 in the US, mobile devices have become a leading resource for engaging with beauty content—tutorials, blogs, tips, recommendations and product descriptions —in and out of the retail environment. And, 75% of beauty buyers who use mobile to engage with beauty content do so on the go.


And while beauty brands are still relying on magazine spreads and TV commercials to promote new products, the shift to mobile devices indicates the mobile screen isn’t so small after all. Nearly 40% of beauty buyers who engage with beauty content on their mobile phones disagreed with the notion that the mobile screen is too small for browsing beauty content. Findings further suggest that women are looking for useful, striking and relatable content on the device that’s always with them—from discounts and specials to how to’s and well-styled photography, a diversity of ethnicities and faces free of photo editing.2


From “natural” to “Cleopatra,” real women are setting the tone

Women now have a vibrant array of content creators to gather advice on the latest beauty products and techniques from ease of their mobile phone. Whether it’s a friend who shares their same skin concern or a blogger with a great smoky eye, women are relating to other women who they feel have less to personally gain from sharing their beauty know-how.


Top reasons for turning to social media for beauty include: How-to videos, customer reviews, beauty hacks, and before/after transformations.


Personalization guides the journey

From inspiration gathering to inspiration setting, women’s Facebook and Instagram feeds are becoming channels for discovering new products, sparking impulse buys or sharing new beauty looks. Given the nature of these highly curated and personal environments, the content is seen as trustworthy, authentic and relevant and thus likely to inspire action. In fact, 48% of beauty buyers who research beauty content on Facebook say they trust the people who provide information on Facebook because they have a personal connection, and 45% of beauty buyers who research beauty content on Instagram say the same.


Blending In-store and Online

Beauty buyers head into a physical store to experience the product first-hand and ensure it works for their personal beauty needs. Many women even want it “now,” but their mobile device isn’t far behind and personal attention in-store is taking on new meaning. Where once women were looking for one-on-one attention from a knowledgeable sales associate, today women are bringing their entourage with them in-store via their mobile devices.


While women will likely continue to “try on” new products “IRL,” online shopping is a convenient way to make the final purchase or replace their favorites without a trip to the store. Indeed, 42% of beauty buyers say that most of the time, they go in-store to test beauty products in person but eventually make the purchase online or on mobile.


What it means for marketers

Understanding the impact of mobile and how beauty is becoming more accessible and achievable is essential to breaking through the clutter.

Become part of her trusted circle: Women are taking more and more cues from their curated (hence trusted) network of influencers, and their opinion reaches far within the in-store setting. To join the conversation, brands can now achieve everyday relevance through small screens and micro-content that’s relatable and accessible yet inspirational to win her attention and encourage greater exploration.

Embrace the m-factor: We cannot underestimate the role of mobile in the new path to purchase for cosmetic and skincare products. Indeed, 57% of omni-channel beauty shoppers say that in the future they will start or buy more beauty products on their smartphone.3 As women become more comfortable restocking their make-up bags from their mobile phones, nimble brands have the opportunity to rewrite the rules of discovery and engagement to build a future-ready business.

Make your mobile presence pop: As more beauty buyers use their “mobile companion” in-store and integrated online/offline shopping becomes the new normal, brands’ in-store and mobile experiences need to be inspiring and informative in equal measure. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to use mobile to spark an impulse purchase or provide in-the-moment advice in-store and online.


1 Facebook Internal data, US only, Sept – Dec, 2015. Analysis of conversion pixel and App Events data for ads that were shown to people ages 18+ on Facebook.
2 “US Beauty Path to Purchase” by Galileo, US only (Facebook-commissioned study of 31 women ages 18–44 in New York City and Los Angeles who have purchased makeup, skincare or nail products and who use social media), Jan 6–12, 2016.
3 “Omni-channel Shoppers” by GfK, US only (Facebook-commissioned online study and opt-in panel of 460 people ages 18+ who said they researched online and bought in the Beauty category in the last three months, selected from a Facebook-commissioned online study and opt-in panel of 2,407 people ages 18+ who have researched online and bought from at least one of five key categories in the last three months), conducted to quantify key differences in shopping behavior across channels (tablets, mobile phones, PCs, brick-and-mortar retails) and fielded Sep 16–18, 2015.
Source unless otherwise specified: “US Beauty Path to Purchase” by Facebook IQ (Qualtrics-fielded survey of 1,785 women ages 18–44 in the US who had purchased skincare or makeup products in the past three months), Feb 2016.