The health and beauty renaissance: How store tech integrates the online and offline experience

by ShopperTrak on 12-08-19

Health and beauty retail has undergone a stunning make-over in recent years. As our recent eBook illustrates, the sector has embraced experiential, omnichannel retail, to the delight of shoppers around the world who are benefiting from technological innovations and creative offers across all channels.

At the beating heart of this renaissance is recognition that a new generation of wellbeing and beauty consumers expect far more than basic service when choosing skincare products, lipsticks and personal care electricals. Younger demographic groups – particularly Millennials and Gen Z – want to be inspired, informed and entertained when they commit to a beauty or wellbeing brand, whether connecting online or spending time physically shopping.

With brands such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and the cosmetics label Urban Decay lending themselves to rich in-store drama, it’s perfectly fitting for retailers to present products in ways that reflect these unique brands’ values, forging emotional bonds with fans.

Store experiences that cater to consumer trends

Boots’ landmark store in Covent Garden, London epitomises the new direction health, beauty and cosmetics retail is taking. The store opened in June 2019 and is home to an ‘Innovation Studio’ that houses cutting-edge health and fitness technology like Fitbit. Eco brand ‘Beauty Kitchen’ allows customers to refill reusable containers with its natural skincare products, and there’s a ‘Rehydration Station’ for customers to top up their water bottles.

Due to the rise in popularity of masks, Boots has incorporated its first ever Mask Bar. A new beauty playground of trend zones, discovery areas and live demonstrations will be supported by ‘brand agnostic’ Boots Beauty Specialists. To cap it all off, customers can show off their new buys in the special Instagram Zone and YouTube studio.

Digital interaction on the shop floor

Meanwhile MAC Cosmetics’ first ‘Interactive Experience Center’ in Shanghai goes even further with its blending of online and offline experiences. The brand carried out research into how younger people shop and as a result has invested in AR technology to give shoppers the option of ‘virtual try-on’ of cosmetics. There is in-store personalisation thanks to MAC’s WeChat mini-program and lots of product-specific interactivity.

For example, in the lipstick section, a virtual makeup mirror enables customers to sample 18 MAC lipstick colours in 30 seconds. In the eye shadow section, customers can choose from six influencer-created palettes and then tailor them to their own tastes. The WeChat app then handles payment.

Taking the instore experience online

MAC wants its shoppers to see and sample product even when they are browsing online, typically on their phone. Thanks to YouTube tutorial videos and AR experiences, shoppers can ‘virtually’ try on products while watching tuorials. They can then click to buy instantly – removing the need to visit a store. This m-commerce technology is removing barriers to purchase in the online space, helping drive the omnichannel experience.

These innovative retailers share a common understanding that to remain relevant, they must offer exciting new ways to shop. Understanding ongoing shopper behaviour will be key to the success of ground-breaking health and beauty retail testbeds like these.

Why Millennials are so important to health and beauty brands

Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are particularly important for the beauty market due to the sizeable consumer base they represent and their growing spending power.

According to a new Coresight Research Report price and brand trust are major purchase drivers for this generation when buying beauty products. “Millennials are more likely than older generations to care about the social values, including ethics, eco-consciousness and social responsibility, of the beauty companies with which they associate,” states the report. “In addition, Millennials are health conscious and prefer natural and organic cosmetic products.”

Millennials are highly likely to research beauty products online; however, the majority of them would still prefer to buy in store, says Coresight.

Measure footfall success in stores and keep improving

Today it’s clear that the health and beauty retail sector is harnessing technology, brand power and creative ideas to enhance the customer experience – and in particular to delight Millennials who spend high and still love physical shopping.

But the question remains: To what extent are glossy new features attracting footfall, converting browsers and raising average transaction values? Retailers can measure the success of their in-store tactics with people-counting and retail analytics. With traffic and conversion data tracked over time they can shape future strategy, knowing what works and what doesn’t, and ensuring that new ideas and investment in the latest technology is delivering that all-important ROI.

While looks are important, it’s the health of the bottom line that should be everyone’s number one priority in 21st century retail. Measuring and improving over time will lead to long term fitness in this colourful and ever-evolving sector.


The health, beauty and cosmetics retail sector is experiencing robust growth in Europe, North America and Asia. Our report Health, beauty and cosmetics retailers and traffic data explores the challenges and opportunities.

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