Picture perfect: how the health and beauty industry is embracing online technology


For an industry that relies on innovation to sell products, health and beauty brands have been relatively slow to see the benefits of trading online, and many have yet to fully embrace the channel‘s potential to offer customers a true multi-channel experience.

With the UK beauty industry alone worth £17 billion and growing each year, retailers are gradually submitting to intense consumer demand for a sophisticated online shopping experience – not only being able to purchase, but ‘pick up’ and closely examine products, emulating browsing instore as closely as possible.  

So why has the online image become a focal point of health and beauty products when it‘s what‘s inside that matters?

People are becoming increasingly conscious of what they put into, and on their bodies. With ingredients and deeper product information a necessity now, advanced technology is allowing retailers to give consumers the chance to thoroughly inspect packaging, ingredients and intricate details.

Patchy information blights a lot of websites, so by applying features such as 360 spin and zooming options to images, giving the purchaser the ability to take control of a product and view it closely from all angles, consumers have the confidence of knowing first hand what it contains. Websites such as Hollandandbarrett.com, Feelunique.com and Boots.com are good examples of health and beauty retailers meeting these needs and displaying items in a high quality way.

Health and beauty product shopping is often an intimate experience. The evolution of make-up and advances in colour options have made buying new products online trickier than handling them instore. By presenting high resolution online images with zooming features, consumers have the ability to colour match to a higher standard. It‘s not an exact science as screens will always vary, but enhancing this type of shopping experience can only bring positives to both the brand and consumer; with colour matching capabilities increased, confidence in buying online will follow and return rates will reduce. This is especially important for niche brands that aren‘t on every high street – their online shop window needs to allow forensic inspection of each product.

As with most things in our 21st century lifestyles, image is key and the health and beauty industry is heavy on repeat purchases. Savvy consumers have become skilled investigators online. They are open to new products and can be tempted to stray from their original choice. While they will shop around to find the best deal, price isn‘t always the deciding factor. If a retailer has made minimum effort with online merchandising, there can be a perceived lack of trust if people can‘t view what they‘re buying properly, so they‘ll go elsewhere. 

Health and beauty retailers have a way to go, but attention to online merchandising is slowly catching up with the care taken over instore point of sale.

By David Brint, MD of online imaging specialist SpinMe. www.spinme.co.uk