How To Sell Cosmetics Online – Find The Right Audience For Your Products

Ecommerce, Paid Media Advertising, Social Media

You are ready to launch your cosmetic business? Congratulations! We’re so glad you found us. Your inventory is ready to go, your brand and packaging is looking amazing, and you cannot wait to get your products out in the world. You’re just not sure where to start when it comes to selling your product and reaching your future clientele, and that’s okay. Here’s some good news: the hardest part is behind you!

2020 changed the landscape for retail in big ways showing significant acceleration in digital consumers behaviors. Google stated that “[they’ve] experienced 10 years worth of ecommerce growth in only 3 months”. Shoppers be shoppin’. It’s no wonder as the pandemic literally confined us at home and the online world was/is the only way to shop for a lot of us.

Naturally, foot traffic is morphing into web traffic.

The same Google study reported that 74% of U.S. consumers said they will steer away from shopping centers, and 50% of global consumers plan to shop online. Their expectations are growing and they seek to be delighted with personalized shopping experiences and special attention. How are you going to keep up in a competitive space and your consumers’ ever-changing needs? 

While it’s true that it is no longer needed to spend thousands of dollars on a TV advertising campaign, the challenge to reach and connect with your audience remains.

We will start by introducing you to the different platforms you can use to sell cosmetics online with their pros and cons. Next, we will give you tips on how to make the best use of your Google Analytics account so that you can define and learn your audience. Then, we will explore the different digital marketing strategies available to reach your future customers. Finally, we will give you some recommendations on how to delight your customers and how to nurture your relationship with them.

We hope that this article will give you valuable tips and insights to help you find the right platform for your cosmetics and beauty brand.

How To Sell Cosmetics Online

46% of the consumers find new make-up and skincare products online, and 41% of consumers end up making an online purchase. Rolling out their Core Web Vitals, Google’s AI is going to prefer websites with mobile-friendly pages. So keep that in mind if you choose to build your own website or use a third-party platform, as you will want to be able to optimize your content to make it search-engine friendly.

table of platforms to sell cosmetics online


Pros: It’s the most well-rounded platform, facilitating access to international markets, providing shipping discounts, allowing you to process gift cards & discount codes, and it comes with an ecommerce website and blog (on all plans, except for the Shopify Lite plan). All website themes provided by Shopify are responsive, eliminating the time and cost spent in optimizing your website. Opting for Shopify gives you access to their own “app store”, where you’ll find a ton of third party apps to help you with reporting, accounting, multi-currency selling, etc.

It also integrates with many social media platforms like Facebook or Pinterest as well as other websites/blogs (Shopify’s Buy Button). Regarding your product catalog, you’ll be able to create up to 100 variations of a single product. If you ever decide to open your own physical store or sell your products at a beauty convention, Shopify makes the switch easy with its wide range of POS hardware. 

Cons: If you have a *reaaaaally* specific idea of what you want your website to look like, Shopify might not be the best fit. You will also have to harness your social media and paid search powers to drive traffic to your store. We can help with that

Pricing: Starts as low as $9 USD per month for the Shopify Lite tier. We recommend the Basic Shopify membership at $29 USD per month when starting your first online business.


Pros: Selling on Etsy is getting access to millions of shoppers that spend “billions each year”, according to them. The company prides itself on its transparency (no hidden fees), safety (seller protection, secure transactions) and simplicity of use. They provide online support and education to help you succeed (Seller Handbook, dedicated forum). The great thing about Etsy is that you’ll be connecting with your customers, answering their questions about your cosmetics’ ingredients for example, and a community of like-minded sellers and entrepreneurs. 

Cons: While joining is free, there are three basic selling fees: a listing fee (20 cents/listing), a transaction fee (5%), and a payment processing fee. (3% + $0.25). You’re competing in a crowded marketplace where boosting your visibility with Etsy Ads and Offsite Ads comes at an extra cost. The Standard membership, while free, might not cut it to distinguish your shop from the others. 

Pricing: It’s all about the fees!

Amazon (FBA, Seller Central) 

Pros: Uh…

Cons: When shopping on Amazon, how often have you looked past the first or second page? Exactly. Being on the first page in a competitive industry is hard. To stay competitive, you’ll need to advertise (PPC ads, Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, take part into Prime Day or Black Friday). You’ll also be at the mercy of Amazon’s rules and regulations (they take a somewhat large portion of your profits), and your logistics need to be ON POINT.

Your products pages need to be maintained and optimized regularly, reviews can make or break you, and you risk to get your product knocked off. Getting in touch with their Seller support can be a real headache if you do not have a dedicated representative (usually assigned to bigger seller accounts through word of mouth).

Pricing: Honestly, there are too many fees to list them all. On the individual plan, Amazon takes a $0.99 commission on every item you sell. The Professional plan costs $39.99 per month, no matter how many items you sell. On top of that, there’s a referral fee percentage for the Beauty category: 8% for products with a total sales price of $10.00 or less, and 15% for items with a total sales price greater than $10.00. 

To choose between FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon: they store and ship your products for you, your products will have the coveted Prime badge) or Fulfillment by Seller (you do everything), we recommend using their FBA Revenue Calculator.

Define & Learn Your Audience

You probably have some idea of who your target customer is. As digital marketers, we much prefer to make decisions based on data and facts. Google Analytics will be key in helping you gain knowledge on who your audience is, how you’re acquiring them, and how they interact with your website and/or ecommerce platform. It’ll help you monitor your marketing efforts and make adjustments based on real-time and actionable insights.

In Google Analytics, you can create audiences to engage with your users through Google’s Audience marketing integrations (remarketing lists), or with users who return to your site with Google Optimize 360. To do so, go to the Admin area in Google Analytics, and select “Audiences” under “Audience Definitions” under your Property view. 

Segmenting your audience will allow you to gain beneficial insights on each of them and get answers to questions like: “Are the customers that took advantage of my new client promo coming back to my website? What brought them to my website? Did they convert on a phone or a computer?

Here are the essential tabs you need to check out:

Audience Tab

In Audiences, you will see all of the audiences you built in your Admin board. 

Geo: See where your audience is located, and which cities are converting

Demographics: This one is pretty self explanatory! You will get an overview of your users’ age and genders. Go more in depth by looking at the Age and Gender tabs to see who is converting the most, and who you don’t need to spend advertising dollars on. 

Interests: See what your audience is in the market for, and what other affinities they possess. For example, you know they like your products, but you may find out that they’re value shoppers who recently started a new job and are researching home and garden services online. 

Behavior: This is a great place to determine how your advertising and marketing (email and organic) efforts are paying off. You’ll be able to see which email campaigns brought your customers back to your website and see if they completed any goal doing so.

Acquisition Tab

How do your users find you? Here is where you will get all the answers. This is a great place to start when you’re not sure where to invest your advertising budget. 

Social: Not sure what to pick between Pinterest or Facebook? This is where you identify the networks and communities that engage with your brand. The network referrals gives you a breakdown of how you acquired traffic by social network. Go to the conversions tab to see which social networks are getting you the most conversions and revenue. 

Google Ads > Shopping Campaign: Gives you data on your Google Shopping campaigns’ performance.

Behavior Tab

Which pages are getting the most traffic and conversions? Curious to know what your users do after arriving at your home page? This tab will allow you to get insights on your site performance and traffic, and dig more into highest performing pages and events. 

Conversions Tab

Get a breakdown of your product catalog and revenue, and identify shopping behaviors (cart-to-detail rate, buy-to-detail rate). Where do your customers drop off during their purchasing journey?

Pick Your Marketing Strategy

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

First things first: make sure that your audience can find you. You didn’t put all of this hard work into your website to not pop up in Google search results. SEO makes sure your content comes up organically in the search results when people search for you online. 

Get a free SEO consultation with us and let’s help you get found online.

Paid Search (PPC)

Including PPC in your digital marketing strategy allows you to keep tabs on your branded keywords but also put your product in the top of the page when customers are searching online. This is incredibly useful to build awareness around your product, and bring potential customers to your website and introduce them to your brand.

In search, like in life, it’s better to make a strong first impression. Make sure your landing page is user-friendly with clear call-to-actions and beautiful and compelling imagery of your cosmetic products. If you’re ready to invest in search or display ads, we can help you design the most appropriate PPC strategy.

Paid Social Media

You’re of course no stranger to the rise of social media, and you know that an online presence is indispensable to grow your cosmetic and beauty company. According to an Accenture study, “many are condensing the entire path to purchase into an online experience on their mobile and tablet devices, especially among those ages 18-34.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought small businesses to the hard realization that an online presence was not only mandatory, but vital for them. Depending on your goals and as always, keeping your audience in mind, it might make sense to invest time and resources into your social media profiles. Truth is, “Consumers are around 40% more likely to be discovering new brands or products via ads seen on social media, and 45% more likely to be doing so via updates on brands’ social media pages.”

Paid ads should communicate clearly on your brand, your product, and provide a solution to your customers. Think about your goals and keep that in mind when designing your ads (awareness vs conversions). Paid ads are a great way to promote your new line of products, keep up with seasonal trends, and reach new customers.

Here, Youth to the People made sure to use different ad formats to reach their audience (single image, video, carousel). Each ad is clear about the products’ benefits and why you should use it.

Influencer Marketing

According to a study by HBS, “A whopping 62 percent of the women said they follow beauty influencers on social media”. Function of Beauty, a custom hair/skin/body care company, is known to work with many YouTubers to showcase their products. It works because the brand is carefully picking who they decide to partner with.

Finding your niche audience and knowing what type of content they resonate with makes it easier to pick your online spokesperson. It’s the new word-of-mouth; consumers are more likely to trust an influencer when they’re giving honest feedback about products.

If you’re a cosmetic or skin care brand with more than a 1,000 subscribers (4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months) and would like to pursue this strategy, “YouTube BrandConnect” is a great way to connect you with content creators. Not quite there yet? Learn how you can advertise on YouTube anyway

Tobias Rauscher from Google published an article in April 2021 regarding the value of influencer marketing. Here’s how Rauscher looks at it:

  1. Stop selling impressions and likes as impact
  2. Embrace the benefits of long-form content
  3. Focus on brand lift to isolate impact
  4. Contextualize results within the broader marketing mix

We live in a world driven by numbers and data and we understand that it can be hard to justify investing in such partnerships, as it may be hard to quantify how “well” a campaign is going to do with an influencer. 

Now that you’ve spent ample time researching your audience and found the platform to reach them, learn how to nurture it.

Delight Your Customers


According to the Salesforce 2017 State of Marketing report, 52% of B2C customers say they’d switch brands if they didn’t feel they were getting a personalized experience. A 4-year-old beauty startup, Function of Beauty, now valued at $1 billion, embraced full-force the power of personalization.

The self-proclaimed “world leader in customizable beauty” provides a delightful customer experience from the website to your shower. Their online quiz is both aesthetically pleasing and makes the customer feel valued and cared for.

Now that’s powerful.

Here’s how you can implement a personalizable experience:

  • A welcome email from you, after someone signs up for your newsletter, including their name
  • Messenger ads on Facebook: talk directly to your customers (remind them about an event or a promotion) and get instant feedback. 
  • Text messages for product recommendations, discount codes, reminders: SimpleTextin, EZ Texting, Slick Text, Textedly. For example, SimpleTextin monthly plans start as low as $25/month for 500 credits (equals 500 SMS messages), and EzTexting most popular plan starts at $29/month for 2,400 yearly credits. 
  • Simple quizzes. Engage visitors and let them tell you what they want. For example, if you have a large number of skincare products, ask your customers about their skin type and their skin goals. 
  • A chat bot, to mimic the in-store experience and answer customer questions promptly. 

Seamless Shopping Experience

Make your shopping experience seamless with Shop app by Shopify. This amazing shopping assistant remembers your customers’ details and allows them to keep all of their online orders’ tracking information in one place. It also integrates with merchants like Afterpay, Klarna, Quadpay for customers who wish to pay in separate payments. Bonus point: it also aims to offset carbon emissions with earth-friendly shipping measures. According to Shopify, “[they’ve] seen conversion rates improve by up to 18% for returning customers after a business enables Shop Pay for their online store.”

Customers want to shop worry-free and know that they can return your products if they change their mind. Clearly list your shipping and exchange policies on your product page and in your FAQ. A friendly and personable return experience will increase customer loyalty; according to a Narvar Consumer Report study, 95% of respondents that were satisfied with the returns process said they’ll purchase with the retailer again.

Taking A Closer Look

Let’s use a real-life example: Palate Polish, a Portland small business created in 2014. Palate Polish sells “health-conscious nail polish” that is vegan, cruelty-free, and free of 10 toxic components usually found in nail polish. 

The design is extremely simple and straight to the point. The white background makes every nail polish color pop. The product page is kept simple as well but it has everything you need to know: pricing, size, color, UGC content, and shipping policy. It also includes many pictures from happy customers, mimicking an Instagram feed.

Email and Text Marketing

This is how you’re going to build your customer lists, and they will come in handy for targeting on your social channels or when building PPC campaigns. Facebook and Google Ads allow you to upload your lists and build lookalike audiences from them. You’ll also want to make sure to exclude these lists when you’re creating awareness campaigns if your goal is to get new customers.

Another thing to consider is that it’s almost always expected to get a discount for a first purchase, may it be free shipping or a code giving 15% off. The same goes for birthdays; don’t forget to send your customer a customized note or special discount!

YouGov recently surveyed 1,000 Americans about their feelings towards personalization and privacy: 43% of them were willing to share their private information in exchange for promotions and discounts, and 47% were expecting more personalizable content in return. That said, 56% of the respondents have an overall negative feeling about sharing their personal information with brands, seeing it as an invasion of privacy.  Remember to stay transparent with your audience and be clear about how you will use their private information.

When signing up for your newsletters, customers look forward to receiving either promotional content or connecting more with your brand.

Use your Google Analytics insights at your advantage by recommending new products or services to your customers based on their shopping behavior.

Loyalty Programs

These are a win-win: your customers get special benefits and get to feel like VIPS, and this is the opportunity for you to get their data. Stay in touch with them through emails and texts, and provide them with an even more personalized experience.

  • Elf Cosmetics Members program “e.l.f. Beauty Squad”
  • The more information you give them, the more points you get, hence the more rewards! 
  • Cocokind shipping program ($45): for a fee, customers can enroll in a shipping program that will include free standard shipping for a year, some goodies like free trial products and a welcome tote bag, and a 25% off bday discount.

Affiliate Marketing aka “Refer A Friend”

Let your loyal customers do the work for you 😉 This is pretty common practice, and it’s even better than word-of-mouth since you’ll be able to track who referred who, and how much they’re purchasing.

Keep a pulse on your audience with Google Analytics (yes, again!)

As your business is growing, make sure to keep a pulse on your audience, and refer to Google Analytics often in order to identify opportunities. How long does it take for them to convert? Can you improve the conversion funnel and the user experience? Find out why they’re not converting, where do they drop.

Just want someone else to do all this for you? Let’s Talk!

About the Author

Nick Footer

Nick Footer is an entrepreneur and founder of Intuitive Digital, a national award-winning digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. With over 15 years of experience, he has helped hundreds of businesses improve their online presence through search engine optimization, paid advertising, and website design.

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