Can beauty brands survive declining digital sales?


As convenience has become an integral part of any customer journey, the buying and selling of goods and services have largely (and very rapidly) shifted online. Be it corporations or home-based enterprises, digitalising commerce has helped businesses of all industries and sizes make their products more accessible to a wider pool of customers.

E-commerce has grown exponentially in Malaysia and is showing no signs of slowing down, even crossing the RM1 trillion mark in revenue from transactions last year.

While this is surely music to any brand’s ears, one particular industry is benefiting less from digitalising shopping experiences than others. Traditionally a high touchpoint category, the beauty and cosmetics industry has already begun seeing a decline in online sales — a sign that omnichannel sales revenue is lower for beauty brands than for others in retail.


For beauty and cosmetics brands, the digital shopping experience by and large pales in comparison to an in-person shopping experience — especially as there are so many variables that could come into play when purchasing an item. Unlike clothes, for instance, where customers generally have a go-to size or preferred cutting, there are a world of external factors to consider when picking a makeup or skincare product: shade, scent, lighting, touch, effectiveness, and even skin sensitivities or allergies.

While brands make every effort to include comprehensive product details and multi-angle images within their catalogues, being unable to see how a particular product would look like on their skin ‘forces’ most customers to visit physical outlets before committing to a purchase. This is an added layer to the buying process that may cause potential customers to drop out of the conversion funnel halfway.

The fragmented buying experience is made even worse with poor structuring of product details across different platforms. A visual banner in a physical outlet may appear differently compared to a digital storefront, or full information may only be displayed on the desktop version of a website due to larger screens.

While these inconsistencies may seem small, they can cause inaccuracies in tracking customer trends or market sentiment for a particular campaign, thus affecting product strategy decisions in the future. Furthermore, they can weaken a brand’s top-of-mind recall among customers — ultimately leading to lower sales as well as roadblocks in nurturing brand loyalty.

This raises the question: how best can beauty brands overcome this, even as the world of commerce continues to shift to digital spaces?


Delivering a smooth and consistent shopping experience across all sales channels is key, with a special focus on optimising mobile storefronts. With our smartphone ownership rate having grown to almost 100%, Malaysians are now living our lives on our phones — and this includes shopping!

Beauty brands need to close the gaps by ensuring that their digital stores are optimised more strongly for mobile viewing, whether that means a mobile-first version of their website, partnering with beauty-centric e-commerce platforms like Threebs, or even a native mobile application. Mobile access to the brand should provide the same information and visuals as a desktop version or physical store would, as well as a polished and intuitive interface.

Creating a more seamless, integrated experience across different platforms can also go a long way. Beauty brands, especially cosmetics ones, should look to digitally replicate elements of the in-store retail journey on their online stores as well.

Since customers cannot view, touch, or try products online, brands will need to go the extra mile to build the same level of trust via e-commerce. This could take the form of flexible return policies, try-on-at-home programmes, or even making full use of technology through augmented reality! Threebs, for example, will visualize the sizes of the products and provide a level of customer service that is similar to an in-store experience

Finally, beauty brands should more widely leverage the booming e-commerce market and have a multichannel with a multi-format presence, by being available on all channels for example, Tiktok, Shopee and Lazada. Brands also should utilise different creative formats- images, videos and blogs to be able to cater to all target demographics.

With this, brands are also able to more easily take advantage of the audiovisual nature of digital marketing and branding — building a stronger online presence with streamlined, engaging content across key touchpoints like its website, app, and social media accounts. Personalised email newsletters with recommended products and pertinent campaign news can also help spark consistent, organic interest in brands.

Regardless of how many new channels beauty brands incorporate into their sales strategy, they must inevitably be integrated for a smoother sales journey, improved visibility, and stronger brand loyalty. After all, customers are never looking for just pages upon pages of products — they seek a comprehensive, omnichannel experience that connects with them on a personal level and on the platforms they love best.


** Benjamin Songs is the Director of Operations of Threebs

(The views expressed on this opinion is of the writer and not the publisher)



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