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How the UK’s top beauty brands can win the digital shelf

3 min read

The UK’s top beauty brands can win the digital shelf by embracing the following three fundamentals: Availability, Findability and Ratings & Reviews

The UK beauty market - including skincare, cosmetics, haircare, fragrances, make up, and personal care - is one of the biggest and fastest-growing categories in retail. It is the seventh-largest cosmetics market in the world, and the third-largest in Europe, worth approximately £20 billion as of 2020. This is in spite of a turbulent 2020 where the combination of Brexit and the pandemic caused the GDP in the UK to drop 10% contributing to a mix of highs and lows for the UK beauty industry.

Top UK beauty industry statistics during Covid-19:

  • Lax attitudes towards personal appearance saw £340m less spent on body care items such as cosmetics, deodorants, toothbrushes and razors.
  • The overall UK cosmetics and toiletries sector saw a £1.7bn decline
    Brands that could capitalise on their health and hygiene properties in light of the new passion for handwashing helped see an additional £77.8m spent on bar and liquid hand soaps.
  • 38% of British consumers participated in more beauty personal care activities as a way to reduce stress and boost their mood

Still, the beauty industry has proved resilient in the past and the future looks bright for beauty brands able to capitalize on the shift to digital and e-commerce and deliver an outstanding omnichannel experience.

Top 10 online retailers in the beauty market:

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UK Beauty by the numbers: which Skincare brands are winning in e-commerce?

We took a deep dive focus at 10 major skincare brands dominating the UK beauty market to determine which ones are excelling at e-Commerce and why. This includes face creams, moisturisers, serums, and related skin care products. Our eScore report considers the 30-day performance average for each brand as compared to the previous 30 days, Oct vs Sept. The e-retailers we looked at included: allbeauty.com, amazon.co.uk, boots.com, debenhams.com, fragrancedirect.co.uk, theperfumeshop.com and very.co.uk.

The winners: Shiseido and Neutrogena are a close match for first place - but for different reasons. Neutrogena has greater brand presence across e-retailers as well as more reviews. However, Shiseido performs better on Category pages and in Top 10 search results.

Screenshot 2021-11-18 at 15.15.36Competitive landscape: Both Estee Lauder and Lancome’s eScores have gained 9pp on their eScore, making these brands ones to watch.

Content optimization: Olay is making the best use of category keywords in its content, gaining 4pp during this reporting period. However both Lancome and Estee Lauder lost nearly 20pp during this same period.

Ratings & Reviews: There are signs that Estee Lauder, Lancome, and Shiseido are making moves to boost their review numbers and bring them closer in line with competitor products, particularly Aveeno, Olay, and Clarins.


In a crowded marketplace such as beauty e-commerce, attention to the key success factors listed above is paramount to winning the shelf. This small study of UK beauty brands in skin care demonstrates how volatile the digital shelf can be: in a matter of days, brands like Lancome and Estee Lauder can see a significant decline in their keyword optimization, while at the same time gaining on ratings and reviews. Even Shiseido at the top of the list has experienced substantial shifts, both positive and negative. Winning the digital shelf is all about pulling the levers of success at the right time and in the right way to optimize your product listings and get ahead of your competitors. Digital shelf tools like eStoreCheck give you visibility over you and your competitors, empowering your team with the data and the details so you know which levers to pull at any given moment.

e-Commerce success factors for UK beauty brands:

In our studies we’ve consistently found that the following three fundamentals are key, particularly for UK beauty brands in e-commerce wanting to thrive in this increasingly competitive and complex category:


  • Online retailer presence. Are your products listed in the key marketplaces for the beauty category? See below for the 10 biggest online retailers for beauty brands.
  • Stock availability. Are your products in stock and available to purchase?


  • Keyword presence. Whether you’re a “women’s perfume gift set”, a “face moisturiser for dry skin”, or a “cruelty-free mascara”, you need to know your keywords and make sure they’re included in your product listings so that you show up in in-store search results. Do your product titles and descriptions contain all of the necessary keywords so that shoppers can find you?
  • Search share. Are your products showing up in the top 10 search results?
  • Category share. Are your products showing up on the first page of results in the necessary categories and subcategories on the retailer’s website?

Ratings & Reviews

  • Number of reviews. Word of mouth has always been instrumental in shoppers’ purchase decisions, as demonstrated by the increasing relevance of e-commerce ratings and reviews in driving shoppers’ purchase decisions. Have you set a target for review numbers and are your products meeting the target?
  • Positive ratings. Four- and five-star ratings & reviews provide social proof and give shoppers the confidence that they’re making the right choice, particularly in a category as ripe for opinion as beauty. How many of your products are getting four stars or more?

About eScore

eScore is an objective measurement of a brand’s performance in the e-commerce channel. It is based on the analysis of three critical performance indicators – Availability, Findability, and Ratings & Reviews – comprising seven metrics, across all products in a category. The individual metrics identify opportunities for improvement, and are weighted to provide a standardized benchmark against competitor brands.

About eStoreMedia

eStoreMedia provides the only fully-integrated Digital Shelf Automation suite for brands. It includes full category e-commerce analytics, end-to-end content management, and Al-based eShopper Research. e-Commerce, digital content and marketing teams across the world’s best-loved brands, use our SaaS products and services to plan, measure and execute effective e-commerce strategies, in order to win in the online channel.


Jan Krzysztofik
Jan Krzysztofik
Head of Demand Generation

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