Young consumers buy almost everything online. But they make an exception with beauty products. Why?It can be seen not only in the carefully painted and waxed eyebrows that the so-called Generation Z has a special relationship to cosmetics. For example, you can also see it on Saturday at Zurich’s Manor department store, where teens and twens crowd around the various beauty counters.

Anyone who thinks of the shopping behaviour of the Gen Z, whose oldest members were born in 1995, will first spontaneously assume that they will order their clothes, gadgets or sneakers online. Preferably with a smartphone. One exception seems to be cosmetics – reports the industry portal Business of Fashion (BoF). According to surveys by the American financial services provider Piper Jaffray, around 90 percent of teenagers in the USA discovered their cosmetics products directly in the shop. This is a peculiarity, as it looks quite different in other consumer categories.

Social component
Several reasons are given for this: While the young people were more likely to buy their anti-pimple cream on the Internet, they also preferred to go to the stores with their friends to try out foundations, lipsticks or nail polishes together. After all, the colour has to fit. And you meet again – beauty shopping is seen as a shared experience; as a balance to the ongoing social media presence.

For stores, however, this means adapting to the needs of this new, digitally pampered target group. It seems particularly important to offer a selection of exclusive products that are not available everywhere. In this sense, the French cosmetics chain Sephora, which has always carried new, smaller and exclusive brands, is regarded as a pioneer. In the stores, the young customers have a lot of freedom and can discover the products themselves, unlike at the classic counters – a decisive point for Generation Z, which has a limited budget and generally does not buy products from just one brand.

Expensive and cheap
The BoF article emphasizes that teens mix their beauty products, as in fashion, between high and low – so mascara can be from a cheaper brand and lipstick from a luxury brand. This must also be taken into account in the range of products for young customers. Decisive are also references such as vegan or cruelty-free on the products. Because the boys paid more attention to the origin of the products and the topic of sustainability.

And Switzerland?
Since 2016 Sephora has also been entering the German market. Initially, the chain opened its first shop-in-shop at Manor in Geneva. Other stores followed, for example in Zurich, Emmen, Basel, Chur and Bern. If you visit a Sephora store in Manor at the weekend, you’ll find a much younger clientele there, which is heavily frequented by the department store and browses the range.

Young people know what they want
According to Sephora Switzerland, mothers with their daughters used to be seen more often in the corridors. Tips and tricks were passed on to the next generation. Today, information is more likely to be shared with friends both online and offline.

Today’s youth are already very well informed with the strong emergence of social media and the presence of brands, influencers and make-up artists there. The acquisition of information is also increasingly taking place online, be it in terms of learning make-up techniques or know-how about products and their ingredients.

As soon as they had collected all the information, however, they still wanted the actual shopping experience in the shop or the exchange with the beauty consultants.

The online trade discovers the market
What is interesting, however, is the fact that numerous digital-native brands have joined in parallel to this stationary shopping experience, initially marketing their beauty products primarily via social media and their online platforms and creating a hype. Kylie Cosmetics, the label of 21-year-old influencer Kylie Jenner, launched a limited lip kit in 2015 to launch the brand, which sold out within seconds directly on the website.

Fenty Beauty, singer Rihanna’s brand, also initially pursued a sophisticated social media strategy, taking up the theme of diversity and getting digital attention for different skin types thanks to a wide range of make-up tones. Today the brand is available at Sephora.

Glossier, founded by 34-year-old businesswoman Emily Weiss (not yet available in Switzerland), also targets the younger generation with its modern minimalist packaging and huge social media following.

It’s the turn of the younger clientele
These new brands seem to create the perfect balancing act between the online and offline worlds by regularly communicating on their channels, gathering feedback and opinions and at the same time establishing direct contact with their customers via special pop-up events. Since the founders themselves belong to the younger generation, they know exactly how their buyers tick, and also that in times of Youtube tutorials and Instagram, self-presentation – and thus also make-up in particular – plays an eminently important role.

The eyebrows should fit perfectly, the complexion especially radiant and the eyelashes unusually long. And so the profit in the cosmetics industry is rising continuously with ever more sophisticated products or new packaging. In five years, sales of decorative cosmetics in Switzerland have risen by 4 percent to 367 million dollars, according to market research by Euromonitor International.