UK health & beauty brands’ post-purchase CX in need of a digital makeover, research by parcelLab reveals

While UK health & beauty retailers have vastly improved their e-commerce offerings during lockdown, their post-purchase customer experience (CX) lags behind that of other retail sectors, the latest data from parcelLab, the operations experience platform, revealed.

Original research of 50 of the UK’s leading health & beauty retailers in the ‘Operations Experience (OX) in the UK Health & Beauty Industry’ Report benchmarked performance across key operations experience (OX) metrics - including checkout, shipping and returns. The report showed that, while the brands have invested in technologies to get the customer to convert, once the purchase had been made there was little or no communication or engagement with the shopper.  

92% of health & beauty retailers fail to communicate with customers during the shipping process, parcelLab’s data showed, leaving them in the dark as to the status of their order, while 96% failed to deliver personalised communication during delivery.  Fulfilment communication black holes present a common challenge for retailers across the board irrespective of sector; analysis of the top 150 UK retailers across all sectors showed 87% still ignore their customers during the delivery process.

Yet this, the report warns, means health & beauty retailers in particular risk losing opportunities to re-engage shoppers and build long-term loyalty, just at the time when their ecommerce continues to boom. The sector has seen accelerated online growth, sustained by the Covid-19 lockdowns; prestige beauty sales in 2020 grew 38% year on year, while digital beauty sales are expected to climb to $85.52 billion globally by 2022. 

And, it’s not just a lack of communication holding health & beauty retailers back from enhancing customer experience at every touchpoint in the buying journey; convenience in fulfilment options was also left wanting as 42% of the brands offered just one alternative delivery option to shoppers. 

While 66% of health & beauty retailers did offer next-day delivery as the most popular fulfilment option, use of click and collect, either through in-store collection or via parcel shop operators, such as Doddle or Collect+, was low, meaning customer delivery choice and convenience was compromised.  Just 50% of health & beauty retailers respectively offer click and collect to shoppers, compared to 89% of the top 150 UK retailers across other sectors.

And the same lack of choice is reflected in returns options, with 84% of health & beauty retailers offering just one format by which customers can send an item back, creating friction and a lack of flexibility in supporting the customer with a return. 

Tobias Buxhoidt, Founder and CEO of parcelLab, commented: “Health & beauty is traditionally an in-person purchase, so it’s no surprise how quickly and innovatively we have seen these businesses build digital capabilities, often that mirror the in-store experience, into their ecommerce models.  But, much of this focus has been in the discovery and pre-purchase phase of the buying journey – from social commerce capabilities to influencer marketing, augmented reality virtual product testing and AI-powered product personalisation. 

“By investing all that effort and resource in getting the customer to the point of purchase, only to stop engaging with them after they’ve hit the buy button means these businesses could be 

missing the opportunity to converting new online customers into repeat buyers and returning customers into brand advocates to fuel future sales.”  

About the research

Original research conducted by parcelLab, which placed orders with the 50 largest UK health & beauty e-commerce brands and retailers between September and November 2020.  Each order was then returned within the same timeframe. The study conductors then analysed the checkout, shipping and returns services.

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