Beauty and cosmetics is an industry whose online ecommerce front is going through an interesting moment, as the Old World gives way to the New Very-Virtual World these days. And thus, in a moment of turmoil, it’s a great moment to ask the question: what ecommerce platforms are the top beauty and cosmetics brands using?
We did an analysis of the top beauty brands and ecommerce brands to see their ecommerce platforms of choice and the results are interesting. Before we dive into analyzing what was surprising and interesting about them, first, let’s look at the raw data. Here are the top 30 beauty brands, and what ecommerce platforms they’re using:
|Beauty & Cosmetics||Platform|
|Anastasia Beverly Hills Cosmetics||SFCC; Global-e|
|Avon||Custom (Cart Functionality)|
|Bobbi Brown Cosmetics||Drupal|
|The Body Shop||SAP Commerce Cloud|
And in summary, these boil down to:
|Salesforce Commerce Cloud||16|
|SAP Commerce Cloud||1|
No ecommerce platforms
- Head & Shoulders
- Degree Deodorant
There are a few interesting and surprising analyses that come from this data. Let’s dive right in.
First, before diving into what is on the list, I need to mention what isn’t: many of the top name brands in beauty, like Maybelline, Nivea, and Pantene, don’t have an official branded shop at their brand domain, run by their parent company. This is the first time we’ve seen this pattern across all the industries we’ve looked at. The most likely reason why is, with old-time retail products and old-time brands, strict legal contracts giving different distributors very specific rights to sell their products in very particular jurisdictions makes ecommerce very difficult. This is a crutch that all the major brands will have to overcome.
Second, let’s start with something not that surprising: that 16 of the top 30 brands use Salesforce Commerce Cloud. It’s not a surprise that over half of the top 30 beauty brands are using Salesforce Commerce Cloud, because it is the market leader. Salesforce Commerce Cloud, which being old-school I still like to call by its “OG” name, Demandware (and Salesforce hasn’t yet convinced me to call “Salesforce B2C Commerce Cloud”) is a powerful weapon for a large beauty brand: it includes all the complex functionality that a world-class brand can expect: integrated A/B and multivariate testing, the ability to change almost anything depending on the jurisdiction (say, for legal requirements or crazy marketing campaigns!), integration with complex back-end platforms, and so forth. It’s the go-to platform for beauty brands. And with L’Occitane, Lancôme, and L’Oréal on SFCC, perhaps there’s a discount for beauty companies whose name begins with an ‘L’!
But what are the other ecommerce platforms the big boys in the beauty and cosmetics space are using?
This goes to our third point, which was very surprising: that Magento wasn’t on the list at all. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Magento, the long-time open-source ecommerce leader, doesn’t even have 1 of the top 30. What has the world come to?
Magento is still often used, and even by bigger brands. But since its acquisition by Adobe, there hasn’t been much of a growth spurt as you might have expected. It just keeps on languishing.
It could be because of how it was coded; it was never designed to scale and after a decade of patch on top of patch, well, Magento is in a complex moment now. It makes sense that beauty brands would choose to go up (to Salesforce Commerce Cloud) or down (say to Shopify) and abandon that middle-point that’s shrinking away.
A third interesting point is that Kylie Cosmetics is apparently using Shopify. As soon as I saw that, I’ll confess: I laughed. Well one of those big smiles that’s just about a laugh. Kylie Jenner, Kylie Jenner, famous online for many reasons including certain family members of hers, but particularly for being The Woman behind Instagram’s rise to fame – an early fanatic user who built up her own fame and the platform itself by posting her selfies and a legion of followers having to use the platform to see them – and oft credited with defining the visual aesthetic of The Instagram Look which seems to have become The Online Look.
Let’s reframe that: Kylie is known for using the hipster-cool social platform of 10 years ago, so doesn’t it make such perfect sense that she would also be using the hipster-cool ecommerce platform of 10 years ago – that is, Shopify? Of course she would. But, alas, times change and Shopify, you may now be the darling of Canada Dotcoms but you’re less the ecommerce darling, just like dear Kylie as well, who is now only in the gossip column headlines every other day, not every day.
Why isn’t Shopify the go-to platform like it was a decade ago? Oh, easy: they helped innovate and create a market – the mid-market cloud-hosted ecommerce platform space (previously, Magento, etc. you had to install and host yourself, remember those fun days?) but it’s been a struggle for them to keep up. Their “liquid” templates are easy to manipulate but not designed for scale. Their extension strategy creates lots of interactions in which the left hand can’t talk to the right hand. The interesting question is: who will be the next Shopify? That, I don’t know but I have some ideas – and I’ll share them in another article.
A fourth interesting point is that Old Spice and Gillette both chose BigCommerce over Salesforce Commerce Cloud. What’s interesting is that both are part of Procter & Gamble. Coincidence? Hmph! With P&G sites seeming to be on a bunch of platforms, it would have been funny to see that one P&G brand is going with BigCommerce, but two?
This can best be explained by… a Decision From Above. While in the marketplace, brands look and feel like they have a lot of autonomy, within big companies, most key decisions are probably centrally decided. Of course, that’s how it goes. But this opens up another question: Why would P&G standardize on an up-and-coming, smaller and less robust player like BigCommerce?
Here’s the most likely theory that I can think of: BigCommerce, run by The Management Consultants (Hi Brent! I hope you’re enjoying your stint as CEO and it goes awesomely for you!), is taking a very big-company approach, trying to win big deals with The Big Boys. And perhaps there is a deal with P&G? The classic way to win is to woo them with the right words and promises, and give them the lowest realistic price, so perhaps that’s what BigCommerce is doing with P&G? That sounds about right. Note that this is the opposite of the Shopify strategy, which is starting with the smallest companies and slowly working their way up to bigger deals, and orthogonal to the Salesforce strategy of having a sophisticated classic product with an army of Account Executives and Regional Vice Presidents who are really the front-line relationship-builders and salesmen.
A fifth interesting point about this list is the fact that The Body Shop uses SAP Commerce Cloud, formerly called “Hybris.” SAP Commerce Cloud has been the laggard in the commerce cloud space, with Hybris an overgrown and complex system. Hybris/SAP Commerce Cloud’s core strength is its integration into the SAP back-end universe. In short, the strongest reason to use SAP Commerce Cloud is that you’re already running the SAP back-end, so… I guess this means we know what platform The Body Shop runs its operations on!
A sixth surprising point is that one brand – Clinique – is running its own custom-built platform. Custom ecommerce platforms make sense when you have a unique or idiosyncratic product, or are in a market where there aren’t strong ecommerce providers focusing on a less common ecommerce need or flow (pharmacies, I’m looking at you.) But Clinique? Very standard ecommerce experience and, as a result, it’s unlikely that the time, expense, and maintenance frustrations of using your own custom system are worth it. Maybe Clinique is really planning something exciting that it has hidden up its sleeve? Now that would justify a custom ecommerce engine!
A seventh surprising point is that Natura, the Brazilian giant, is using Shopify. While Shopify’s strength is online, Brazil’s ecommerce market is still tiny, compared to the size of the population or the US ecommerce market; and Brazilian companies tend to be less sophisticated about strategies like marketing automation. (I say this as someone who lived in Sao Paulo for a few years and loves Brazil!). So a simpler, and more cost effective solution, like Shopify, would be perfect for even a huge Brazilian company. And it’s notable that this is the one and only of the top 30 that uses Shopify.
The eighth and final surprising and interesting point is that four of the top beauty and cosmetics sites run on… Drupal. Drupal! I implemented two-dozen Drupal sites… almost 20 years ago now. Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Estee Lauder, MAC – all still running on Drupal! For their ecommerce component, I would presume they use either various Drupal plugins or functionality, or built their own Drupal functionality on top of it. But it is an operating system that is a blast from the past that is nearly dead today, and on our similar analyses of other spaces it almost never appears. So to appear not just once but four times, and among the biggest brands out there (I heart you, Estee!). This to me is a sign that the industry is traditionally slow-moving in regards to tech; and it’s also a clue that these four companies, at least, are overdue for a tech reboot or, as they say in the industry, a “replatforming.”
All in all, there’s a wide variety of ecommerce platforms being used by the top beauty and cosmetics brands. Here at UV, we’ve worked with a ton of the top beauty brands (L’Oréal, I’m looking at you, for one example!) and we know all the major ecommerce platforms deeply. If you want to brainstorm about which platform might be right for your beauty or cosmetics brand, just drop me a line and I’m happy to talk: firstname.lastname@example.org