Beauty Brands’ Biggest Challenge as Consumers Shift Online

As COVID-19 forces businesses to close, beauty brands face unique challenges as they typically rely on in-store sales and deliver slow websites.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to unravel, more regulations are put in place to protect the American people and curb the spread of the pandemic. When these lines were written, state-wide stay-at-home orders were in effect California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and West Virginia. Retailers everywhere are being forced to shutter their doors until safety is restored, driving huge masses of consumers online for everything from essentials to home improvement projects.

One of the most crucial aspects of a converting website is its speed. 70% of consumers state that site speed influences their willingness to buy, and the almighty Amazon estimated that a one second delay in page load could cost the company $1.6B in annual sales. Neglecting to optimize for speed means sacrificing your entire digital strategy, from visibility to traffic to conversions and revenue.

One retail category that seems to be behind the curve for website performance is Health & Beauty. We recently analyzed the websites of the 100 leading retailers by online revenue (IR100) and found that beauty websites are the lowest performing category by Lighthouse Performance Scores. On a positive note, the lowest scores mean the most room for improvement. Read on for our look into the challenges beauty brands are seeing in these particular days.  

Beauty Brands’ Biggest Challenge

As more businesses close their doors off to the coronavirus, it’s creating an especially unique challenge for beauty brands who deliver slow websites and heavily rely on in-store try-ons, one-on-one beauty advice, and complimentary makeovers. Consumers are shifting online, and beauty brands who haven’t optimized for speed aren’t prepared to take on this challenge.

Ulta Beauty is shutting all of its 1,254 stores until at least March 31, Sephora is closing all US and Canada stores until April 3, and Glossier closes all permanent and temporary locations for at least 2 weeks. In an attempt to mitigate the situation, these retailers will continue online sales and provide unique offerings to be more online-friendly. For example, Sephora has waived standard shipping fees and extended its return policy, and Glossier is looking to begin an online “genius bar”-like session to talk Glossier and products (However, this is not yet seen launched almost 2 weeks after the announcement.).

Ulta Beauty, Sephora, and Glossier’s poor website performance

We used Google’s Lighthouse to analyze the mobile performance of, and Lighthouse delivers a relative score based on a weighted average of various site speed measurements. The score ranges from 0-100 and indicates how much better or worse your website performs compared to all of the other websites in Google’s dataset. The distribution is skewed, with a performance score of 50 indicating the 75th percentile.

Based on our analysis, the average Performance Score of IR100 websites is 26.3, with a median of 23. The average Performance Score for IR100 Beauty websites is a low 19.4. Ulta Beauty delivers the highest Lighthouse score at 26. Glossier followed with a score of 11, and Sephora fell dead last with a score of 2. All 3 cosmetic websites deliver Performance Scores that Google classifies as ‘slow.' Even worse, though, is the time it takes for each beauty website to become interactive to a user’s tap or click. takes 26.1 seconds, Glosser takes 17.7 seconds, and Sephora takes a whopping 35.3 seconds. Can you imagine waiting 20-30 seconds to see a product you’re just considering for a purchase?

Most shoppers would quickly move onto a competitor’s website — one that enhanced the customer experience with website speed. Many eCommerce websites are upgrading their frontends but these changes only take you from slow to moderate such as Target and Walmart. However, those who have optimized speed across the stack are breaking the 1-second barrier and outperforming 95% of the websites on the internet.

If investing in website speed was not a priority for you before, you can see now—with millions of Americans doing nearly all their shopping online—how crucial it is to provide a superior customer experience. Digital is right now, just as it is the future.

Performance Scores possible on Layer0

At Layer0, we live, breathe, and sleep milliseconds. We understand how website speed affects SEO, traffic, conversions, and revenue—and we work hard to consistently deliver sub-second experiences, on Layer0. Our customers on Layer0 experience an increase in organic traffic by 32.1% and conversions by 15-30%, on average.

Venus Fashion, a womenswear retailer, sees a Performance Score of 85 on Layer0, outperforming 95% of websites. With an instant website, Venus has increased conversions by 24%.

The gift and flower giant, 1-800-Flowers, is another example of a sub-second website winning conversions. sees a score of 72, placing it in the 90th percentile for website speed. The instant website reduced page loads by 82% and lifted conversions by 50%.

Layer0 guarantees sub-second median pages loads through a combination of cutting edge tech, including portable frontends with built-in AMP and server-side rendering (SSR), predictive prefetching, and a CDN-as-Code that streams and caches dynamic content at the edge allowing your website to remain five seconds ahead of the shopper’s taps.

But we wouldn't expect you to take our word for it. Spend as little as 1 minute browsing though,,, or on your phone to experience instant for yourself.

Bottom line

Consumers already favor fast experiences, and the boredom they now face being stuck inside for weeks on end, will only amplify their need for speed.

Beauty brands have the biggest disadvantage at the moment, as this eCommerce segment delivers the slowest website speeds across the board. Without adopting technology that enables instant page loads, Ulta, Sephora, Glossier and other brands will lose loyal consumers and revenue.

Layer0 is still helping to deliver sub-second websites during this time, and can get your site instant in weeks. Layer0 consistently delivers 320ms (FCP) median page loads, boosts organic traffic by 32.1% and lifts conversion by 15-30%, while increasing developer velocity by at least 20% through a serverless, JavaScript codebase.

To remain competitive now in the years to come, schedule a consultative conversation today, so you can provide the sub-second experience consumers desire, for 365 days a year, no excuses.

Want to take your site to the next level?
Join the Layer0 Newsletter for the latest updates on performance.
Thank you! You've been added.
Oops! Something went wrong.
Thanks for registering, you're being redirected!
Oops! Something went wrong.

Don't wait another second. Go instant.

Get started in seconds