Best Online Beauty Retailer

What's the Best Online Beauty Retailer that you've tried?

Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are my favorite for getting decent/good rewards and superior customer service. Sephora for fastest shipping (without having to pay for it), good packaging (rare anything is broken), and availability (usually the first to get things lately). Beautylish is extremely fast (sometimes overnight) for shipping and packages really well, but I wish they had a rewards program!

Thanks to Cory for today’s topic!

— Christine


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Rachel R. Avatar

For customer service, Nordstrom and Notoriously Morbid. For speed, free shipping, and availability, Sephora. For sales and coupons, Ulta (too bad their shipping time and website design both suck big time). For packing, Notoriously Morbid, All Cosmetics Wholesale, Fortune Cookie Soap, MAC, Jeffree Star and ColourPop. All do a great job protecting items and using the proper sized boxes. The first three are wonderful about accepting and fulfilling my requests to have everything checked for tightened lids, taping down lids if necessary, and extra padding (the delivery services here can be brutal).

Michele @Binxcat4ever Avatar

I agree with Nordstrom and NM and would add Saks to that list. Saks consistently ships my orders the same day and I receive my items within a day or two – whereas Nordstrom and NM ship typically within 2-3 days and I receive my order within a week for Nordstrom and 2 days for NM. Additionally, Saks often send out a 10% or 20% off coupon code for beauty items. I get the best rewards from Ulta bc of their loyalty program which translates to $ off. As Platinum, I frequently receive 20% off coupons and other promos/special perks (like deluxe samples). My only “complaint” about Ulta is that they don’t carry enough prestige brands that I use.

Sephora is stellar shipping to me (next day due to my proximity to the warehouse) but since they remain non-compliant with WV State Tax, I must submit all of my order invoices to the WV State Tax Dept. with a form to obtain my refunds (just got a $15+ check yesterday). I am VIB Rouge with Sephora but have been shopping less and less frequently with them bc of the hassle of the taxes and also bc of all of their recent issues with delays in notifying members of discount codes and the recurrence of items being out of stock (particularly during promotions!) Additionally, they flagged a Dior product that I use (Huile Abricot Daily Nutritive Cuticle and Nail Serum) as something that cannot be shipped to the U.S. This is ridiculous as I’ve ordered it from NM and Nordstrom and it is currently available from multiple U.S. retailers. Sadly, I think I have like 7000 points and they will most likely go to waste.

Sara Avatar is hands down my favorite beauty retailer. They always have smaller, hard to find, beautiful brands that everyone else doesn’t have until months later. Everything from their content, to packaging, and customer service is amazing, too. They’re definitely my go to.

Tracey E. Avatar

Hands down Beautylish – customer service, lightening fast delivery diverse and growing product range. They are my first preference if they sell the items I want. Very good letting you know that an item is about to go on sale, ability to sign up for early access, e-mail when live (or lately, order processed) and always packed well with a lovely handwritten note.

Eileen Avatar

Nordstrom, Neiman’s, Saks, and Sephora pack things well and ship things pronto. They also offer cash back with Ebates. For speed, beautifully packaged and presented products, free samples, and a personal thank you note, no one beats Tatcha.

Tova J Avatar

Hmm I’m not sure. It’s a tie between Eleven and Kicks. Kicks has better member deals and Urban Decay, but Eleven carry more brands and have free shipping!

Lulle Avatar

I used to reply Nordstrom to this question before, but they recently failed me big time: one package lost between their warehouse and USPS, customer service promised to overnight a replacement, and the package hadn’t even shipped the next evening… I needed the item on a specific day for a Secret Santa and had ordered more than 10 days before, but in the end I still didn’t get the product in time. I cancelled the replacement order when I realized it hadn’t even shipped the day of the Secret Santa. They refunded me but didn’t offer anything to make up for messing up.
So I’m gonna have to go with ColourPop and Charlotte Tilbury. Both fast shipping, shipments arrive fast to me because they’re based in Southern California, and the quality of packaging is amazing.

Anne Avatar

For me it’s probably Sephora, simply because I tend to buy higher end stuff in person, and same with lower end (with the exception of brands like ColourPop that you can only buy on their site). Good, fast shipping, and the few times I’ve had a problem with shipping or the product being damaged, they’ve been fast and good at fixing it.

Laura Avatar

I have to say Sephora, even if it is not the most exciting answer. Nordstrom was my favorite but they cancelled two orders on me in the same week due to out of stock. This cancellation cost me the holiday lipstick from Guerlain. It was out of stock perpetually after that, then finally, I gave up and bought some Charlotte Tilbury in London instead. What is crazy about the Nordstrom thing is that the sales associate in the store ordered one of the cancellations and it was still cancelled.

Katherine T. Avatar

Nordstroms was pretty good, but I wonder if they changed their shipper/distributor recently? I ordered some makeup during the BF/CM sale, and it took 2 weeks to get to me, as it sat in their warehouse for 11 days. All of the other retailers were faster. They sent a mass email apologizing, saying that due to high demand, they were experiencing delays, but didn’t offer any discount or $10 off next order. I was so worried they had run out of stock (all of the items were LE) and weren’t telling me, so I called customer service to check. I was on the phone for 25 minutes, as they were experiencing a “high volume” of calls, listening to the scratchiest recording of Christmas music, until I got a live person. I hope this was an anomaly and not the norm

Alyssa Avatar

I also wish that beautylish had a rewards system similar to birchbox or ulta where you can use points as cash. They ship fast and they have excellent brands, but I wish they had some more incentive to shop there and rewards for those that spend a certain amount.

Emilie Avatar

I’ve had pretty good luck with Urban Outfitters, although beauty isn’t their main thing. The real winner for me (even though it’s a specific brand) is TheBalm. Their site crashed badly on their Cyber Monday sale, and some of us were unable to hit checkout and so items sold out before we could get the chance to get them. This was really irritating because they had some great limited edition stuff. They handled it by telling everyone who couldn’t hit checkout to send an email to them with an contact info and the item we wanted and they promised us we’d get the items at the discount price when they got more in. I’ve never seen a brand so dedicated to making their customers happy and making sure everyone gets a fair shot at the products they want at a sale! I got the limited edition palette I wanted after all, and for $20. Best online experience I’ve had with any beauty retailer, just one of many reasons why TheBalm is one of my favorites.

Ray Avatar

I order through Ulta a lot. In the past few months I’ve gotten 200 bonus points on one order and triple points on another. Their coupons apply to the products I replace most often.

I’ve become disillusioned with Sephora. I know that they don’t owe their customers any free stuff, and I understand that high-end brands set their own pricing, but it feels lousy to have all of the good samples and gifts-with-purchase be taken down during those gift card promos. If I’m laying down $50, I’m going to shop at the retailer that gives me the better free gift and amps up my points.

Laura Avatar

I would have said Sephora this time last year, but due to customer service mishaps, I am no longer a fan. Besides, after a ten minute conversation trying to explain the merits to my husband of their “rewards” system, I must admit, I was realizing that it was useless:) I also now love Nordstroms, and they price match, have good sales, gifts, etc. I must say that Beautylish used to be a little over-bearing, but they now have niche products, honest&amazing customer service, and if they had ebates/points I would shop their more. They seem like a good, solid company that I want to support.

Claire L Avatar

Here in the UK, I like as it’s often got discounts on good products, Cult Beauty for its selection of cult products and for its quick delivery of my Urban Spectrum palette! I also like as I can get some US brands without paying for shipping over £25. I get excited over a Sephora haul but I have to pay over £75 to get free shipping plus I have to pay quite a bit in taxes as well.

Katherine T. Avatar

I like Sephora. I’ve been ordering about 1 box a week for 2-3 years, and never had any issues, other than some slow shipping during big sales. Stuff usually comes in 2-4 days, I’ve never had anything broken, leaked, or lost in transit. The only “problem” I had was when they accidentally gave me extra products during the last sale — I got 2-3 of the same item and even stuff I didn’t order! Paula’s Choice is super fast (usually 2 days). So is Colour Pop (2-4days), and the items are well packed, and they are switching to more environmentally friendly packaging. I know people complain about Ulta, and I agree they are super slow, but I’ve never had any issues with anything broken or leaking, and I order a lot of DS cosmetics, shampoos, and body washes from them. So far, knock on wood, I’ve been pretty lucky….

Pearl Avatar

Sephora for their selection, decent shipping, customer service and that they have Ebates. Nordstrom’s has great customer service but slow shipping, at least for me – I usually get my orders the next week to 10 days. MAC is great for packaging and fast shipping.

Cat Avatar

Sephora, Macy’s, and Nordstrom have all provided excellent customer service. I can only think of three products that had to be replaced due to damage (or another issue) from all three combined, and that’s slightly amazing considering how many orders I’ve placed. I love the Beautylish packaging and I’m a sucker for the lace bag that Nyx sends products inside. Fyrinnae’s shipping has always been super-fast and the handwritten “thank you” is nice.

And Amazon! I almost forgot about the retailer I’ve been shopping with the longest! Amazon has always resolved any issue within 24 hours — and that makes me feel like a valued customer.

Ulta has an amazing selection but I only shop online once or twice a year — when they have sales on hair products from salon brands so I can stock up! (In fact, I should be receiving a package tomorrow.) There is an Ulta within a reasonable distance from me now, but I prefer to shop online for the majority of the products I purchase. Honestly, if it weren’t for Ulta’s horrible shipping situation, I wouldn’t have repeatably been a VIB Rouge at Sephora. But it is nice to walk into Sephora and have the manager know you by name and attend to you personally… 😀

Staci Avatar

Ulta hands down for rewards. I cashed in $175 in points this month. Between the points system and coupons, I think they reward customers the best.

I like receiving packages from Beautylish. They wrap everything so nice. It really feels like getting a high end box. The shipping speed is fantastic too.

El Avatar

In the UK, Escentual, hands down. Always a great experience and they do have a loyalty points programme. They have good sales at least twice a year on skin care items that are staples for me, and when they do have ‘X% off everything’ sales, that really is everything, high end brands included.

My other UK favourites are BeautyBay and Cult Beauty, for online only. No loyalty schemes, though.

For online purchases from retailers that also have lots of bricks and mortar locations, my favourites are Boots (drugstore) and Debenhams (department store), both of which have great loyalty programmes with lots of points promotions and extras.

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