What are the top three things you look for in a beauty retailer?

Product availability, faster shipping (for lower cost, I don’t mind an upcharge for 2-day shipping, but I don’t want to spend $20), and decent customer service. I don’t want to have to ship anything back before they’ll send out a new one (this assumes I’m an established customer, so they should see my order history and know I don’t make a habit of it!).

— Christine
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Very quick email service—I just placed an order Thursday for Dr Brandt and never received a confirmation email!
Very quick shipping out time—Sephora will wait a week sometimes before shipping out to me when there’s no sale or holiday.
A decent return policy—I’m American, I expect to be able to return cosmetics if they don’t perform the way I expected; and I don’t expect I’ll have to wait too long for my return to show on my card.

Funny to see this question pop up, since I’m currently dealing with Bite Beauty’s abysmal customer service. i don’t like it when retailers make returns and exchanges unduly burdensome. All for one missing item and one used item that cost less than $10 combined. For me, a bad customer service experience is a deal breaker.

Oof, be careful of Sephora then. They notoriously fail to credit returns. They’ve also “lost” a few of mine.

Hi Christine, It’s almost like you read my mind with this WF. I was thinking of which retailers have the best customer service. This came to mind because I always felt Sephora’s service is better than Ulta’s but that Ulta’s rewards program has been taken up as the gold standard. Many people will right off good service over perks. I loved how Sephora never asks me to ship anything back and if a package did not arrive to me they will offer a refund or reship, Ulta on the other hand makes you go through hoops and jump over hurdles in order for them to take action.

My top three things in a retailer are as follows: customer service (can’t stand having to deal with a problem and people are either no help or flat out rude i.e missing a package or an item is incorrect or broken or I can’t find something said to be in store and no one is around to assist ) accessibility/shipping ( I classify them together because I think of Beautylish which ships worldwide and does it fast or whether I have the option to go in store ) and lastly product availability ( I hate that some stores only carry a limited inventory from some brands, I find this worse than not carrying a brand at all; I rather go somewhere else altogether than have to wonder whether the store will get this release).

Selection, especially for a beauty retailer, in want to see a variety of brands. Fast shipping is always appreciated, I don’t mind if there is a minimum spend for free shipping. Here in Canada we don’t have physical Ulta stores, and the Sephora rewards program is disappointing to say the least. I appreciate a good loyalty program, and Shoppers Drug Mart has a pretty good one.

Given my recent order screw up with Pat McGrath and a completely unsatisfactory solution, I would say
1. Product availability
2. Attention to detail
3. Free regular shipping, shipping upgrade availability
4. Clear return policies

Fast shipping, reasonable fees. If they don’t ship fast, I’m not interested. I’m only willing to wait if it is a rare item, an import, etc. One retailer left me waiting for weeks for a missing perfume and moved like molasses in winter to replace the item. I’ve never been very interested in that particular retailer again. I have a couple of favorites. They have a dazzling array of options and ship fast. (One of them, however, is often out of stock on popular items.) The other most always has everything one needs in stock.

1.) Reasonable return/exchange policy. It’s why I’m always somewhat reluctant to order from Beautylish, because they make no allowance for either. And so Sephora, Ulta and MAC get most of my business. Because if something just isn’t working or is causing a reaction, one needs recourse.
2.) Having enough of a LE or on sale item in stock. I’ve been having to check Beautylish daily for the ND #2 5-pan since Friday super early a.m., and still not available! Then, even worse than that has to be the whole Pat McGrath Divine Rose Mothership debacle. Like, seriously? She didn’t anticipate that so many would want this? I’d love to know what the rationale behind that thinking was!
3.) Free shipping! At least for established regular customers or beginning at $25 spent, something please. Relatively speedy too, please. As in receiving within 3-4 business days minimum.

Poor customer service is a deal breaker for sure. I’ve recently had a horrible experience with YSL Beauty. I returned a few items with a receipt that proved I dropped it off to UPS and tracking confirmed the return was received, but they can’t find it in their warehouse. Despite this, they have not and will not refund me until they locate the return. I spent a lot of time trying to speak to managers who are always ‘in a meeting’ or ‘not available’ before finally I was able to talk to one who also refused to credit my return. I’ve contacted my credit card company with hope that they will back up my claim via an investigation. YSL has always been one of my favorite brands and sadly this experience has turned me off purchasing anymore products of theirs not only from their website but from others’ as well. ?

I will just say, for me, you hit the nail on the head with your responses, Christine. I have to shop a lot online and dealing with customer service is a big issue for me. I also wish brands were more transparent about where their products are made and shipping from as that gives me a good idea of how long I might end up waiting. I use to purchase a lot of craft supplies from Aliexpress and even knowing they were coming from China I was still shocked at how long it took items to arrive. I stopped purchasing because of that issue. I would order and still not have received my order for almost 2 months. I have ordered from Fudejapan and gotten my order before a Sephora order that was placed on the same day. I have actually received an order from Toshiya in 3 days from Japan!!

Good return/exchange policy, inexpensive shipping, and communicative customer service reps (either through social media or phone/email).

Too Faced is the worst I’ve ever dealt with. Sent me a defective product, ignored my messages for ages, and then ultimately said I could return it but I’d have to pay shipping costs.

Just three? 😆 I would also go with product availability and costumer service, but online and offline; I just want to see that my business is valued, I’m not just a crash grab. Nowadays I would also consider important sustainable practices, from recycling programs to more eco friendly shipping.

A good return policy (especially on fragile orders) is very important to me. I also consider their website design/function (is it easy to search? Does it crash often? etc.) and their customer service.

Having most brands I like and a good and easy return policy and free shipping for regular customers (as per the Rouge program) are essential. And as to Ulta for example, no matter how exceptional their rewards program, it won’t matter because the combination of brands and return policy and return shipping charges don’t set me up to buy a lot from them. I took a chance on a bonnet hair dryer from ULTA. And it reeked of a plastic smell. I’ve had synthetic brushes that reek of chemicals. I would never buy any synthetic brushes from a supplier that did not offer easy returns. And twice over many years of buying, I’ve had a pricey products arrive damaged or go missing in shipping and the customer service dealt with it easily. For brands I might like outside the Sephora offerings, I would have to ponder for a while (or be stocking up on an already oft used item) to buy a product from a retailer where I could not return a product I don’t feel 100% sure of.

– Reasonable shipping fees, or even better, free shipping if you hit a certain (reasonable) threshold. If it’s cheap/free I don’t really care if shipping takes awhile because I never order anything online when I have a tight time frame that I need it in.

– Good/quick customer service. If I get a broken/defective product, I expect the company to fix it, and to get back to me within a couple days. (Had a horrible experience with Sydney Grace where I received shadows with hairs pressed into them and they took a week to even respond to my email, then when they did, all they were willing to do was replace those specific products. At that point I didn’t trust their hygiene standards, and felt the right thing to do would be for them to refund my entire order and pay for return shipping–I didn’t want to keep any of the stuff, but I also felt like I shouldn’t have to pay to send it back because it wasn’t my fault the products were compromised–but they wouldn’t. The stuff ended up going into the trash and I will never order from them again.)

– And I totally agree with the not having to send something back before getting a replacement. (A couple years ago I had a Sigma order get lost in the mail and when I emailed them about it, they wouldn’t send me a replacement order until the original one was returned to them. The thing is, the tracking showed it was in a location clear across the country from me, and hadn’t moved in a week, so it’s not like I’d gotten it and was pretending I didn’t to try to scam them or something. It took around another week, IIRC, to return to them and they said that the part of the label with my address had somehow come off. Since I’d been ordering from them for years at that point and had never had any sort of issue, I feel like they should’ve taken that into account. Another company I’ll never order from again.)

The top three things I want in a beauty retailer is:
1. Availability – I want all of their stock to be shown online and available in store so I can see it for myself.
2. Shipping costs to be as minimal as possible
3. Great customer service and a fantastic loyalty programme.

I stopped ordering from Mac because I would want to exchange the product I was sending back for something else and at first they would do exchanges and then they refused to exchange and only refund because they said I sent to many things back. Horrible customer service.

The top three things I look for in a beauty retailer is:
#1) First and foremost is superior quality products. I judge this based on the ingredient list. My skin is so sensitive that if I can’t see the list of ingredients, I won’t buy a product no matter how much I love/want it. I don’t want to have to call/email customer service or search to find this info out. I feel an ingredient list should be easily and readily accessible.
#2) Along with a superior product, I’m a sucker for a great theme or beautifully packaged products and I love collections when I could utilize all the products it contains.
#3) Last, but not least product availability/stock. Nothing frustrates me more when I really love something and it is out of stock. For example…there was a recent product launch that I made sure to be at the site an hour before launch time and the minute it launched, I had a hard time putting items in my cart. Within a ridiculously short period of time, it was sold out so I missed out. Luckily I happen to wake up in the middle of the night and checked one of the sites and was able to purchase the mini version. By the time I woke up in the morning it was all sold out again.

All I want is quick service if something is wrong and for items to be packed with care. I’m all for less packing paper and bubble wrap, but Sephora and Ulta are terrible when it comes to making sure the items arrive safely. A single sheet of wadded up brown paper isn’t going to cushion powder products. I’ve recommended the packing peanuts that dissolve in water to them but I doubt they’ll listen. Both have been decent so far in getting back to me regarding broken products.

Finally, a decent rewards program is always nice. I love Ulta’s and loathe Sephora’s.

Good online shopping experience (easy to use website, reasonable shipping times, proper packing of items, etc.), good customer service/easy returns, and product availability.

1. Reasonable and quick shipping. I am glad Ulta stepped up on their shipping. I was so frustrated that one time it took TWO weeks and I live in a major metro area. I didn’t have anything like nail polish or hair spray. Sephora sometimes misses out on the 2 day but I fault more of my mail guy. I know my neighbors have complained about him. He was so bad they had making deliveries on Sundays to catch him up.

2. In stock items. My closest Sephora is at JCPenny’s and they just suck at keeping things in stock. They are just a hot mess. I had a coupon I wanted to use for their spring sale and they didn’t have a mascara I wanted so I ordered online. I swear, I went back 3 months later for something and glanced and they were still out!

3. Customer service: with both returns and how people are treated. I once had a very rude salesperson at Ulta that told tried to get me to get my brows done and told me I looked awful. I was just starting to get treated for my thyroid and had to get some hormone treatments. One of the side affects for a low thyroid was my outer brows were sparse and they are almost blond. I was flabbergasted. Ulta also gave me a super hard time when I was returning something. The pump was broke on my jumbo conditioner, it had leaked out in the box and I just wanted to exchange it. I brought the box and the conditioner on the day I got it. They drilled me and asked if I “broke it on purpose”. I said, “I assure you I wouldn’t put myself through this on purpose and get to deal with your rudeness.” I called corporate after that one since that was the manager who treated me like that. Oh, and I rarely returned anything there. There is a newer manager there who I adore and the staff seems a lot friendlier. I dropped them cookies last week before the holidays when I had to go to Michaels.

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