What could online retailers do to make purchasing sight unseen easier?

Here are the top three things I’d like to see done more consistently by more retailers: 1) clear color/finish/pigmentation descriptions (not marketing speak!), 2) ingredient lists, 3) swatches that aren’t edited beyond belief (I get it, make them look pretty, but they should look real, not computer-generated… we might as well go back to hex code-made color blocks).

— Christine
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I second Christine! Also swatches on different skintones with clear description of each model’s skintone included so it will be easier to gauge what it might actually look like. Fenty is doing something like this

For me, not much at all. I prefer to shop in person for just about everything and will only order online if it’s a “repeat” of something I’ve already purchased so I know the product (or size, etc. in the case of shoes, clothing, etc.). For makeup – I simply enjoy the process of going to a store, looking at items, swatching them for myself or even trying them on my face, looking to see what else might catch my eye. For me, it’s part of the fun and enjoyment and even relaxation of makeup. If I can’t get something in-store, I will usually pass on it (a perfect example – Pat McGrath’s e/s palettes; by a wonderful fluke, my local Sephora had ONE and only one of her palettes – Sublime Bronze Ambition – in store for a short time. As soon as I saw it and swatched it, I bought it. I’d never have purchased it, though, if it hadn’t been available in-store.

No more weirdly stretched arms with impossibly perfect swatches that look exactly the same on light skin and dark skin! Realistic swatches (no photoshop!), on arms and lips with different skin tones. Realistic lighting.

Also, a good return policy, especially for more expensive products. I take my chances with Colourpop because it’s so inexpensive. If I get a $6 lipstick that doesn’t look good on me, it’s not a big deal. But for a company like Pat McGrath, I would never buy anything if Sephora didn’t have their return policy. (But PMG is finally in a local store, so I can swatch everything now!)

Great question! I would like to see swatches on a diversity of skin shades and undertones with a description of the brand’s corresponding foundations shades (if applicable). Brands are getting a little better at this; however, as Christine mentioned sometimes the swatches look so unrealistic that you can’t really trust the promo images. I also like when brands feature real-life photos from fans/customers on their social media. Like with Fenty Beauty, I can find almost any product on someone of my skin tone on their IG. It gives a more realistic look at what their products can do. For online retailers such as Sephora, Ulta, etc., just having any swatches on real people would be more helpful than the generic color blocks we typically see. Be consistent with including shade and finish descriptions. And when in doubt, check Temptalia!

At first, my answer was going to lay in the descriptions and depictions. However, after giving some thought, for me the real answer is in customer service — excellence in fulfillment, trouble shooting (attitude and competence), protecting customer information and being proactive with hacked accounts, etc.

I go back to sites that are good to me (that is: treat me like a customer), and I stop using those that make it work for me to order from them.

One thing that really perplexes me is when I see products (of all types) listed without volume/size information. I don’t know if it’s a temporary oversight or it’s the real intention, but I see it every now and then for single products and more often with palettes, sets, or kits. Even if the listing also includes the price and the value (e.g. $50 for a set with a value of $90), I want to know how big the product is so I can conclude my own perception of value based on my needs/wants. Maybe I’m more interested in 2 of the 5 products, and it’s not worth it to me if more of the value comes from the ones I’m not as interested in. Maybe I’d pay $22 for that single eyeshadow because I love the color, but it would have to be at least 0.07 oz. Some sites will let you zoom in on the product graphic so you can read the size info on the containers, and other sites won’t or don’t even have a graphic with this info on it. I can always wait for reviews on the retailer’s site or other blogs, but some products aren’t popular enough to have enough informative reviews. Or I can ask a question on the retailer site, but a retailer shouldn’t make its customers work that hard to get basic information, or else it’s hard not to think that the value isn’t really there (why are you hiding this?).

Honestly, I have nothing to add to what you so succinctly and perfectly stated on this issue, Christine. Especially them providing ACCURATE realistic swatches! It drives me batshizzle nuts when I see those taped off swatches or when they obviously used several coats to get it to look “a way”! Ingredient lists, absolutely. With allergen warnings clearly stated for those with serious allergic reactions to some very specific antagonistic ingredients, ie; sulfa, certain dyes, gluten (because celiac disease), etc.

I agree with everything you said. I realize color depictions can vary from monitor to monitor, but it’s frustrating when promo pics are not even close to the actual product. (Everyone seemed to be complaining that UD’s Backtalk palette looked much cooler in promo pictures than it actually was, which means it wasn’t just a monitor issue.) The Ulta website seems to always have awful pictures of colors for everything, which is very frustrating.

I think it would also really help if retailers offered no-fuss returns and free return shipping, if they’re not going to at least try to put up accurate color and product pictures.

Definitely agree with the swatches! But then you know they’d sell less, so sadly I doubt they’ll do that.
What I’d like them all to do (some do, but few) is give us realistic size comparisons, for brushes (heads) and makeup products. And for eyeshadows, I’d like them to show looks (not fake arm swatches) with different skin tones. Some do, but most don’t.

The biggest advantage of buying makeup online is saving time and not going to a store, therefore the accuracy of the swatches is no. 1 and the most important thing for me. Swatches that show two-three layers of the same shade on top of each other, heavy swatches (after rubbing the finger/brush in the color), “enhanced” swatches of eyeshadows, blush etc. are misleading and not realistic. It’s enough that the artificial light changes the shades, I don’t need other enhancements. I’m not even talking about the retailers that don’t have swatches (like Inglot Canada).

For the lips, it’s even worse as the colour depends heavily on the lights used and on the pigmentation of the lips. I prefer to go to a store to buy lipsticks as almost every time I bought one that looked good on someone else, it didn’t look on me (if it’s muted rose on the cool, side it may look greyish or mauve on me; if it’s rosy brown, it pulls brown on me; golden pinks/corals may look straight gold on me). Last week I wanted to buy online Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint Longwear Fluid Lip Color in Uncuffed. It’s described as a rosy mauve and the swatch on the lightest skin tone in the photo looks like a rosy mauve. When I tried it in store, it looked nothing like the swatches, but a dark super greyish mauve with no traces of rose in one swipe on my lips. The Uncensored (universal red) looked a lot darker than in the pictures and it was a nightmare to take it off with a pad and makeup remover as it spread all around the mouth, staining the lips and the area around the lips. My guess is that the strong lights used for the swatches made the colors look a lot lighter than they really are.

Christine, I think you covered most of the issues. Clear and true color pics, especially with foundations and lipsticks. Ingredients are a must! For example, some people are allergic to Talc and this is used in alot of powders, and silicones are also used alot in makeup.
Truthful color descriptions- not flowery or embellished. Case in point, Charlotte Tilbury. I do love her products but the descriptions are always so flowery and embellished.

Multiple and accurate pictures including swatches on multiple skin tones. Ulta- are you listening? Size information perhaps shown in a hand for realistic comparison. Actually getting gifts with purchases and actual chosen samples. Ulta- and Sephora are notorious for forgetfulness changing gifts.

Positive reviews from customers and bloggers. Photos of people with a wide complexion range wearing the product. Good return policy.

I love seeing multiple swatches from the same line on multiple skintones. It is so much easier for me to tell the difference between, say, Vanilla Quartz, Rose Quartz, Pearl, and Moonstone. I would love to see this with products not necessarily in the same line too, for example, if a bunch of Nars red lip products were swatched side by side.

I first stumbled upon Temptalia while searching for the ingredients for some product I was considering. It was available on multiple sites, but none listed ingredients nor had a photo of the packaging! As for color products, if Christine hasn’t swatched it, the chances of me buying it plummet. I never ever feel comfortable relying on any brands own swatches to choose to buy. I might gamble on clearance items. Hex codes, lol!

I think there could be a lot of ways for online retailers to make purchasing products sight unseen easier:
Firstly, with foundations – state the undertones. I don’t want to know how wonderful the foundation feels on your skin, I just want to know whether the undertones are warm, cool or neutral.
Secondly – clearer and realistic photos of the products and shades.

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