Beauty clicks in cyberspace

Despite early cynicism, the online beauty industry is growing at a rapid rate. Mintel report that it has more than doubled in size between 2005 and 2010 to an estimated value of £420 million, and the number of people clicking their way to beauty is rising daily.

A cursory look at some of the most widely read blogs is all it takes to see the level of fanaticism, attention to detail, endless snapshot swatches of make-up on skin and homemade, “how to” videos that now characterise the online sector. Beauty bloggers are a force to be reckoned with.

Having myself spent years pitching ideas to TV networks only to be told that beauty is not an interesting enough subject to warrant air time, the digital age allowed women in their millions to begin discussing beauty trends at length and rating products in forums – proving those broadcasters wrong.

Suddenly beauty was no longer a one-way street with brands controlling the flow of information to consumers. And, surprisingly for an industry so used to constant change, the beauty business was initially slow to adapt to this brave new world of online peer-to-peer recommendation.

Some companies are even employing bloggers in a bid to add credibility to their message

Homemade, YouTube videos started to get increasingly higher hits just as highly aspirational, big-brand beauty campaigns were becoming over-retouched, with surreally perfect models beaming out of billboards and magazine pages. It became clear that many brands were ill- prepared for this real-time customer feedback. Spotting this, bloggers set themselves up as the truth-tellers of beauty.

In the world of digital beauty, integrity is everything. As a result, the shift of power between brand and consumer has meant that some companies are even employing bloggers in a bid to add credibility to their message. This, added to the expansion of reliable e-commerce sites, makes digital beauty increasingly compelling.

Beauty fulfils our need for instant gratification and an immediate pick-me-up during a recession. The fact that gleaming new products are now only a click away – and are available on sites with sophisticated online platforms that both offer consumers advice and the opportunity to publish their own feedback – means that beauty e-tail is showing meteoric growth. The launch of “try before you buy” websites that send subscribers a selection of sample-sized products to trial before committing to the full size (and its price), means even the experience of on-counter testing has been translated to the digital world.

Professional make-up artists and brands are now finally joining the revolution, and doing so en masse. In an ideal world, there will be a mix of true professionals and industry insiders alongside the best of the enthusiastic amateurs. The incredible thing about the internet is that there’s room for everyone - and the mix is what makes it all the more interesting.