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Although virtual beauty consultation services first made their way to the market around 2010, it wasn’t until COVID hit that they really stole the show, enabling brands to connect with customers and provide beauty counter service without the beauty counter.​

Fast forward to now, lots of brands have retained the virtual consultation as a crucial touchpoint within their omnichannel offering, enabling them to provide personalised and authentic customer engagement across unbounded audiences, driving more meaningful branded interactions, sales and long-lasting customer relationships.

At its core, the service is simple – brands offer customers the opportunity to book a session to speak to their beauty consultants through a 1-to-1 virtual meeting. When it comes to execution however, the end-to-end experience from booking through to post-consultation varies from brand to brand, with some not yet taking full advantage of this highly interactive brand touchpoint.

We investigated the virtual consultation offerings available from leading beauty brands in the UK, gaining first-hand experience to understand where brands are virtually flawless in their execution, and where there are opportunities to leverage this touchpoint even further to drive both sales and brand advocacy.


Our approach to analysis was rooted in service design and user experience best practice, structured around the three key stages of the virtual consultation journey: pre-consultation, during consultation and post-consultation. We developed a scoring mechanism to objectively assess key aspects at each stage including effectiveness of communications, ease of use, quality of consultation, level of personalisation, usefulness of recommendations and technical setup among others. This allowed us to objectively compare the experience offered by each brand plus identify strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement across the experience. 

Customer experience findings


Availability of service

While not necessarily front and centre, the virtual consultation offering is typically well positioned on brand websites as an ‘additional service’ or similar. Once located, some brands do better than others in capturing interest and managing customer expectations by providing session overviews and outcomes up front. It becomes clear that this is a more significant channel for some brands than others – some brands are offering consultations on demand, while others invite customers to book appointments more than 1 month in advance (which is unlikely to appeal to consumers’ need for speed and convenience).

Powering personalisation

Surveys and forms were used as part of the booking flow to varying extents, with the intent to drive a more personalised consultation experience addressing customers’ concerns. More targeted forms invite customers to share purchase history with the brand, brand perception and expected outcomes from the consultation. This goes on to facilitate a more familiar and engaging first interaction between customer and consultant. There may be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but there is value in understanding what the customer expects from the service to ensure their needs are met.

An exclusive invite

Consultation details and invite links were communicated with the customer by email  as standard across all brands, although the content varied, with some leveraging this initial touchpoint as a marketing opportunity. A small but crucial detail at this stage was the searchability of the confirmation email. Where these were not sent from a brand associated email address, locating the email and therefore joining the consultation was challenging. This friction could cause drop off at this early stage of the journey.

Consultation experience

Virtual interface

The best experiences had branded interfaces underpinned by purposefully designed tech platforms, enabling users to access the consultation in one click with no downloads or sign-ins. Customers were met by consultants using high quality product imagery in their virtual backgrounds with products on hand to give live demonstrations. These visual aspects go a long way in differentiating the good experiences from the great, fully immersing the customer in a branded experience.

Consultant expertise

The consultants themselves really are the stars of the virtual consultation show. The best consultation experiences achieved a balance between structure and fluidity, with the consultant purposefully guiding the conversation while also inviting customers to share details of their preferences, goals and objectives to make informed recommendations. A key differentiator here was the extent to which the recommendations felt truly tailored (as opposed to standard best-sellers), and achievable – do the products fit within the customers existing or preferred routine?



Post consultation communication and follow-up is where brands fell shortest of expectations, despite this being a critical conversion point within the journey. While most delivered the basics – an email summarising the product recommendations and some form of discount – the execution often lacked attention to detail or creativity to compel the customer to purchase or drive any ongoing brand interaction. This touchpoint has the potential to be as powerful as any marketing or campaign content pushed to customers, yet the same care and attention to the content is not always given.


Some brands were more explicit than others in offering incentives to purchase post consultation. Discounts were offered by most brands, although codes provided were often not redeemable on the products recommended, detracting from even price insensitive customers’ intent to purchase. Other approaches included follow-up sessions to assess product effectiveness, money-back guarantees, and point-of-sale discounts. Although discounts many not always be suitable for the luxury category, there is still room to incentivise purchase through more brand aligned offerings, such as ‘member privileges’ or ‘exclusive’ programmes and their value should not be overlooked.

Experience design

Across all brands, more could be done from a UX perspective to create a more streamlined path to purchase post consultation, allowing customers to check out in fewer clicks removes friction and will contribute to driving conversion. Thinking more holistically, It is clear that for some it is considered a key customer service and sales touchpoint within a broader omnichannel offering, while for others just a supplementary service. More considered service and experience design could go a long way in improving the value and efficacy of the virtual consultation channel.

Our recommendations

1. Touchpoint delight

Every interaction between customer and brand is an opportunity to delight, but also, disappoint.​ Pay the same care and attention to messaging, UX and UI across communication assets used within the consultation experience that you would your website, app or landing page. This includes booking confirmation emails, reminder emails and post-consultation follow ups.

2. Redefine the baseline

With many brands now providing a solid consultation service, there is an opportunity to redefine the benchmark and find new ways to provide customers with white glove service at home, through customer research and horizon scanning.

Brands are starting to differentiate and elevate their offering through new tech functionality, allowing customers to shop through the consultation interface, and are leveraging AI to hyper-personalise the service with skin analysis or colour match recommendations.

3. The cherry on top

A well-executed virtual consultation does well to create many of the emotional and psychological conditions that drive purchase behaviour. Post-consultation it’s important to keep customers engaged with well-considered, follow-up content to continue brand and product discovery. Email follow up should be visually appealing, contain carefully crafted copy and personalised call to actions. From a marketing perspective, urgency at this stage in the funnel is key. A compelling discount, time sensitive promotion or enticing loyalty offering can go a long way in driving conversion.

4. Why stop there?

Ok, perhaps the customer wasn’t ready to buy on this occasion. Why stop there? Giving the highly interactive nature of the consultation touchpoint, it’s a valuable opportunity to shape customers’ brand perception, foster loyalty and drive long term brand relationships, turning first time customers into loyal fans of the brand. This can be done through marketing and targeting to reinforce the initial brand engagement. This could involve regular personalised communications, access to exclusive content or making sure they’re the first to hear of exciting news and events – this approach can be designed to best suit the brand and its customers.

Stand out from the crowd

With luxury beauty tipped as a key category for 2024 and customers increasingly expecting seamless multi-channel experiences, it’s time to ask yourself, is your virtual consultation user journey Virtually Flawless?

Louise Daleman

Looking to create an omni-channel customer experience that truly puts the customer at the heart of the journey? Find out more.

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