Chief digital officer at Geometry UK Debbie Ellison reflects on the beauty industry in the times of global pandemic
The global beauty industry is worth $532 billion growing by 6% in the last year and this discretionary category seems to be continuing to hold its own.
I set out to explore whether beauty commerce moments have drastically changed and wanted a real time industry pulse check. Brainwave - what better focus group than my 24-year-old daughter and her friends? All beauty trailblazers.
Combining insights from these young shoppers, together with Geometry insights I discovered, in truth, that the impact of Coronavirus has merely accelerated trends already happening. This is what we learnt…
1) We’re all experimenting more: the digital experience
We’ve been deprived access to our usual beauty services; hairdressers, barbers, nail salons and skin specialists. “We still want to look great but now we’re in charge and it’s causing us to panic.” – commented one. YouTube vlogs and Instagram Live, are teaching us how to remove gel nails, blow dry our own hair, and, trial the latest make up trends we were afraid to do pre-Covid 19. New at-home rituals have led to online sales in the beauty category rising by almost 140% in the first week of April (InternetRetailing) and increased YOY sales of prestige nail products of 24%.
2) We’re supporting the small brands: the rise of small community
Many of us are supporting smaller direct to consumer brands and entrepreneurs. One interviewee said: “Kylie Jenner won’t miss a £50 order, but a smaller business will”. The EY Future Consumer Index
supports this insight by reporting that 57% of people will spend more on brands that support the community. Subscription-based beauty services such as Beauty Pie and Glossy Box as well as more niche affordable brands like The Ordinary and Brand Ivvici proved popular with my young focus group. I believe that winning beauty brands, both gigantean and small, will demonstrate value to customers (beyond monetary) and deliver more exciting and more personal, online shopping experiences.
3) We’re being micro-influenced like never before: influencers open up commerce opportunities
Many in the beauty service industry are connecting with customers by becoming micro-influencers, holding virtual classes and 1-2-1 consultations. We see a big opportunity for brands to get in on this action by connecting new-era influencers with more commerce moments – specifically through social commerce (commerce generated through social channels) which has jumped by 110% in the last two years .US-based Huda Beauty, recognising the power of the micro-influencer and their lack of income at this time, gave away $100k to 100 MUAs (make-up artists) - $1k each via their social channels.
4) We’re taking self-care seriously: a new emotional need
We all want to practice a little self-care. This is probably down to 'The Lipstick Effect', a theory coined by Professor Juliet Shor back in 1999 who offered up that when times get tight, people indulge in little luxuries for emotional lift. Since mid-March, Google searches for 'self-care' have spiked to record highs worldwide. Bands are leveraging this behaviour – Lush for one is offering 'Bath time beats', an evening chill-out session with bath bombs.
5) We’re turning to Amazon: a new trail platform
Deterred by long queues, many of us who had never shopped Amazon for beauty or skincare, are logging on because of fast delivery times. Small surprise Amazon has reported a 7-10% increase
in beauty purchases. Interestingly, consumers are 50% more likely to try a new brand each time they switch to a new channel - offering beauty brands a chance to attract new customers and re-establish relationships with lapsed ones.
What does this mean for retailers and brands?
It’s clear from this young focus group that they’re not turning to technology like augmented reality to get closer to products but leaning into a more human connection with their peers and influencers. A more enhanced digital experience brings opportunity. Denied irresistible in-store trials and beauty expertise, people are seeking these moments from brands online. My view is for success, online experiences will deliver in exciting new ways through growing social commerce and retail channels.
Re-formatted packaging is another opening. Luxury brands with higher price points might re-package existing products into trial sizes delivered through eCommerce to replace in-store services (such as foundation colour matching) - sadly now no more.
Thirdly: to fulfil new needs, expand heightened digital experiences with direct to consumer sites as well as non-owned spaces where beauty brands can be sold. Add more imagery, tutorials, videos and well-structured content to product pages and connect people with easy to buy-bundles.
Finally, we may become less reliant on beauty professionals. High-end brands and beauty brands may consider how they exist in the home for people who aren’t experts.
While times are undeniably testing, I see this as an opportunity for the beauty industry to innovate and re- imagine commerce. The door is wide open, simply step inside.