The resilience of the beauty industry over the years, comprising skin care, cosmetics, hair care, fragrances, and personal care, was tested by the COVID-19 crisis, with brands having to switch gears and take a refreshed approach to consumer attitudes and behaviors.
During the peak as the virus locked down, a global surge in hand wash, soap, wipes, and sanitizers was observed as consumers focused on their health, and stricter personal hygiene habits became a priority. Categories considered optional, such as cosmetics and fragrances felt the impact as this was considered less important by consumers. In France, the number of cosmetics’ occasions halved during the first month of lockdown and despite the new zoom culture, two-thirds of British consumers said that they use less or no make-up on video calls.
As the situation evolved, consumers began to establish new routines and preferences in beauty and grooming, looking for ways to preserve their ‘normal’ lifestyles. As a result, new trends emerged such as DIY beauty and at-home experiences, positively affecting the sales of products such as hair colorants, and grooming kits. In South Africa, a sharp increase was seen when it came to extensions, relaxers, conditioners, and other treatments for ethnic hair, indicating that consumers still regard beauty and personal care as a necessity. Nail polish purchases increased dramatically, while face creams, cleansers, and refreshers dominated the skincare category, along with substantial increases in disposables razors and blades for men.
Beauty has now transitioned to a larger health trend and is about much more than just one’s appearance. 83% of global consumers say that looking good contributes to their sense of wellness with brands integrating this reality into their products. Engaging with consumers and conveying the message that maintaining some sort of routine especially around the fact that beauty and personal care can contribute to their overall wellbeing, became the rallying cry.
Three key themes began to emerge as product offerings were re-imagined. Personal hygiene products with additional benefits were launched; experimentation and novel ingredients with unique product usage experiences developed and, sustainable ranges with environmental and ethical credentials addressing a collective response from consumers, on shelves. The Bonbon Factory a cruelty-free bath and body brand in New Zealand ceased production of their lip balms and body butters, in favor of producing vanilla-scented hand and trolley sanitizers. UK based, Imperial Leather, launched a white orchid and pistachio body wash and in the Czech Republic Fa repackaged their shower gel in a bottle “made of 100% recycled plastic”, with 50% of the packaging made up of ‘social plastic’ collected at the beach or inland.
Consumers are studying formulations, looking for natural, safe, and quality ingredients that have proven efficacy and sustainability, with 35% of consumers in 11 countries saying they would like to receive news about brand initiatives going forward. The industry is also dealing with changes in the way consumers shop for beauty and personal care products, for example, with the closure of many brick-and-mortar stores, a huge surge was observed in ecommerce and online buying.
According to L’Oréal’s Chief Digital Officer, Lubomira Rochet, “The crisis has profoundly accelerated the digital transformation of the beauty sector. In ecommerce, we achieved in eight weeks what would have otherwise taken us three years to do.” L’Oréal’s 2020 Q1 financial results show that regardless of an overall -4.8% decrease in sales, ecommerce world-wide saw a 52.6% spike, suggesting that the famous ‘red lipstick effect’, that characterizes a phenomenon that sees consumers spending their money on ‘affordable luxury’ items during economic recession, may be on the rise.
The shift to the digital world has become an opportunity for retailers and brands to upgrade their omnichannel approach not only to drive sales but also to engage with consumers and their communities. In fact, this can be a decisive engagement factor to foster brand loyalty in these categories.
The immense impact of the pandemic on retailers and manufacturers operating in this industry, presented new opportunities for the more agile. Many had to shift their core business focus to keep facilities running and contribute to serving their communities. Answering to store closures and taking advantage of an increase in digital sales, JUMIA South Africa, working alongside Reckitt Benckiser and Procter & Gamble, opened an ‘essentials’ ecommerce platform. They provided a steady supply of hygiene and sanitary products including diapers, soap bars and disinfectants, offering an uninterrupted supply at affordable prices.
Secure payment methods became a key driver for the growth of ecommerce with online retail store Rakabi South Africa offering opportunities for local brands to be represented to increase their sales and stabilize their business at this challenging time. Manufacturers and retailers had to find new solutions such as augmented reality and virtual consultation services to keep consumers connected and engaged. SpaceNK in the UK, launched a virtual consultation service offering advice and tips from experts on make-up, skin and hair care.
Despite retailers changing format and focus, the effort now is to find a new shopping experience that, while limited, can still provide a significant degree of fun, engagement, and confidence for consumers. That can be achieved by exploring DIY beauty trends and packaging innovations such as ‘single-dose beauty’ (doses of skincare that come in the right amount of product for one use) and even contactless packaging solutions that allow shoppers to test beauty products in safe, single-application formats. Global brand, Arcade Beauty, launched Kiss-A-Peel for lipstick sampling that can be applied directly to the lips.
Looking ahead, the challenges for retailers and brands in the shifting beauty narrative must take into consideration the following key factors. Online shopping and at-home DIY beauty treatments are likely to strengthen their position, pushing the demand for a ‘salon-like’ effect. The growth of innovative in-store experiences being connected to apps to offer product information, branded content and sustain consumer engagement will be on the rise along with brands and retailers engaging with social media and influencers which can positively steer consumer opinions. Clean ingredient formulations that offer substantial functional benefits will win the race. And lastly, the ‘mask effect’ seen as a fashion accessory with probable long-term usage, will have a direct impact on the beauty and personal care industry.
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Sources: Kantar, Euromonitor, GlobalData, McKinsey, NamNews, FoodRetail&Shoppers, Mintel, IGD, EdgebyAscential, Trendhunter, TheObserver, TheBonbonFactory, www.waldemarobchod.cz, ImperialLeather, Pexels, UnsplashTarget, FashionNetwork, Sephora,RisNews, Beiersdorf, Lush, ArcadeBeauty, Allure, www.bizcommunity.co, www.mordorintelligence.com, www.statista.com, www.globalcompact.org.za, www.probeauty.co.za, www.uniliver.co.za