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The ‘new normal’ for beauty: how will the industry adapt to a post-coronavirus world?

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The ‘new normal’ for beauty: how will the industry adapt to a post-coronavirus world?

There’s no denying that the coronavirus has brought about some challenging times for businesses. As brands prepare to come out the other side, we’re ready to explore what a post- lockdown world could mean for the future of beauty.

As an industry well known for innovative in-store experiences, how will beauty brands invest in their consumer journeys in a way which holds them accountable, both online and offline? 

The in-store beauty experience

The prominence of the in-store beauty experience has become a key way to re-engage with consumers in recent years, taking a step back from the digital autonomy of online shopping.  As we discovered in The Future of Retail is Experiential, adding the ‘experience’ factor to a bricks and mortar environment has allowed the retail industry to continue to compete with digital. 

Following the recent closure of stores, concept-led environments are exploring online innovation to keep ahead. Self-care hub Glowbar, a business that holds ‘experience’ at its core through its infra-red treatment pods and wellness café, is utilising its  digital platforms to keep its community in conversation. 

From offering a free downloadable ‘glow at-home planner’ to supplying online smoothie recipes that can be re-created by using its branded milks, powders and elixirs, Glowbar has digitally recreated its offline presence, keeping its customer base engaged in its  wellness world in preparation for a soft reopening on 16th June, 2020.

Even prior to the coronavirus, brands keeping their online and offline omnichannel experience cohesive are staying ahead. 

Personalisation will lead the future of beauty, both in-store and online

According to a study by NPD, the in-store experience is still as relevant as ever, with the UK high street accounting for 80% of beauty sales in 2018. 

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that beauty  businesses, including Butterfly Mark certified Yves Saint Laurent Beauty from our community of brands, are turning to digitalisation to emulate their in-store offering. This has been made possible by, among others, PerfectCorp’s YouCam beauty app, which allows brands to offer AI consultations and uses AR technology in order for customers to virtually ‘try-on’ their products. 

Beauty giant NARS has launched its new audio content strategy in collaboration with music streaming service Spotify, in which listeners will now be able to use audio to request a sample to be delivered directly to their door, proof that even the biggest in beauty are seeking a personal approach to engage customers. 

In-store, things could be ready for a shake up too. Being such an experiential category, beauty lends itself to being shopped in-store. Regardless of digital advances, the want for ‘browsing’ in such a sensorial environment will remain paramount, with the need to experience touch, scent and texture being so important to beauty purchase power. So, how can brands invest to keep their offering inline with new post-coronavirus measures? 

Inevitably, brands will be accountable for ensuring customers stay within social distancing guidelines. This could mean an immediate drop in footfall, but there will be functional ways for businesses to combat this. 

US megastore Ulta Beauty has already put in place its ‘curbside pickup’ option, which allows customers to collect their orders without having to physically step foot in-store, creating a new path in their purchasing journey

Online product consultations will soar, giving consumers the opportunity to speak with a specialist, much like they would at a beauty counter. Eva Alexandridis, co-founder of 111SKIN, who have been certified with the Butterfly Mark, explained how utilising this concept has already blossomed into a new way to offer purposeful advice to its community. “Lockdown has had its challenges but one of the positive and meaningful conversations between our community has been the launch of our virtual aesthetician page. Through this digital space, we have been able to continue our efforts in putting our community and their concerns first, providing a further long-lasting avenue.

Online conversation will be in demand across the industry, as time-poor consumers will see longevity in  digital consultations in areas including hair care, allowing them to cut out lengthy face-to-face interactions in favour of quicker online solutions. 

Sustainability will continue to drive innovation

According to GlobalData’s latest Top Trends in Beauty and Grooming 2020 report, wellness and sustainability are still the trends set to lead the way in the coming year. 

The need for wellness during lockdown hasn’t shifted, infact, it’s been heightened by consumers’ increased desire for self-care and additional spare time. Although it may seem that sustainability has taken a back seat, the long-term investment to make a positive impact put in by both indie brands and established retailers will see it remain at the forefront of beauty innovation.

Irene Forte, founder of Butterfly Mark certified brand Irene Forte Skincare, echoed the idea that self-care with a focus on sustainability will lead consumers’ product choices when it comes to skincare. The skincare segment has been experiencing a boom relative to the broader beauty category over the last three years. Research suggests that skincare will continue to outperform other beauty categories. Self-care will likely see permanent growth as usage of products such as hand sanitisers and moisturisers become a part of people’s daily routine.” 

Emphasising the increased importance of a visible 360 degree view on brand’s sustainability, there will be a particular focus on their online journey and its impact on our world, from Earth-friendly production, to ethical sourcing of ingredients and carbon neutral shipping services. 

In particular, consumers will use lockdown to discover  what they actually need from brands. Digital platforms will allow communities to align with them on a more personal level, giving small businesses the opportunity to thrive. Following the pandemic, a lesser focus on materialism will mean that consumers purchasing habits will change, with interest shifting from physical products to  emotion-driven experiences. 

Forte also agreed that when customers do shop, they’ll be focusing-in on the brands behind their product choices. “Consumers will certainly spend less on beauty and personal care products; however, that is not to say that they will not spend- they will just place greater emphasis on picking the ‘right brands’. Given that consumers will be focussing on this, being sustainable and taking an ethical stance will be more important than ever. Therefore, sustainable practice and ethics will continue to lead brand innovation.”

However, on a wider scale, there is still a long way to go in regards to big breakthroughs in industry-wide sustainable practice. Impactful changes across the UK like the ‘cotton bud ban’ and the Environmental Bill– which will hope to see new legally-binding targets to reduce the production of single use plastic– have been postponed in light of the focus on COVID-19. 

How will beauty services adapt to the ‘new normal’

When it comes to how consumers will  invest in their beauty routines, the in-salon industry may take longer to bounce back. Industry professionals could see themselves required less, thanks to the rise in DIY beauty, at-home facials and manicures. In line with this, nail polish sales have been up a huge 24 percent since the start of lockdown. 

Post pandemic, customers will look to businesses that offer the best in hygiene. Beauty consumers could choose to shun in-salon treatments in a need for further transparency on health and safety, opting for at-home services through apps like Secret Spa.

How will brands action their core messages online?

A recent report showed that during the pandemic, consumers agree that knowledge is power. Whether it be information on sustainable practices or pushing boundaries in mindful brand wellness values; consumers have a desire to learn and brands have a responsibility to educate. 

Brands that are seen to be doing good during the pandemic will inevitably be remembered for their kindness. Science-led skincare brand Augustinus Bader launched its 60,000 #SmallActs of Care  campaign during lockdown, in which it pledged 20,000 of its hand sanitisers to health care workers, with a further 40,000 available to be gifted to its loyal community base. 

The immediate move online has seen brand’s marketing strategies shift to encompass  virtual events, allowing them audience connection in ways they may have never explored before. Needless to say,  brands that are able to keep in thoughtful conversation with their communities will be the ones that hold their trust after the pandemic. 

During lockdown, consumers are becoming more aware of the emotional impact behind the beauty industry and that the real influence that beauty has on both the individual and the wider economy is far from superficial. 

It was found in the British Beauty Council’s Value of Beauty report that last year, the UK spent approximately £27.2 billion on beauty. Alongside this, 2018 saw the beauty industry support 590,500 jobs throughout the UK. Whilst beauty may look a little different this year, the industry will inevitably continue to explore the ways that they can innovate to create loyal customers and engaged communities, throughout lockdown and long afterwards. 

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Written by - Kate Haines

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