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COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the role that beauty plays in our lives. Makeup has disappeared from our daily routine but skincare has taken its place. Ethical concerns are becoming as integral to the customer journey as price. As beauty brands look to the future beyond lockdown, we’re questioning which of these changes will be permanent and what that could mean for the future of beauty.

The in-store beauty experience

The in-store beauty experience has become an integral part of re-engaging with consumers that would otherwise be lost to online shopping.  As we discovered in The Future of Retail is Experientialadding 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 a 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 preparation for their reopening.

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 where consumers choose to 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 keep their communities engaged?

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.

Updated by – Jacob Corner

Written by - Kate Haines

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