Why Beauty Industry Must Be Poised To Learn From The Pandemic
By Suzanne Scott
Beauty makes us feel good. Fact. Whenever there are times of crisis – political and economical – beauty sales invariably increase. It is known as the Lipstick Effect. Brands that invest in digital and execute a comprehensive social media strategy will not just be better equipped to weather a similar global crisis, but will also be in a more solid position as ‘business as usual’ makes a gradual return…
Consumers are spending more time online. Our screen time is soaring as we spend countless hours watching Instagram Lives and panelled discussions, and communicating with brands and friends.
Yet many beauty brands rely on footfall and face-to-face contact with their customers to not only sell their products, but to educate people on ingredients and application, as well as providing product recommendations and colour matches.
While some brands such as Rituals had already embraced social media as a means to get up close and personal with their customers, there are many more who experienced the onset of lockdown on a far more uncertain footing. Brands that have traditionally relied on in-store ambassadors and product testing to connect with their customer and, ultimately, make a sale, have found it particularly challenging.
Yet there are learnings that beauty brands must take note of now if they are to withstand a similar crisis in the future:
Social media is your lifeline
The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that beauty brands must carve a space for themselves in the social media arena. When you can’t access your customer directly through your in-store ambassadors, or may not even have the capacity to sell your product because factories and fulfilment centres are closed, your social channels are the only conduit for direct interaction.
The brands that are getting it right are those that are actively fostering a sense of community among their customer base. This community feeling, something many of us have been deprived of in the real world while social distancing measures are in place, encourages brand loyalty.
Utilising your expert ambassadors in lieu of – and eventually, in addition to – in-store consultations, communicating directly with your customer via ‘Lives’ and allowing and actively encouraging them to interact, are just some of the ways in which to do this.
Put Digital first
We all saw brands scramble to bring their commerce and fulfilment online when the lockdown went into force. And, while it’s rarely acknowledged, there are beauty brands who believe that selling their products almost exclusively from bricks and mortar locations retains an air of exclusivity and luxury. Yet the harsh truth is, if your online availability is lacking you cannot properly cater for your customer during a crisis. It also tells less able-bodied shoppers that their custom isn’t that important to you. This doesn’t make you appear luxury, just elitist.
Kindness will be remembered
The most important thing to remember during a global crisis (and at all times, if we’re being honest) is to be kind. Bad behaviour will be remembered and may have a dramatic impact on how consumers regard your brand. Allowing staff to work in unsafe conditions, ignoring customer emails and comments, spreading mis-information, misleading people regarding delivery times and capabilities, and attempting to capitalise on the crisis, are all things your customers are unlikely to forgive you for. Alarmingly, we have seen these failings in action during the pandemic
Be decent and be transparent. We have seen global fashion houses and beauty brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton and Jo Malone London, create PPE and hand sanitiser for the NHS. Louis Vuitton even repurposed several of the Maison’s ateliers across France to produce hundreds of thousands of non-surgical face masks.
Others have donated products to charities for distribution among care workers. Some have even donated the use of their delivery fleet to transport vital goods to those in need. Customers will remember the brands who did their bit and will reward them with their custom for years to come.
Beauty delivers in challenging times
The Lipstick Effect shows that when times are tough we often turn to small luxury items, a lipstick for example, to boost our morale. We have seen this played out during wars and recessions alike.
While retail analyst, Nielson reports that lipstick sales are actually down by 62.4% — likely a result of lockdown and very limited socialising — almost every other category in the beauty sector has grown, including haircare and skincare. Net-a-Porter, for example, saw a 156% increase in homeware sales compared to the same period last year, and 130% of that increase was down to a sudden surge in candle sales. When times are tough, we turn to beauty to feel great and look our best.
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But beauty brands must be ready to listen, engage and deliver, and being digitally primed and socially agile is critical. Invest in your digital marketing and content marketing.
Credit: The Drum