How Will COVID-19 Impact Beauty Shopping? Let Us Count the Ways . . .
Some 10 weeks ago, online shopping was merely a novelty; a convenient substitute to getting your butt off the couch on Sundays to peruse the aisle of concealers at Boots. The most action it required was a few flicks of your mouse, and the click of a button.
Fast forward to today, and the country's beauty stores and salons remain temporarily closed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, many for the foreseeable future. For weeks, the world as it was had to adjust to the internet being the only way to buy beauty products. As a result, e-commerce saw approximately a 60 percent growth in year-over-year revenue through March and April.
As of June 15 and per the lockdown lifting phases, more beauty retailers will begin reopening. There will be some tangible differences, of course: employees will be encouraged to wear facial mask coverings and enforce 2 metres of distance, but what they do about in-store testers, where they place the hand sanitiser, and whether they install plastic shield guards at the tills are all factors for consideration. The quiet shuffle of relief in getting back to a sense of normalcy thumps right alongside the fear.
Logistically, mass uncertainty in terms of safety, sanitation, and best in-store practices loom. It begs the question: will people really flock back to retailers so soon post-COVID 19 — and, if they do, what will the beauty experience look like? If they don't, how will demands for online shopping shift? The answer, it seems, isn't so cut-and-dried. Still, experts have some ideas.
"This is not the death of bricks and mortar retail, it's the end of outdated, static shopping experiences across the board."
Beauty Shopping Prediction: Custom Experiences Will Soar
One thing is for sure: the move to digital won't end when stores reopen. "This is not the death of bricks and mortar retail, it's the end of outdated, static shopping experiences across the board," says Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cult Beauty. Around the world, retailers in countries like Australia consider shifting to online-only business models. In the UK, companies are experimenting with new, custom-driven ways to shop. For cosmetics stores, that might mean providing access to makeup artists online or expanding virtual offerings that act as a stand-in for in-person beauty appointments.
"We are now offering personalised virtual consultations with our No7 and Liz Earle advisors. From tailored product recommendations to application tips, customers can now get expert skincare and make-up advice from our trusted advisors over the phone or a video call, from the comfort of their own home. Online advice and virtual consultations will soon be available from even more of our most-loved brands too," says Joanna Rogers, commercial director and VP of beauty and gifting at Boots.
Many brands are also leaning in to tech with try-on tools, like Redken's new virtual hair colour try-on service. Even the world of fragrance is embracing the virtual shopping experience. The Perfume Shop is offering a virtual shopping service where you can live video chat with one of their trained in-store experts to help you discover your new signature scent or a gift for your loved one. While there's obviously nothing like sampling in real life, don't underestimate the power of perfume knowledge. These trained consultants will be able to find your new favourite scent with their expertise alone.
Other companies are rethinking how they communicate with consumers, personalising daily or weekly interactions via text messages. "While that in-store experience can never be exactly replicated, organic skincare line By Sarah London have tried to find new ways to connect with their audience in a more casual setting by starting a WhatsApp group," says Sam Freedman, CEO and co-founder of a Curate Beauty, a digital wholesale marketplace for retailers to discover indie beauty brands. "Giving customers first-hand personal responses to any skincare woes directly from a skincare expert and founder, provides for a brilliant customer experience in my eyes," she adds.
Across the pond, brands like Supergoop and Tarte Cosmetics, according to Glossy, saw a 53 percent increase in people signing up for texts.
Beauty Shopping Prediction: Contactless Interactions Will Rise
"Creative sampling is going to be crucial for brands going forward now that the future of in-store sampling is so uncertain."
As online continues to soar, in-store beauty will also have to make moves to stay in the game. "We are now exploring how our customers can enjoy our beauty halls in stores in a socially-distant way as the current crisis leans towards exiting lockdown" says Rogers. "For example, Boots Beauty specialists and advisors will be on hand to offer advice and guidance through touch-free consultations and can chat through hints and tips on application without the need for physical contact."
In addition to in store touch-free consultation, Boots has launched a free virtual consultation service, allowing 1:1 time with beauty specialists spanning across hundreds of brands stocked at Boots.
As for online retailers, "creative sampling is going to be crucial for brands going forward now that the future of in-store sampling is so uncertain," says Freedman. "For example, Polish skincare line, Oio Labs, offers free samples with every purchase. Kamila Aubre, a sustainable fragrance brand, has bundled together sample kits for sale. And new candle brand, 7 Over 7, has created flawless scented wax seals to share their candle scents with customers via post." she adds. The Perfume Shop gives their customers the opportunity to sample three scents with the "Try More Samples" scheme; all customers have to pay is the £3 delivery charge. What's more, if you decide to buy a bottle after testing the sample, you'll receive a 10 percent off voucher to buy the full size version. It might sound simple, but this shows just how successful sampling can be — even for a notoriously difficult product to sell virtually.
Beauty Shopping Prediction: Self-Care Will Take Centre Stage
Many brand owners and beauty buyers we spoke with have also noticed an impending theme in online sales these last few weeks: the emphasis on self-care. It's one that's percolated for the last year but has boomed even more with people spending more time indoors.
"Cult Beauty's skincare sales are up over 150 percent and our wellbeing sub-categories: 'supplements' and 'sleep', have both grown 200 percent year on year", Inge says. "However, the biggest growth has come from 'Bath Oils & Soaks' with a massive 500 percent rise." More specifically, Noah Rosenblatt, the president of Space NK's US business, says face masks and moisturiser have seen a "significant, triple-digit increase during this pandemic."