What is the future of the beauty industry?

21 May 2020

For the latest in our Under Lockdown Series, we met with four beauty and wellness insiders to discuss the future of the industry for consumers and brands alike. Our speakers included: Jules Miller, Founder, The Nue Co, Giorgia Rossi, COO, Treatwell, Gloria Noto, Founder of NOTO Botanics and Sarah Jossel, Beauty Director at The Sunday Times Style.

Here are the key learnings:

Beauty has found a new audience

Although the beauty industry is one of the largest in the world, all the panellists noted a new influx of new audiences becoming interested in beauty for the first time – suggesting that the industry has some new growth to look forward to. “Up until now, people might have looked at makeup as something quite vain,” said Jules, “but I think they’re now starting to reevaluate what beauty means. Our bestselling products are now anything to do with immunity and our repeat purchase rate is at 70% - what the pandemic has done is brought health to the front of the consumer’s mindset.” This was a growth that Gloria has also recognised: “Health has become more of a focus. Now you’re looking at yourself in the mirror more, you’re having more of an interaction with yourself and the products you’re using.” With the potential for growth with a new health-conscious audience, it’s clear that the beauty industry will still see demand post-lockdown. “We have record days every time Treatwell reopens in a country,” Giorgia told us, “There was a Paris hair salon that recently reopened from 5 am ‘til 9 pm and they became fully booked for weeks.”

Communicate authentically

Communication is key at any time, but it’s a particularly sensitive topic during a crisis especially when the consumer is hyper-aware of everything they put on - or in - their body. For Giorgia, creating a sense of comfort was will be crucial for Treatwell, and every other beauty brand. “The hair and beauty industries have always had elevated hygiene measures”, she told the panel, “Many of our partners were donating PPE they already had to the NHS, but brands should think about what they’re going to say to their customers to communicate that they’re safe to return.” As someone who receives countless press releases each week, Sarah also had advice on how to communicate to the press: “Make sure everything feels relevant - I’m getting press releases right now on ‘holiday essentials’! You shouldn’t feel ashamed to launch your products right now, but you do need to be honest and authentic to the reality of the moment.” The honest - at times controversial - messaging of NOTO Botanics came into its own over lockdown, as Gloria found it an effective way to communicate with her customers: “I feel that when you have an honest brand voice you’ll never have to change it during a crisis – it’s already as real as it can be.”

Human connection is here to stay

All the panellists were strong in the belief that physical retail would be more important than ever post-lockdown and that brands would need to plan accordingly. Gloria had to close her first store two months after its launch, but she remained positive about its future: “I don’t think that the human experience will ever die. The beauty store will become more of a community space, but it’s going to be a very different experience when a customer wants to try a product. I think that there’s going to be a lot of trial and error for us to really figure out what that will look like.” Jules was also an advocate, she pointed out the importance of physical space to engage with a community: “For us, retail is an extension of our marketing strategy rather than being a huge revenue driver. I think it’s going to be what people are most hungry for after lockdown.” This was something Giorgia had already seen in reopening countries, who recounted a story she’d recently been told about one of Treatwell’s partners in Amsterdam: “We had a salon owner in Amsterdam who was going to close her business, but when one of her regular nail customers - an 83-year-old woman - found out, she paid for her rent up-front! Going local is everything that online isn’t.”

Preparing for the future

When asked how brands could prepare for life after lockdown, Giorgia was able to give us insight from the countries who were already living in it: “What I would say to brands is hang in there! Every time our partners reopen, they get fully booked out. I can see that the future of the industry is more appointment-based.” Jules recommended authenticity would be key to brands succeeding post-lockdown: “I think what will really drive brands forward is integrity. People are looking for a bigger focus on ethical brands that they can really buy into.” Gloria also advocated for a focus on conscious consumption: ”Consumers should think of spending their money as a vote for a brand they believe in - one that’s sustainable whose story you believe in.” For Sarah, the best plan of action for an uncertain future is to be prepared, advice that doesn’t just apply to beauty businesses, but all businesses. “Be proactive,” she said, “Don’t sit around and wait for things to go back to the way they were, because they probably won’t go back to what you knew.”

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