Beauty Brands Respond to Industry’s Pivotal Moment

Image used for illustrative purposes only

The economy is experiencing the profound effects of the lockdown brought about by the pandemic. Almost every industry is facing unprecedented challenges. The beauty industry is not immune and in India, given the fact that the industry is a lot unorganized, the challenges are more pronounced. The Beauty retail landscape is uncertain, salon services are erratic or being put on indefinite hold and consumers are in no mood to indulge. How can beauty brands ride out of this unprecedented situation? 

 One thing is certain. The world has permanently changed, and our habits as a society have been impacted. The Pandemic has changed the way a consumer interacts with the brand and vice versa. If you think ‘things will be back to normal, you’ll be waiting for a very long time indeed. In the ‘New Normal’, we are dealing with drastically shifted consumer behavior. It may take longer to get them into the same pre-pandemic mindset. Hence Brands will have to get exceptional creative on connecting with their community – in terms of marketing and distribution. 

The consumer will spend with caution

Loss of pay, loss of jobs, businesses shutting down have all impacted the consumer negatively. We are staring at a recession and the financial status of the consumer may not alter soon. The consumer has less money in her pocket. Hence we may see her switch to cheaper brands to save some money. This switch may be permanent and she may not go back ever to the brands she bought pre-pandemic. She has to be lured with cheaper variants, smaller sizes packaging, single-use sachets to retain her loyalty. Keeping this in mind, some brands have kept up their engagement with their consumers by adding hand sanitizers and hand wash to their product portfolios. 

Image for illustration purpose only.

Need for speed

The world has changed quickly. For the digital native, products are expected to go from the concept to her home in a couple of months. Brands are expected to continuously innovate. This was so, even before the pandemic, but now the need for speed is even greater. To accelerate innovations, Brands could work closely with their contract manufacturers to develop products and collaborate with distribution channels through data sharing.

A shift in distribution channels

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have kept the consumer away from the brick and mortar retailer. They have increasingly turned to online channels to purchase.  Hence marketers have had to pay more attention to e-commerce and digital initiatives. The present crisis has prompted brands to relook at the traditional wholesaler approach and consider an omnichannel one. During the lockdown, some brands explored alternative distribution channels. At least one FMCG major made an effort to deliver products directly to consumers at home through hyper-local delivery companies and yet another through housing society tie-ups. The pandemic crisis has encouraged brands to think out of the box and introduce new channels of distribution. It is yet to be seen if these new channels survive or thrive.

Digital Transformation

The pandemic has transformed the way consumers discover shop and use beauty brands. Just after the first week of lockdown, consumers were seeking to connect and engage with their favorite brands over social media.  The increased use of E-Commerce and social media all through the lockdown has inspired marketing professionals to closely look at their digital efforts to boost their brand’s visibility, increase sales, and build brand loyalty. Brands observed how consumers were excited to find out about new trends on TikTok, engage with brand founders on Instagram, and eager to shop. Even those who were wary of shopping online before were ready to do so now. Brands could take advantage of this craze for social media by using the undeniable power of the beauty vlogger and influencers to reach out to their consumer. The brands could use their social media accounts to listen to the customer and engage with her regularly. Social media can also be used creatively to build communities around the brand. Research shows that when brands deliver messages that align with the crisis, they are looked at favorably and rewarded with loyalty and many brands did just that. The online activity during this period has never been higher inspiring brands that refused to sell on online channels to succumb and start selling on them.

Redesigning product portfolios

With hygiene being the focus segment, naturally, the personal care/wash segment has been the biggest gainer. But skincare has also shown a significant increase. Experts attribute this trend to three factors – the first one being the need to repair the damage to face and hands caused by constant washing, the increased use of video calling requiring fresh looking skin, and availability of time for elaborate skin regimes. Some brands are therefore adding related categories of skin-care products such as hand creams, lotions, masks, night creams to their product portfolio. Brands are also considering adding products like immunity boosters, sleep enhancers, and similar wellness products to their product mix. Another case in point is the make-up segment. With the usage of masks being mandatory in offices and public spaces, the consumer may reduce the use of lipsticks. Hence eye makeup including lashes and mascara may see increased interest. The consumer is expected to decrease visits to Salons, Spas, and Clinics fearing the risk of infection. Social distancing norms too will discourage these visits. Hence Self-care products and D-I-Y products are expected to sell well. Brands are advised to revisit their portfolios, studying the line-up and thereby adding or subtracting products as desired.

EQ is important

The pandemic has slowed our lives down. We have started reassessing our priorities. Consumers are shaken. Many are going through a lot of emotional and financial stress. Brands should, therefore, demonstrate empathy, humanity, care, and authenticity. Connect with your consumer on a personal emotional level addressing their concerns. Be sensitive. They are not in a mood for fashion shows, red carpets, luxury hotels, and exotic vacations. Beauty isn’t about looking attractive and sexy anymore. It is about feeling good and loving the self. Brands should reflect this philosophy to stay relevant in their consumer’s hearts. 

The Beauty industry has responded positively to the extraordinary crisis. Factories have switched their manufacturing to produce hand sanitizers and cleaning agents. Brands have contributed generously to the community. They have proactively listened to the consumer and designed for her needs then and now. Now, how well the consumer responds to the industry’s initiatives needs to be seen.

Author : Sheela Iyer

Sheela Iyer is an observer of the Indian Cosmetics & personal care industry and the editor of ‘Cosmetech’. She regularly video interviews industry experts on Cosmetech TV and has her fortnightly podcast ‘Cosmetics Today’

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