Beauty becomes a digital beast

Discussion
Source: e.l.f. Virtual Try-On
Jul 30, 2020
Patricia Vekich Waldron

Beauty and self-care are famously fickle categories where sales have traditionally been dependent on high-touch, personalized experiences in retail stores (think Macy’s, Ulta, et al).  Even so, online sales in these categories, particularly self-care products, have soared during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many consumers have taken the direct route, purchasing from brands online for the first time. Ekta Chopra, VP, digital for e.l.f. Cosmetics revealed earlier this week at the eTail Virtual Summit that more than 60 percent of its online customers during the pandemic have been first-time visitors to the brand’s site.

Beauty becomes a digital beast
Source: e.l.f. Virtual Try-On

Now that stores are reopening again — but without the samples and testers that shoppers rely upon during the buying process — digital engagement continues to be super important. Digital executives on the online conference shared details on techniques and tools for communication, education, personalization and community connection for customers, store associates and brand teams. These included:

  • Surveys: Bethany McDaniel, founder of Primally Pure, said her company uses Google Surveys to get real-time feedback from customers, and during the pandemic it has seen a significant increase in responses (no surprise). This insight was valuable in identifying consumer needs, shaping brand messages and creating new content.
  • Online Quizzes: Astral Health and Beauty (Aloette, butter London, Cosmedix, Pur) uses an interactive Q&A to educate and engage visitors, helping them select products from skin care to deodorants, according to Christine Monaghan, VP, digital for the company.
  • Augmented Reality Tech: It’s been said that timing is everything and e.l.f. proved the adage when it launched its Virtual Try On makeup AR app at the beginning of March.  It’s available as a mobile app as well and has delivered a very high conversion rate for e.l.f. by guiding consumers to select the right look and products.
  • Social Media: Astral is leveraging Facebook posts, YouTube tutorials and video chats to educate and connect with store associates and customers as well as receive real-time feedback.  For e.l.f., its social efforts have refocused digital marketing funds, channels, messages and content on education to address top of the funnel (new) visitors.
  • Community: Primally Pure launched a 14-day Gua Sha Challenge that resulted in a 400 percent sales increase for the line and generated lots of social media coverage. For those not in the know, gua sha is an ancient healing technique within traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that rejuvenates the skin.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect digital engagement to continue to grow as a factor in the sales of beauty and self-care products as stores reopen? Are the lessons from the use of digital technology by beauty and self-care brands during the pandemic transferable to other product categories?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
" Those brands that are not looking at these methods to interact with their consumers are completely missing a big opportunity to grow their business."
"How often have we seen a shift to digital revert back to physical? Rarely is this a pendulum swing; it is more often a constant evolution."
"Like so many things, it all depends on whether or not we develop an effective, broadly distributed COVID-19 vaccine."

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Beauty becomes a digital beast"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The technology works and people will use it. That said, there is also the experience of going to a store and talking to a professional – and having the in-store treatment. There will still be a place for that. As we put the pandemic in our rearview mirrors, retailers will have to adjust to a balance between the digital and in-store habits of customers. Keep in mind, regardless of the pandemic, we were headed toward more digital anyway. It’s just that the pandemic forced us to move into the future at an accelerated rate. In five months we have moved five years into the future of digital.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

The pandemic has caused a major shift in the way we apply technology in customer engagement. For years, the prevalent approach was to have technology support the in-store selling process by empowering the sales person with more tools and access to data. The store closures have forced a pivot in which to concentrate technology’s utility. Go to where the customer is located, not where you wish they were. This pivot is perfectly demonstrated in the notion that “beauty becomes a digital beast.” It is a beast that adapted beautifully to the exigencies of the moment and will make this category even more attractive with demand growth that will include both physical stores and online sales.

Ryan Grogman
BrainTrust

For many beauty product consumers, nothing will replace the in-person experience of product testing, application and consultation. However the shift to digital was already underway prior to the pandemic and, like many services which have seen tremendous advances due to in-store declines, the market for beauty products has seen its online browsing and purchasing increase at an accelerated pace. The exponential rate of growth will likely slow once stores reopen and customers feel safe to shop again for beauty products, but as brands and online outlets continue to creatively use technology to curate a personalized digital experience, the shift towards online will certainly not abate.

Stephen Rector
BrainTrust

Digital interaction will 100 percent continue to grow in the beauty/self-care world. This is the future of the industry. Those brands that are not looking at these methods to interact with their consumers are completely missing a big opportunity to grow their business.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Yes Patricia, these great digital efforts have proven to be compelling for consumers to leverage and that will not decrease as stores reopen. The simple convenience and relevant promotions of these programs drives revenue.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

The key factor I’d be watching for in beauty is whether/when customers again become comfortable with testers and with up close and personal engagement with the beauty reps.

I am concerned that we will find a caution among consumers which will last far longer than the pandemic — leading former beauty sales methods to continue to struggle.

Can digital replace these? Not for the very long term. But it will be more critical than normal for the next one to five years.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Like so many things, it all depends on whether or not we develop an effective, broadly distributed COVID-19 vaccine. If physical stores can reopen and demo and sampling stations can go back into business, who knows? Some customers will be digital converts and stay online, others will want to be pampered and will switch back to stores. Only time will tell. That said, yes, the recent experiences in beauty and self-care have a great deal to teach other categories from fashion to grocery.

Mary Henslee
Guest
16 days 3 hours ago

Beauty is very much influenced by social media, and the quality of digital technology will continue to improve the online try-on experience. So digital engagement will definitely continue in this category, even though many shoppers will also return to in-person shopping. Customers will probably continue to be leery of using testers even after a vaccine and other virus control measures have been achieved, but new methods and technology will be developed to make in-store sampling once again feel safe.

Casey Craig
Guest

We expect that retailers will substantially increase their already planned investments in their digital platforms, and we expect shoppers will continue to find new ways to engage with the products through these digital components. Other industries can learn from the beauty industry’s investment in personalization technology — like apps that allow you to try on makeup digitally before you buy it. Customization is continuing to be one of the biggest trends in retail. Additionally, technology can help consumers sort through an overwhelming number of choices by recommending specific products based on a shopper’s personal interests and previous purchases.

Shikha Jain
BrainTrust

The short answer is yes. Shoppers have become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping (any time, any place), and the technologies that facilitate it are always improving especially augmented reality in an industry that is highly try before you buy based. The in-person consultation experience is what fosters trust and brand loyalty, and it will become less and less relevant as more beauty companies enable these relationships online. The trick to success will be building connections in a virtual environment.

There will be a bit of a whiplash effect for consumers around in-store shopping for some time — many will maintain caution around physical touch aspects. This goes for any industry where sales traditionally rely on high-touch shopping, from furniture to apparel and beyond, and these categories would do well to take a cue from beauty. The trend should be somewhat predictable: how often have we seen a shift to digital revert back to physical? Rarely is this a pendulum swing; it is more often a constant evolution.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
" Those brands that are not looking at these methods to interact with their consumers are completely missing a big opportunity to grow their business."
"How often have we seen a shift to digital revert back to physical? Rarely is this a pendulum swing; it is more often a constant evolution."
"Like so many things, it all depends on whether or not we develop an effective, broadly distributed COVID-19 vaccine."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is digital engagement to continue to grow as a factor in the sales of beauty and self-care products as stores reopen?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...