Can’t go to the office. Can’t go out to dinner. In some places, people are still discouraged from leaving the house. And in most cities, going out is contingent on wearing a face covering. With the go-to reasons to get dressed up taken away, will even makeup become a victim of the pandemic?
Not quite. As with most every retail category, there are cross-currents in the health and beauty space, and they extend to the cosmetics customer experience as well. Overall, makeup sales dipped 22 percent in Q1 compared to a year ago, according to NPD.
"With the stay-at-home order in effect since early March, there really isn't any need to apply makeup the way we were before," said Larissa Jensen, vice president and beauty industry analyst with market research firm NPD Group, in a report.
Jensen’s comments are certainly sensible, but other data show that despite the obstacles to (and reasons for) applying makeup, the category is maintaining some momentum. Of course, that momentum is online. According to retail tracking company Contentsquare, beauty websites saw a 12 percent jump in traffic and an 11 percent increase in purchases during the week before Mother’s Day. The beauty sector has seen steady growth since early April, according to the company. With 33 percent more global digital traffic during May compared to mid-February, transactions in the sector have more than doubled over the past two months.
“With so many countries going into lockdown and people being advised to stay home, it would be easy to assume that consumers aren’t going to worry about their morning beauty routines,” said Aimee Stone Munsell, CMO of Contentsquare, in a Premium Beauty News report. “In fact, the opposite is true. Consumers are focused on their personal well-being. Many are finding they have more time to devote to beauty and health goals than they’ve had for a while, and often these activities provide stress relief as well.”
The digital shift will dictate how cosmetics are shopped and purchased in several ways, according to Alice Kim, founder of D2C and retail cosmetics brand Elizabeth Mott.
“While there are plenty of benefits that come from shopping for makeup in a physical store, from being able to try out different shades to getting professional advice, it’s likely that there is going to be a huge shift from in-store experiences to those focused on online and virtual shopping experiences,” she said. “People likely won’t be using makeup testers again anytime soon, so in the short term – until there’s a vaccine or a cure – customer education will shift more to online experiences. For example, at Elizabeth Mott, we offer plenty of opportunities for people to get comfortable with our products before and even after the purchase decision. We are aggressively investing in creating educational video and blog content around our products and through search engine analytics, covering topics that are most searched on by customers.”
In addition, Elizabeth Mott has set up a $10,000 fund to hire virtual makeup artists to share their tips and tricks in videos, so that consumers at home will have an easier time with applications. The company also offers free returns so customers can try out a product risk-free and return it for a refund.
Kim believes marketing will change as a result of the pandemic as well.
“Since makeup is such a visual art, we find that it’s important to involve visual marketing,” she said. “We include images and videos that will help customers see how a certain product works before they go ahead and try it at home. We do before-and-after looks, and have color swatch pictures on different skin tones. We make sure to not only show how to use the product, but also work to create looks with other products. We show what the products look like on real people with real results, rather than models and actors.”
Kim also sees some new product trends on the horizon, including a new concern about ingredients and the environment.
“We hope that as a cruelty-free company, we start to see people choosing compassionate cosmetics as well,” she noted. “In 2020, we are also seeing a shift from people going bold to choosing neutral shades, because they aren’t going out anymore. Having a look that stands out is no longer as important as feeling good in your skin.”