The New Beauty EquationInterviews
Audrey Roulin, Beauty Director at NellyRodi, shares her vision of today’s beauty sector characterized by the massification of niche markets, the prevalence of emotion in online presence and the advent of conversational brands.
Which consumer attitudes are prompting beauty companies to change their modus operandi?
The longtime objective of the cosmetics industry was to reach as many consumers as possible via a given product. It relied on “dream appeal” based on a fantasized representation of reality, perfect asperities and elements of brand discourse featuring a single magic formula that, overall, suited most customers.
Today, the industry is still expected to embody and inspire dreams, but the dreams have changed. In this day and age of horizontality, consumers want to find themselves, be themselves and have their specificities recognized.
One element indicative of this paradigm shift, even more than transparency, is the wild ascension of access to information. Reacting to health and food crises, consumers have gradually morphed into “prosumers”. Digital-savvy, they are very well informed, proactive and aware of the power of their criticism of brands and their claims.
Another aspiration is more down to earth. Consumers want a seamless, friction-free experience. Today, brands must deal with a more demanding public for whom waiting is inconceivableand who – now more than ever – expect a return on investment (ROI) and who are ready to spend more if it means saving time.
These two factors underlie the new consumer expectations visible in the beauty sector. Driven by their need to understand and be informed, consumers are seeking effective formulas with palpable results and a path to purchase that fully integrates the fluidity of current behaviors.
How can brands adapt their market offer and value chain to the new status quo?
First of all, they need to do their homework by listening attentively. This is the first and vital step in developing a product or service able to meet – or exceed! – customer expectations.
The industry needs to change how it thinks. Instead of taking a product-oriented perspective, it needs to adapt to more segmented uses. A case in point is Typology’s Woman line, which consists of four different serums corresponding to the four weeks of the menstrual cycle.
With the massification of niche markets, value added will depend on whether or not a brand listens to consumers, is familiar with their lifestyle and understands when, how and why they would use a particular product.
Another efficient lever is to showcase brand expertise, highlighting the art and magic involved at different stages of product creation and production. By offering glimpses into their backstage, brands can meet current consumer demand for inclusion and community.
More generally, perceptions of the relationship between business, sales and engagement have changed. Brands are expected to be less consensual – as we have seen in recent decades – and offer strong concepts for formulas, packaging and storytelling that will form the basis for eliciting consumer engagement.
Digital is a real game changer for the beauty business. What new practices are being used to create engagement, adhesion and coherence?
The social mediahavegone conversationalin a big way and this new context is a gold mine for testing and learning. These platforms can be seen as the world’s best – and most easily accessed – focus group!What’s really exciting is that they allow consumers to discuss brands independently and with no filter. It’s a fabulous source of insights into consumer expectations and market opportunities.
Digital has also become a major vehicle for advocating brand vision. At a time when Instagram’s emotional pull is widely acknowledged, digital should no longer be envisaged only after the product development process is over, but through the prism of 360-degree brand activation. It serves to create desirability, proximity and adhesion by communicating the “how and why” of ingredients and products by providing specifics (e.g. about product texture).
More broadly, digital should be perceived as a vector for education, a horizontal field on which any entity of any size can hope to emerge.
What will the beauty customer experience be like tomorrow?
In Europe, the sector is not yet on board with experiential strategies. In my opinion, this is not only a matter of resourcesbut also of a #mindset that has trouble getting beyond a mental representation of the transaction.
The levers are there, especially various less-ROI-oriented propositions for testing, personalization and the retail path to purchase (e.g. SKII in Shanghai), but brands need to focus on the overall customer experience to generate adhesion. They can start by introducing simple practices to include the customer – before, during and after purchase – in the development of the brand value proposition.
While these considerations are valid in other sectors as well, the #care lever is specific to beauty. The idea is to better care for customers as individuals, thank them, attend to their feedback, take the time to recognize them and develop elements that will create an overallrelationship likely to generate engagement.
For further information, consult our study (RE)THINK BEAUTY