Beauty trends: COVID-19

Evolving beauty consumer needs

With new circumstances comes new consumer demands that have yet to be met. While consumers still talk about beauty like they did before the pandemic, they’re also speaking about it in a new context. For some, beauty has taken on an expanded role in their lives—people are using it to find levity and normalcy amid the uncertainty. For others, spending more time on beauty is out of necessity, like having to cut their own hair and do their own nails because of closures. Regardless of how someone approaches beauty at this time, we’re finding people are connecting around this topic more than ever before.

It can be tempting to press pause on a campaign and wait to weather the storm. However, this is an opportune time to connect with your audience. Brands that are able to quickly adapt and meet consumer needs while they’re more attentive, engaged, and experimenting may see lower customer acquisition costs and a long-lasting boost in sales. 

You’re probably asking, “how do I do this?”. Understandably, creating content that toes the line between beneficial and out-of-touch can be challenging. Marketers are often given the general advice to “lead with empathy”—but what does this mean? For us, empathy means suspending your own viewpoint and doing your due diligence to understand what your audience is feeling. To help you do this, we uncovered what might be going on in the minds of the beauty consumer by looking at what they’re saying and doing online. Our hope is that this blog gives you data-driven inspiration and confidence to join the conversation.

Beauty shopping shifts online


The closing of non-essential businesses shifted purchase patterns across industries and the globe. With ~80% of beauty purchases made in stores pre-pandemic, the category was bound to get impacted. The NPD Group reported beauty sales posted a 58% decrease to date. On a positive note, consumers’ turn to e-commerce offers hope that the category could rebound. 

Shifting sales from offline to online channels is a trend we’re seeing unfold across markets impacted by COVID-19. For beauty, deeper category declines are staved off by online sales. The NPD Group reported online sales grew by 47%, capturing almost 90% of total industry sales. Common Thread Co reported similar results, they saw a 38% growth in beauty e-commerce sales. As consumers experience the benefits of buying beauty online and get accustomed to the online product assortment, they’re likely to continue this behaviour post-pandemic. Beauty brands are seeming to take notice and some have already adapted to meeting evolving consumer needs.

Some beauty brands have found ways to replicate the touch-and-feel experience of purchasing beauty care in person online. For example, Kiehl’s is launching virtual consultations and Glossier posted educational IGTV tutorials to enhance the online buying experience. Glow Recipe and Trestique have used video conferencing tools to host consumer events and foster meaningful interactions with the beauty community. These deeper means of online communication are likely to get positive reception, as consumers are more attentive and engaged online than ever before.

Consumers are spending more time online as they seek greater connectivity with the rest of the world while self-isolating. We’re seeing evidence of this in our #paid creator network—people are engaging with influencer content 2.5x more than they used to. While it can be daunting to join the conversation during times of uncertainty, there’s an open window of opportunity for brands to connect with beauty shoppers. We looked to what people are saying and doing online to uncover what may be going on in the minds of a beauty consumer. 

Beauty has taken on an expanded role indoors

As we’ve been stuck indoors, caring about beauty and one’s personal appearance may seem trivial. However, we’re seeing beauty still matters to people. Online beauty conversation saw a 30% uptick this past month. While baseline beauty conversation still exists—people are continuing to share tutorials, review products, and share inspiration—there are emerging conversation themes that suggest people are exploring other sides of beauty as they isolate. Here are 3 themes to give you inspiration on how to talk to beauty consumers:

  1. Experimental Beauty

With over 40% of North Americans reporting they’re working from home, consumers are taking this opportunity to experiment with bolder styles they can’t wear in the office. They’re also unafraid to try new products now that their peers can’t see the result of an unmatched foundation or a bad reaction to a skincare product. Experimenting with dramatic looks or new products isn’t just a fun distraction, but it can add levity during a bleaker newscycle. On Reddit, beauty buyers spoke about how they’re experimenting with beauty during self-isolation... 

With this newfound yearning to experiment, there’s likely more brand-switching at this time. If you’re a new brand, there's an opportunity to get into the consideration set of a consumer—especially if your product is easy to buy online. For other brands, stay in the minds of consumers. Communicate with your audience, particularly your most loyal customers, using channels that can foster authentic engagement and a stronger sense of community. 

  1. Using beauty to find normalcy during times of uncertainty



People are looking for normalcy amid the panic. For beauty, that means wearing lipstick or sticking to a morning skincare routine to feel grounded. While these rituals may seem frivolous, they can be important building blocks of someone’s psychological well-being. Over the past 3 months, there has been a 40% increase in people talking about beauty in tandem with their mental wellbeing. We looked to Reddit to uncover how people have turned to their beauty care routines to manage their sanity...  


While online beauty conversation is growing, more than half of this discussion is the same as usual—people are continuing to watch tutorials, review products, and look for inspiration. As brands think about their online strategy at this time, it’s important to remember that while our context has changed, consumer interests and need for beauty care hasn’t gone away. 

  1. Do-it-yourself


At week 1 of the pandemic, hand sanitizer and toilet paper were out-of-stocking across retailers. Now into week 5, Nielsen reported consumers are stockpiling nail clippers (+120%) and hair dye (+23%) as they’re both seeing double digit growth versus the same time last year. This finding is unsurprising with the closure of salons and parlours. Consumers have turned to Google to understand, “how to cut your own hair” or “how to do your own nails”. For beauty-related conversation on social media, there’s a 74% increase in the term “DIY” as people look for and share educational content. 

There’s an opportunity for brands to lean into consumers’ eagerness to learn and educate them on how to use their product to get a professional result. Poshly CEO Doreen Bloch found consumers are eager to get "actionable information" on how they can improve their beauty skills. This is especially important as we approach the new normal, where doing-it-yourself may become an ingrained habit. 

Thought starters for your strategy

Here’s a summary of thoughts to consider as you think about your brand’s path forward:

  • Make the switch from brick-and-mortar to online seamless for your consumers by building a virtual customer experience that offers the same benefits as in-person consultation and education
  • Consider using interactive virtual channels to find deeper engagement with your audience, like IGTV
  • Add positivity to your audience’s day by giving them inspirational content
  • Pressure-test and crowdsource content ideas by looking at what your consumers are talking about online and how they’re talking about it
  • Give consumers actionable information on how to improve their beauty skills and show them how they can achieve their desired results at home

Sources:

  1. The Beauty of Staying Home, NPD Group, April 7, 2020
  2. Online, public conversation (social media, forums, blogs), November 2019 - April 2020, English Only
  3. Google Search Trends, November 2019 - April 2020
  4. Coronavirus Ecommerce Data, Impact & Resources: COVID-19 Updates, Common Thread Co, April 7, 2020