Beauty brands and retailers must be prepared to embrace new consumer behaviors shaped by COVID-19’s impact on how we shop. While there is no Magic 8 Ball to predict all of the changes, it is likely the beauty industry will see three significant changes that need to be approached with digital transformation: increased comfort with shopping online for beauty and grooming purchases, heightened hygiene concerns about trying makeup on in-store, and expectations for trustworthy and reliable digital shopping experiences. How brands and retailers respond to these shifts with consumer-centric technology will ensure consumers find the right products for themselves and help businesses remain successful.
From augmented reality (AR) for trying lip colors from the comfort of the couch to using artificial intelligence (AI) to match skin tone to foundations, the leaders in the beauty industry are known for adopting new technologies to help their shoppers. It has served them well, but as we face new challenges in consumer behavior, there is more to be done to help consumers. It’s more important than ever for brands and retailers to increase focus on making it as simple as possible for consumers to identify the right products as well as be seen as trustworthy and easy to purchase from.
Comfort with E-Commerce
According to our research, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 67% of consumers said brands need to do more to guide their purchase decisions online, and they preferred visiting a physical store to decide on a purchase. They are accustomed to the in-store experience of expert support and guidance from sales associates, an experience that has not been replicated online by the majority of brands and retailers. Shopping online should not mean consumers don’t receive similar guidance and assistance they received in-store.
After months of relying solely on e-commerce to purchase products, they will have adapted and found the brands and retailers who provided a stress-free shopping experience that addressed their individual needs with questions and answers to make finding the right beauty product for them with ease and speed. Those will be the businesses they will continue to purchase from and expect others to have an enhanced experience.
Heightened Hygiene Concerns
After months of social distancing, wearing gloves and face masks when leaving the house, it is unlikely beauty shoppers will test out products as they did pre-COVID-19. Going into a store and testing a lipstick or foundation will be met with concerns of the spread of germs. Brands and retailers in the beauty industry need to be prepared with new ways to provide guidance and support to their consumers as this shift is inevitable. This can feel particularly challenging because purchasing beauty products is both an emotional and physical experience — beauty shoppers react to the texture, color and overall feel of the product.
It is possible to remedy this; brands like Moroccan Oil and L’Oréal guide their shoppers through needs-based questions and answers to find the right products for their individual needs and unique hair and skin criteria. By combining the expertise of a skin or hair care professional with a straightforward, guided digital experience, their consumers can be confident in purchasing from them online without hygiene concern.
Building Back Trust
Consider two factors: The average e-commerce return rate is 20%, and prior to COVID-19, 40% of consumers were willing to spend more than 30 minutes searching for the right products online. Neither of these factors are sustainable for businesses or consumers. Beauty shoppers are even more discerning, as they have unique needs and criteria for their purchases. They need to know what they are purchasing is the right for their needs, whether it’s a moisturizer or a hair regimen, because one wrong ingredient could cause allergic reactions or damage hair and skin.
The beauty industry’s ability to provide a trustworthy and reliable shopping experience to consumers at any time requires businesses to recognize they cannot rely solely on their current customer service infrastructure to support consumers at any time of day. Conversational search instills confidence in a time of uncertainty by providing individual guidance and assistance at any time without worry about customer service being inundated with requests and inquiries.
Above all, brands and retailers must think digitally first and consider what shifts in consumer behavior will have a lasting impact on the beauty industry. The businesses who adapt and take a more consumer-centric approach focused on guidance and support on digital channels will become preferred to consumers, as they have taken a time of uncertainty to transform and adapt to new consumer realities.