CORONAVIRUS CLOSE-UP ANALYSIS PART II

Digital diligence: Beauty braced to bounce back from COVID-19, says expert

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Beauty has long been a leader in digital engagement and this puts the sector in good stead for recovery (Getty Images)
Beauty has long been a leader in digital engagement and this puts the sector in good stead for recovery (Getty Images)

Related tags: COVID-19, coronavirus, Beauty, digital, e-commerce, Consumer trends, Accenture

Beauty is one of the hardest-hit consumer categories in the ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but it will also likely bounce back fastest because of digital strengths, says an expert consultant.

Strategy and consulting firm Accenture said beauty, fashion and home décor had been the hardest-hit consumer goods categories during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that has seen nationwide lockdowns and business closures across many global markets.

Beauty has shown resilience

But, Oliver Wright, managing director and global lead on consumer goods and services at Accenture, said beauty would bounce back.

Oliver Wright, managing director and global lead on consumer goods and services at Accenture
Oliver Wright, managing director and global lead on consumer goods and services at Accenture

“What’s been interesting is that, in spite of the fact that beauty has been relatively negatively impacted, (…) beauty appears to be, because of the relative investment in industry and making changes in the way they work, somewhat more resilient,”​ Wright told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

“…I think [beauty] will recover better than it might otherwise have done because it’s led more on changes in ways of working: digital, consumer relationships and an ability to transmit that online experience better.”

This was particularly true for the larger pure beauty players – the likes of L’Oréal, Shiseido, Estée Lauder LVMH and Coty, he said. “They were prescient in some ways, making these investments. And it’s actually coming to bare to them in a positive way.”

Digital response and e-commerce relationships

Beauty is relatively advanced in its use of digital tools like AR and virtual try-ons and this will certainly accelerate, says Wright
Beauty is relatively advanced in its use of digital tools like AR and virtual try-ons and this will certainly accelerate, says Wright (Getty Images)

Even prior to COVID-19, Wright said beauty had largely driven digital advances and use of analytics “faster than the rest of industry” ​within consumer goods and services.

This meant beauty had been well-positioned to respond to challenges and changing consumer sentiments during the current crisis, he said, with more flexibility on business relationships in e-commerce – a category that had boomed during lockdowns.

“Clearly, the fact that beauty has been well set up for digital engagement is one of the things that has enabled it to weather the storm,”​ Wright said.

And in the short- to medium-term, he said beauty would continue to leverage these strengths and likely accelerate use of digital tools – the likes of virtual try-ons and augmented reality.

“The app I’m waiting to see is the beauty ModiFace add-on to Zoom where you can be on a conference call and it will be able to read your face and apply product so you can look better on the video call. I can tell you, that would be something super popular. There’s my creative challenge to industry.”

Defining business in a ‘substantially shifted’ consumer world

Moving on from immediate 'response' mode to the COVID-19 crisis, beauty now had to think about how it wanted to 'reset' for the future (Getty Images)
Moving on from immediate 'response' mode to the COVID-19 crisis, beauty now had to think about how it wanted to 'reset' for the future (Getty Images)

However, Wright said a more pressing focus for beauty manufacturers and brands now was on the coronavirus ‘resetting phase’ – a timeframe where industry ought to think about how it wanted to define itself in the future.

“The consumer world is going to be quite substantially shifted and this is an opportunity. Where the relationships we’ve got are what I would describe as ‘in a bit of cement’, there’s an ability to redefine and accelerate some of the things [companies] know they can do,”​ he said.

Understanding exactly how the ongoing coronavirus had, so far, impacted consumer thinking and behaviour – covered in Part I of our interview with Wright​ – would prove vital in the coming weeks, months and even years ahead, he said.

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