Listen to Beauty 4.0 – A podcast by CosmeticsDesign-Europe

Retail expert: COVID-19 has ‘turbo-charged’ the digital beauty experience

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Beauty 4.0 Podcast by CosmeticsDesign-Europe speaks to Outform on beauty retail, AR, e-commerce and more

Related tags beauty 4.0 beauty retail e-commerce beauty tech shopper habits Consumer trends COVID-19

The future of beauty retail will see a unified commerce approach connecting online and offline that relies on data to provide highly tailored shopper journeys, experiences and products, says Simon Hathaway, EMEA MD of retail strategy agency Outform.

In CosmeticsDesign-Europe’s second Beauty 4.0 Podcast ​– a digital series looking at how technology and innovation will shape beauty’s future – we catch up with Simon Hathaway, EMEA managing director at shopper insights and retail strategy agency Outform. 

Simon Hathaway, EMEA MD, Outform
Simon Hathaway, EMEA MD, Outform

In this 25-minute podcast, Hathaway talks about how COVID-19 has transformed the way consumers expect to engage with beauty and how the sector might have to evolve in the coming months.

COVID-19 prompted ‘massive pivot’ towards technology

Speaking about the disruption that faced the beauty industry last year with COVID-19, Hathaway said: “We had a highly personal, very tactile industry up until the first lockdown (…) that’s had to massively, very quickly, transform to bring in new technologies and new ways of working and understanding what life would look like without the reliance on physical retail.”

With as much as 30% of physical beauty retail forced to shut down during lockdowns, he said industry took a “massive pivot towards technologies” ​and a “massive shift towards e-commerce”.

However, there were plenty of challenges associated with succeeding online and replicating the in-store shopper experience, he said.

Hathaway said given beauty was such a tactile industry, reliant on look, touch and smell, efforts had to be focused on achieving this digitally, though communicating fragrances remained the most challenging.

Digital beauty and data for more personalised engagements

One thing that had become clear over the last year with the COVID-19 crisis, he said, was the stark change that would continue to be seen across beauty retail. QR codes would be integrated into in-store models for touchless retail; Instagram reels shown in-store to personally engage with consumers, and much more.

What many of these digital technologies enabled, Hathaway said, was data collection that enabled brands and retailers to better tailor the shopper journey and build relationships with customers.

“Most retailers, and increasingly brands, are trying to build out a single customer view and that is really the key, big, important moment.”

However, consumers increasingly considered data exchange as a transaction – with many expecting plenty in return, notably a very personalised shopping experience and product assortment, he said.

Digital technologies will ‘reset expectations’ in beauty

Hathaway said the continued integration of digital tools like Augmented Reality (AR), virtual try-ons and changing rooms and QR codes would “reset expectations”​ amongst beauty consumers over time.

“We’re going to be living in this world where COVID-19 has massively turbo-charged that digital experience.”

For more detail on the direction beauty retail might take and how certain technologies and platforms will shape success and consumer behaviours, listen to our 25-minute podcast above or access our podcasts by subscribing via Apple Podcasts​ or finding us on Spotify​.

This podcast was recorded on January 8, 2021.

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