Beauty retail 2021: Digital convenience and holistic experiences to soar, says expert

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

On-demand platforms and delivery intermediaries have soared in retail due to COVID-19, with many beauty brands and retailers already jumping aboard and sure to continue(Getty Images)
On-demand platforms and delivery intermediaries have soared in retail due to COVID-19, with many beauty brands and retailers already jumping aboard and sure to continue(Getty Images)

Related tags: retail, Edge by Ascential, COVID-19, Consumer trends, trends, 2021, ecommerce, wellness

Convenience has surged to the forefront of shopping priorities in health and beauty as lockdown measures and social distancing continue during COVID-19, but opportunities remain to offer something beyond the traditional product assortment, says a senior analyst at Edge by Ascential.

Back in April 2020, e-commerce strategy specialist Edge by Ascential said the ongoing COVID-19 crisis had created a seismic shift in shopping habits worldwide​, with beauty bearing a significant brunt of this shopper shake-up. So, after a year largely defined by the continued crisis, what did beauty look like today? And how had consumer priorities evolved within the category?

‘Speed and convenience’ now a priority in health and beauty

Florence Wright, senior retail analyst at Edge by Ascential, said a notable and lasting shift in consumer needs and behaviours due to COVID-19 related to convenience.

“With lockdown restrictions and increased social distancing, consumers have prioritised speed and convenience over other aspects such as experience or choice,”​ Wright told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

On-demand platforms, delivery intermediaries and digital offerings had surged in the last year across all of retail, she said, including health and beauty, she said. Sephora, for example, had launched on Instacart; L’Oréal Paris now offered a digital makeup line; Shiseido had opened a virtual flagship store in Tokyo and Estee Lauder had unveiled an AI-powered skin care ‘chatbox’ on WhatsApp.

“We can expect this innovation to continue across more retailers and brands, with opportunities to build on this in 2021,”​ Wright said.

Importantly, many of these digital initiatives aligned well with current beauty shopping habits that were likely to stick and morph into longer-lasting habits, she said. But what this meant was that consumer expectations around “convenience and speed”​ would also surge, she said.

Beauty retail – 'added-value experiences' and wellness focus 

Beyond convenience, Wright said a sharper focus on beauty wellness and holistic health, specifically added-value services and experiences, would also prove especially valuable this year for retailers and brands alike.

“There is a growing need and opportunity for brands to support their retail partners in creating added-value experiences, both in-store and online. …This is an area where retailers will really look to develop in 2021 because it can support more profitable revenue streams,” ​she said.

But, how exactly might the wellness and holistic health trend evolve and present itself in beauty over the coming months?

“COVID-19 pushed health and wellness to the forefront of consumers’ minds in 2020. Consumers are taking a more proactive approach to their lifestyles and health, with a growing emphasis on aspects such as immunity, hygiene and fitness,”​ Wright said.

“…Coming out of COVID-19, we can expect a continued and increased focus on areas such as immunity and hygiene, but I would also expect an increased emphasis towards remedies, with products and experiences that help sooth consumers.”

Andrew McDougall, associate director of global beauty and personal care at Mintel, previously told CosmeticsDesign-Europe the future would feature total wellness as integral to beauty routines​, as consumers actively sought out products that could be considered a “companion”.

In particular, products that targeted “mind-body-spirit connectedness” ​would flourish, McDougall said.

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