Back in April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic truly started to take hold, experts noted seismic shifts in consumer behaviours – how they selected and shopped for items and what sort of qualities they prioritised with their spend. Oliver Wright, managing director and global lead on consumer goods and services at corporate consultancy firm Accenture, defined the crisis back then as a ‘black swan event’ in consumer trend terms; one that would shape consumer trends for the next decade.
Almost one year on, CosmeticsDesign-Europe caught up with Wright again to find out what crucial consumer patterns had emerged since April, and how these were likely to impact beauty industry opportunities moving forward.
Seismic living shifts – less office time, more home time
Wright said that the last ten months had shown an almighty shift in the work-life balance of consumers worldwide, which inevitably held consequences for consumption patterns.
“None of the companies I’ve spoken to in consumer goods industries have said they expect to go back into an office in a normal set up,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean people are never going back into an office; what it does mean is how we think about work design, the role of the office – that will change.”
Few companies were planning for entire teams to return to a full-time office environment, he said, with most instead planning staggered returns or smaller spaces for select employees.
“What that’s going to mean is the role of the home is going to be a much, much stronger feature over the next decade.”
“…We hadn’t expected to see that level of enduring focus on the home 12 or so months ago,” he said.
So, what did this renewed home focus mean for beauty and personal care?
Bringing beauty activities into the home – making the ‘biggest, boldest moves’
“What we’re seeing practically, is that as soon as you move to a model where you’re working much more from home, what people seem to be doing is extending their working day but weaving in social activities into the middle of that day, which can obviously include things in beauty. They’ll see that as a much more integrated part of work and life,” Wright said.
For beauty, he said this could see consumers increasingly integrating treatments and use of products more fluidly into their working days and weeks, or using services that were much closer to home, he said. “We’re having more conversations with people about the range of services they can access locally.”
This increased consumer time at home, Wright said, presented significant opportunity for beauty to continue its innovative foray into all-things-digital, including wider e-commerce presence, subscription models and smart home-delivery offerings.
And this was a space beauty could play well in, he said.
“If you think about [beauty and personal care], it’s the group that’s most clear about the need to transform and change the ways in which they operate. So, they will clearly be at the front end of a broader digital and tech investment, relative to the rest of the [consumer goods] industry. I think they’ll make the biggest, boldest moves.”
Beauty is a ‘high engagement’ category suited to digital advances
Wright said beauty would continue to fare well in a newly carved out digital consumer world, centred around more time spent at the home, because it was a “very high engagement category” and, for the most part, relatively low cost which enabled consumers to sample a range of products.
Within this, digital, social and peer selling models would continue to work well and become more central to post-COVID success, he said.
However, the “fusion of physical and digital” would also remain critical in the longer-term for beauty businesses, he said.
“I think we’re going to see a really interesting explosion in the degree to which [companies] are trying to drive a much stronger sense of value-added high street visit to beauty locations. And I think there will also be a desire to use technology in that, to provide a science-driven answer to beauty.”
The COVID-19 crisis, Wright said, had “legitimised the importance of science” – driving it more and more mainstream for consumers – which would filter down to expectations within cosmetics and personal care.
“This idea of precision beauty is something that will emerge, and it will be partly done through creating stronger guidance and experiences in store, but it will also be about what [consumers] can do in the home,” he said.
*For an in-depth look at how the rise of sustainability concerns will hit in two waves, read Part II of our feature with Oliver Wright.