Screen test - Creating the virtual beauty counter


Marjorie Leonidas


September 16, 2020

The days of putting on mascara and lippy while commuting to work are gone forever. We’re all super-conscious of hygiene when we’re out now. Today’s beauty mantra is self-care. People are prioritising wellness and clean beauty.

The days of putting on mascara and lippy while commuting to work are gone forever. We’re all super-conscious of hygiene when we’re out now. And who needs lipstick when you’re wearing a mask? But feeling good, looking good matter more than ever right now and cosmetics, fragrance and personal care all contribute to mental and physical wellbeing. And they’re affordable treats.

Today’s beauty mantra is self-care. People are prioritising wellness and clean beauty. We’re turning to do-it-yourself treatments, investing in devices such as facial steamers. Sustainability – of products and packaging – is even more important for many shoppers.  Industry commentator Clare Varga expects consumers will ‘buy less but better’, choosing brands with purpose and authenticity. And of course, they’ll increasingly buy them online.

The impact of #WFH, mask wearing, ongoing social distancing and ‘no touching’ on the beauty industry is undeniable. Historically, 85 per cent of beauty purchases have been made in store and McKinsey has estimated that global revenues could fall by up to 30%.  On the upside, it’s also something of a tipping point, with many consumers buying their favourite beauty products online for the first time. WWD reports that Estée Lauder and L'Oréal both generated more than 20 per cent of net sales from eCommerce for the quarter ending June 2020.

Big beauty brands have embraced this opportunity to accelerate digital transformation programmes and take the beauty counter to the customer.  L’Oreal CEO Jean-Paul Agon says he expects online to account for as much as 30 per cent of sales as the group emerges from the crisis, with no regression to pre-pandemic levels.  Jane Hertzmark Hudis, Estee Lauder’s first female executive group president, has set out her mission to remake the company into a “digitally empowered beauty powerhouse”.

There’s a rich and innovative set of digital tools for brands and retailers to deploy as they seek new ways to connect with customers. Virtual sampling tools let customers try on products for lips and eyes, skin and hair. Online consultations and social media events replicate the feel of the store experience.

  • L’Oreal’s ModiFace augmented reality technology is behind the company’s range of digital services.
  • Estee Lauder’s virtual try on ‘Lip Service’ uses the camera on your phone or tablet to let you try lipstick shades on your own face.
  • Bobbi Brown offers complimentary individual or group online video tutorials with its make-up artists. 
  • Online booking tools and video services have helped Space NK experience 360 per cent increase in makeup-related queries.
  • Boots will be using its digital platform to launch its latest No. 7 products

Social proof is another digital tool that can add real value to the digital beauty counter experience, by aggregating the opinions of other buyers and delivering a flow of relevant messages to each customer. It’s another type of influencer, working on the psychological principle that we’re all influenced by others and are more likely to purchase an item if we think people like us have bought it. 

For brands and retailers, social proof messaging can support consumers at every step of their online journey and help them make informed purchasing decisions. It’s ideal for the virtual beauty counter, guiding and reassuring customers and creating a strong sense that they are part of the brand community. (Not to mention helping improve conversion rates and lift sales on the way).

The Christmas holidays will soon be upon us (hooray!). For millions of beauty-loving customers, it will be a welcome opportunity to treat themselves and to make up. Plus there’s all that gift-buying to be done. It will never have been more important for beauty brands and retailers to give their customers a positive digital experience. Adding social proof messaging to the customer journey is a powerful (and low risk) way to achieve that. 

Register now for our webinar ‘Bringing the Beauty Counter online: how to create a great digital experience’ Thursday 8 October 2020 2pm – 3pm BST to hear more about how digital innovation is helping to re-create the beauty counter experience online and encourage customers to try and buy with confidence.

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