US eCommerce

The face that launched a thousand clicks


Alison Wiltshire


September 16, 2020

Self-care is the watchword for today’s beauty consumer. People are prioritizing wellness and clean beauty. They’re turning to do-it-yourself treatments, investing in devices such as facial steamers.

Leonard Lauder, chairman of Estée Lauder in 2001 first described it as the ‘lipstick index’: when times are tough, people treat themselves and a new lipstick is an affordable feel-good purchase. Now that we’re all spending more time at home and wearing masks when we’re out, it’s been updated to the ‘moisturizer index’, with skincare a priority for all those Zoom calls.

Self-care is the watchword for today’s beauty consumer. People are prioritizing wellness and clean beauty. They’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 favorite beauty products online for the first time. Big beauty brands have embraced this opportunity to fast track digital transformation programs 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.  In July, L’Oréal announced an ‘aggressive plan of new product launches’ and advertising campaign. Estee Lauder’s online business delivered nearly triple-digit organic sales growth in its fourth quarter and 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.
  • Ulta’s GLAMlab tool lets shoppers virtually sample more than 4,000 products. 
  • 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.

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. The purpose of social proof messages is to 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 to  improve conversion rates and lift sales on the way).

The holiday season 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. 

The beauty sector has been extraordinarily resilient over the decades, with sales holding up through economic downturns and recession. Digital innovation will ensure that trend continues. 

Register now for our webinar Bringing the Beauty Counter online: how to create a great digital experience, Thursday 8 October 2020 9am-10am EST (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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