It’s impossible to ignore the impact the pandemic has had on consumer trends in the beauty industry, so maybe it’s time we embraced them? We chatted to Sumit Chopra, Director of Research Analysis at Globaldata and speaker at in-cosmetics Korea 2021, about what the research is telling us about the changes in consumer behaviour.
When we look at the impact of technology on the cosmetics industry, it’s hard to ignore social media as one of the biggest disruptors. How have you seen consumer habits change due to social media?
Social media is a great tool for brands to check in on consumers. The pervasion of social media has made the brand-customer relationship a more casual and informal bond than it traditionally was. Consumers are now encouraged to expect more content than product advertising. Demands for authenticity mean potential customers look for values that can be identified through corporate social responsibility and social media.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis that has amplified the benefits of communication in the digital age. With the adverse effects including tolls on mental health and unemployment, brands are having to navigate their approach to consumers who are undergoing drastic changes to their lifestyles and purchasing habits.
When it comes to issues around social injustice and immigration, for example, we have seen brands use social media to announce initiatives and donations. Consumer desire for authenticity means there is significant brand perception online to support direct customer engagement.
At the same time, the pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for brands to show leadership, so much so that according to GlobalData’s 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Week 5 Consumer Survey, a fifth of consumers desire brands that create “general entertainment to distract me.” This suggests that in a time of crisis, a significant number of consumers look to their favourite brands for semblances of comfort.
Quarantine, shielding, and working from home has led consumers to feel a major detachment from their social circles. Brands should, therefore, be using social media to create unique content to adapt to these new at-home consumption behaviours. Live streaming, virtual events, and online tutorials have gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic and given brands a further opportunity to express themselves and engage with consumers.
Social media is helping brands connect with audiences in a way that traditional focus groups cannot. This is particularly important as almost a quarter (24%) of global consumers intend to spend slightly/significantly more time on social media than before, according to GlobalData’s 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Week 3 Consumer Survey.
Technological advancements have empowered brands to use social media to fuel their qualitative research. Through the analysis of social data, brands can benefit from giving users the freedom to express their unfettered opinions about brands and products in a more organic setting. There are inherent flaws that come with participating in a controlled environment, for example, just knowing they are part of a focus group can impact on peoples’ subconscious candidness.
Social media’s ability to directly connect brands with consumers is becoming further entrenched in B2C relationships. Retailers will continue to lose their positioning as the pivot between brands and consumers since social distancing has encouraged online shopping. Brands can now send products directly to consumers and ask them to share their feedback with a review post on their social media channels. By compiling how influencers’ followers react, the brand can gain authentic insights from the content performance at a granular level. Brands should seek to tap into the power of social media to assist strategic decisions and optimize their return on investment.
A.I. has become an important tool for cosmetics brands, particularly recently. How has innovation in this area changed the consumer experience for the better?
During the lockdown, beauty retail brands were under constant pressure to create new ways of reaching their target audiences, mostly through digital solutions. In order to stand out from the competition, brands are looking at digital platforms such as smartphone applications, individual websites, virtual reality (VR)/ augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle the new lifestyle norms under the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to GlobalData Consumer Survey 2020 week-10, almost 60% of consumers are being influenced by how digitally advanced/”smart” the product is while purchasing beauty & grooming products. Simultaneously, consumers globally are gradually making more purchases online and are getting used to more digitally centred lifestyles, becoming reliant on digital platforms as the lockdown continues.
VR solutions are proving to be an attractive option in beauty retail, as they can recreate a familiar setting, especially for those who are most vulnerable. Meanwhile, smart apps and websites show an opportunity to target digital-savvy consumers who are looking for convenience in their shopping experience.
Technology has always been an important part of the cosmetics and personal care industry, but do you think the effects of the pandemic have led to more companies investing in these areas?
Yes, we couldn’t predict that the COVID-19 pandemic would illuminate the potential and benefits of technologies such as AI, AR, and VR.
Due to quarantines and store closures, beauty brands along with the rest of the world are being challenged to think digital and adopt virtual solutions quickly. With companies reliant on e-commerce for their sales for the foreseeable future, try-on apps can be one way to pursue conversions originally generated in-store.
Now that consumers are unable to visit a physical store to experiment with beauty products, AR delivers that option safely and digitally. It also eliminates the trial and error aspect of purchasing beauty products online, therefore saving customers money.
In your opinion, will the social distancing rules of 2020 have a lasting effect on consumer behaviour, with people looking for innovative ways they can test and purchase products from a distance?
Brands must use their social media presence to engage with consumers beyond selling online. As people increasingly look towards brands for leadership, companies must align with a set of values and attitudes that they can represent online.
With over half the world now connected to the internet, brands must understand the power of uniting a robust social media presence with options to purchase directly within applications. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this rings particularly true as online shopping has increased at a time of declines in physical retail footfall. Companies that embrace e-commerce functionality directly into their social media platforms will outperform their peers. Brands that are too slow to improve their approach to the digital age will see a drop in customers and miss the opportunity for further profits.
How are we seeing the use of data and analytics changing the process of product development?
Data analytics with increased use of all form of technology – social and technological, will play an immense role in improving product development. Many companies have started using big data in creative ways to improve their outcomes.
Many aspects of product development are being revolutionized by the use of big data, ranging from personalization to convenience and smart shopping. Various cosmetic players are using artificial intelligence for analysis of product reviews, consumer sentiment, demand-gap analysis, and reviewing research to develop beauty regimen for their customers. Even new product development ideas around DNA based are all getting benefited from the larges scale of big data.
So, I think data analytics will play a pivotal role in companies optimizing their products and services to compete for market share and build a positive brand image supported by the use of new technology and personalization techniques.
Finally, how do you predict technology will enhance the cosmetics industry in the future?
Consumers have come to expect that all products should have some form of “smart” feature, and beauty is no different. Especially Millennials and Generation Z, who have grown up in a digital age, look for solutions in beauty and grooming with the incorporation of a digital angle.
With customers valuing human connection more than ever, apps which allows conversations with store associates for “guidance” will be most impactful, giving shoppers the confidence they need to buy.
In the coming years, technological innovation will trigger important advances in customised consumer experiences and precision beauty. More brands will be relying on AI for a more targeted approach to beauty by taking skin swabs to test bacterial analysis and DNA to offer customised products based on microbiome and genes.
Digital technology is here to stay. Before the outbreak, smart solutions were primarily aimed at younger generations who had already integrated online platforms into their daily lives. Since the lockdowns, a wider consumer community has looked to digital environments as a source of comfort.
Other advanced technology offerings such as robotics and VR can boost efficiency and establish further trust among consumers. Packaging brands can rely on technology to boost traceability and minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
V-commerce will give another element in beauty retail, offering a familiar setting to consumers compared to normal e-commerce. This will be particularly appealing for those who are vulnerable and have limited exposure to physical stores.
in-cosmetics Korea 2021 will be held at Coex, Hall C from 14 to 16 July.
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