“As you know, I’m no expert,” says beauty vlogger Zoella at the beginning of her ‘Gold Eyes and Berry Lips’ YouTube tutorial. To date, almost six million people beg to differ with her, since that’s how many times this single video has been viewed.
The rise of Zoella and other beauty influencers shows how consumers – especially Gen Z and Millennials – are looking to their peers to make decisions.
This represents a double-edged sword for the beauty industry. While cosmetic firms can gain enormous reach by securing an influencer’s endorsement, an effective social media strategy takes much more than deluging bloggers and vloggers with samples. If beauty brands want to secure the largest possible share of a market that’s predicted to be worth three-quarters of a trillion dollars by 2024, they must reach a new generation of socially aware, price-conscious consumers.
How can they best do this? Here Shane Orchard, Head of Digital Trading & Marketing Operations at LiveArea EMEA explains the science…
A two-way conversation
Some 72% of Millennial consumers buy beauty products based on Instagram posts. But they’re not just buying because a famous face has endorsed the product: younger consumers represent a more knowledgeable, ‘skintelligent’ kind of customer; one who’s less loyal to individual brands and more likely to listen to friends and influencers.
But the younger generation doesn’t just want to know about the product: they want advice on skincare, health and wellbeing, and other tips that will help them make the most out of their beauty regime. What’s more, they demand honesty and transparency from brands, especially over sustainability. Beauty businesses can no longer count on consumer ignorance or apathy, especially given the rise of digital activist campaigns like Esteé Laundry, the anonymous Instagram collective that exposes copycats and injustices within the industry.
The old marketing model is dead. It’s no longer enough to have pretty models expensively shot in exotic locations: instead, there needs to be an open, honest and two-way conversation between brand and buyer.
Consumers are looking for brands and products which resonate with them directly, which is why hyper-personalisation is the next frontier for engagement. We’ve seen the market shift towards offerings that cater to the countless skin types, tones, and dermatological needs in a more personal manner.
Some beauty firms are even using DNA profiles to create targeted skincare; for example, SkinDNA and GeneU are asking customers to take saliva swabs, to measure antioxidant, inflammatory response and collagen levels, and how skin may react to sun and UV light. Meanwhile, digital diagnostics apps such as Spruce and Klara enable smartphone users to upload photos of their acne and receive personalised treatment plans from a dermatologist.
Linking up blogs, vlogs, YouTube channels, product pages, Instagram posts, and in-store offers is crucial for beauty. Customers want to discover products on blogs, watch ‘top tip’ videos on YouTube and be able to then find them at a beauty counter in-store with advice from a beauty expert. Savvy brands are integrating and aligning social and customer journeys, so buyers have the complete picture. This involves coordinating loyalty cards and sign-ups for special offers in-store, via social, or on-site. Getting the balance and consistency between these touchpoints is an art.
Sephora is a great example of a company which has successfully embraced omnichannel marketing, driving in-store traffic and interaction through its blog.
New sales models
Savvy beauty brands have seen success through subscription and membership clubs over recent years. Subscription and self-gifting models remove the need to make trips to the department store for beauty products. Some brands like Birchbox have built their entire brand experience around the ‘unboxing’ trend. Like fashion, though, these trends move fast, which is why brands need to maximise their unique offerings and be constantly on the lookout for growth opportunities.
Social media provides exciting new avenues, with brands using Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger to connect instantly with consumers, sell products, and offer 24/7 chatbot-driven customer service.
The most effective brands on social media are those that facilitate interaction and co-creation. By building forums filled with engaging content and transparent communications, beauty brands can build real and lasting relationships that go far further than just ‘skin deep’.