For every trend, there is a counter-trend, meaning that there is constant jostling for a clear message. Many brands are desperately hoping that if they say a thing is a trend long enough and hard enough, it will become one! Who knows, maybe that’s how they happen. Ultimately, brands are still gripping beauty consumers like a vice—they’re not letting go of you til they’ve tipped you upside down and shaken you so that every last penny falls from your pockets. So, here we go: my trend roundup—it’s not exhaustive, but it takes into account the industry buzz and whispers with a few helpful tip-offs.
GADGETS & APPS
Mintel always has its finger on the pulse of trends—in terms of beauty gadgets, they predict such innovations as hair grips that measure hydration and virtual mirrors. The Nail Printer (a device that paints your nails for you via an in-store machine) is still being hailed as a forthcoming trend, but it has been for several years now. Maybe 2017 will finally be the year! Gadgets for tooth whitening and hair removal are still being improved and refined as people become shorter on time to get professional treatments. What’s clear from all the tech predictions is that apps and gadgets are aiming to replace people interactions, which is entirely at odds with the “slow” retail (see Shopping below) experience being heavily invested in. Gadgets become ever more effective and affordable as the market hots up competitively to the detriment of services, again, completely at odds with the heavy investment in services apps. Apps such as Modiface let you see your hair or eyes a different color, how you’d look with whiter teeth, and so on, allowing you to try before you buy while avoiding “human” contact. Look out for beauty ingredient checker apps that let you thoroughly investigate a product before you buy it, and audio beauty tutorials for the visually impaired, currently trialed in Brazil by Maybelline.
The Korean beauty floodgates are beginning to open thanks to better distribution channels becoming available for e.g., Tony Moly (just opened a US freestanding store), and where one goes, others will follow. Korean beauty isn’t new news but it’s far from mainstream in the UK. What we’ve seen so far has been only the tip of the iceberg, and the K trend is forging on. Selfridges is investing in K Beauty (currently Tony Moly, Too Cool For School, home-grown Oh K) expanding mid-2017 with many more brands still to come, and we can’t forget about Sephora’s UK launch in the New Year. Sephora was an early adopter of K Beauty, stocking brands such as Son & Park, Touch In Sol, and Chosungah 22. In terms of formulation, if you’re still reeling over the advent of sheet masks, brace yourself! “Morning” cleansers, specially adapted to wake up sleepy skin, all-in-one double cleansers, and skin sticker mask patches to spot-hydrate are all in the cards. Keep your eyes on Soko Glam, a US online K Beauty retailer making all the cool discoveries, and cult product 24/7 Touch Up—nobody can quite explain what it does but everyone wants it anyway. Also note Maybelline’s ColorBlur by Lip Studio (not yet in the UK)—a lip product that lets you easily create the ombre Japanese Korean lip look with a central blushed core that gets paler towards the edge of the lip.
You might have spotted Gary (aka Plastic Boy) in the L’Oréal True Match campaign and noticed the significant amount of men who are entrancing the beauty—not grooming—market. Manny MUA is another example, as is Jeffree Star, and they’re all at the forefront of creating a fluidity in attitude about who and what makeup is for. Embracing all cultures is another inclusive trend—the beauty world has woken up to the fact that you don’t have to neutralize your culture, diversity, or sexuality for beauty looks; brands are starting to embrace and accommodate. So, the overall trend is inclusivism, acceptance, and perception challenging. In the US, Covergirl featured its first Coverboy, James Charles, while True Match featured a woman in a hajib.
LESS IS MORE
Don’t confuse inclusive beauty with unisex beauty. The unisex vibe is also one that taps into the “less” generation. Part of the desire is to not to be overwhelmed by products and not to be pigeonholed—it’s a practical trend. We have less space. We’ve bought all the makeup we need; we’re on the edge of wanting less and when we want less we need it to look like less. Contemporary, pared-back packaging, multitaskers, man-woman interchangeable products—all heading to be a backlash trend. See Malin + Goetz and Naxos.
The big talk in social is of the “micro-influencer,” typically categorized as an influencer with 10,000 to 100,000 followers (preferably on Instagram). Research shows that the higher follower count you have, the less engagement you get, depending on which reports you read. Other reports still cite the million+ as having high engagement levels. Like rates are relatively low across the board; if you are a micro-influencer, you can expect an 8% rate; if you’re a major influencer, you can expect 4%. Brands didn’t need to do much head-scratching to realize their money is better spent on valuable and real engagement levels and are preparing to spread their budget more widely rather than do one big drop on a couple of huge influencers. As a micro-influencer, chances are you are better able to engage and communicate with followers; the higher your numbers go the more impossible it becomes. The idea of downsizing has never looked so tempting and micro-influencing, paying attention to your audience and interacting is the social media permutation of “slow” retail (see below). Many big-number Insta/Social influencers have lost the concept of social—it’s not a two-way street anymore: followers don’t see any point in trying to connect or start conversation because they know they won’t be heard. The “they talk, you listen” model is on the wane. Readers are smarter than that, and if one thing will push mega-influencers the way of TOWIE it’s a lack of appreciation and inability to realize any meaningful communication. If you ask around in the beauty world— the budget holders, marketers, and public relations people— the common thread is that everything looks the same. Beauty is in the business of “new,” and the current social new is looking old. Also bear in mind the “personalization” trend— this translates as much to influencer outreach as it does to having your initials on a hot water bottle. Influencers must personalize.
Despite being at the tipping point for the “less” trend, brands and retailers are blurring the seasons. Look out for winter more or less being ignored in favor of spring from January onwards. The desire for new product is bigger than the need to stick to any kind of beauty (or climate) calendar. SPF all year round was an early indicator of season blurring; earlier and earlier seasonal launches tell you that new is needed now and you will have barely finished your Christmas dinner before being expected to buy your spring and summer 2017 makeup.
In skincare, there is huge excitement about the “second skin” formula created by Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s a polymer (polysiloxane) using molecules of silicone and oxygen that dries to a film of invisible second skin, knocking out lines as it settles. The cosmetic industry is all over this, so although the formula isn’t nearly ready, bidding will have already started to transform this into cosmetic use. Avocado oil and artichoke extracts are being touted as natural trend ingredients, as is turmeric, bamboo (for sustainability), maketti, mongogo, and tsubaki oils.
Anyone in social media knows that PR relationships are crucial. Or were. The biggest overall shift in the beauty industry I’ve seen in the past year is the changing role of PR. Big brands now budget to buy their coverage on social media in the same way they used to buy advertising in print, which means the relationship-building element of PR is less crucial. If you have a checkbook, the social media world belongs to you. It will be the case that marketing and agents will deal the money and PRs will have to have tea on their own. There is staff paring down across some of the very big beauty corporations—previously unheard of redundancies and letting go. Print is continuing to disappear, and with cash for coverage commonplace, the value of brand/social personal relationships is tenuous. PR roles won’t disappear yet but will become transactional and sales and marketing led.
Many brands are banking on the “slow” retail trend, making an in-store shop an experience that’s not rushed and offers more than a simple transaction. It’s based on data that suggests the slower you shop the more you spend. This is a retail risk—the one thing that the majority of people don’t have enough of is time. Mobile spending stole the show on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and most stores didn’t experience the crush of previous years. Slow retail is something that we’ll see more of in 2017 and ties directly into the stand-alone store trend where, without the competition of other brand counters in the traditional department store beauty environment, consumers can immerse themselves in a brand. The Estée Lauder group is investing heavily in the slow experience—the new Origins plan sees sales staff rebranded as “guides” compensated, according to the Wall Street Journal, by how well they gather information about and stay in touch with consumers.
References & Resources: J. Walter Thompson’s Innovation Group, Pop Sugar, Wall Street Journal, Allure, Forbes, Bbc.co.uk, Digiday.com, Cornelius.co.uk