Over the past six months, not one aspect of life has escaped the radical changes caused by COVID-19—from public health, to social customs, to business practices. While the future is still unclear, many innovations and adaptations to life in a pandemic environment have proven to be remarkable advances, particularly in the Beauty Industry, where customer experience, personalized consultations, brand expertise, and advice are a critical part of client service. At the product level, new brands are especially well-positioned to react swiftly with restructured business models and technology that caters to a virtual platform. New retail stores, shuttered by the virus, in some cases before they even opened, are developing technology that is redefining the way customers shop and adding new channels of communication. Even the Beauty Trade Industry has found a silver lining, as virtual summits allow for increased participation, education, and cost-effective business models.
Poised to launch during Spring 2020, Volto Urbano, a custom skincare line designed to account for environment, geo-location, climate defense, and skin type in its skincare regimen, immediately began to redesign its nascent website to provide an enhanced and customized customer experience. Clients are invited to learn about Volto Urbano’s unique approach to skincare by taking an online survey, Build My Regimen. The layered evaluation of critical factors affecting skin, such as environmental humidity, air quality, sunlight, and blue-light exposure, uses over 16,000 algorithms to fine-tune skincare recommendations. Customers are then able to opt for a basic or intensive regimen that addresses an individual need, or to simply shop for one product category among the cleansers, toners, treatments, moisturizers, and masks. In addition, online chat allows consumers to communicate directly with specialists who can offer tips on application and personal product recommendations.
Founder Lela Kelly explains the brand’s credo, From Pollution to Solution, is a way of ensuring that skincare is about more than skin type. “Lifestyle, location, presence of airborne fine particulate, UV light exposure: Your skin can’t fight them all,” explains Kelly. “Topical products will only have superior efficacy if you address environment and lifestyle.” To counter the challenges of retail during the pandemic, Kelly created an extraordinarily generous sampling program, allowing customers immediate and complementary access to Volto Urbano products. “The biggest value add for us was to be able to customize effectively and to give people access to choices. We have been able to generate a reliable and trusting personal relationship with our customers by adapting to the challenges of the virus, and in doing so, have generated a strong wave of customer loyalty.”
Another newcomer to the beauty landscape is Beautyque, a brand that was originally a brick-and-mortar retail format but evolved into a virtual omni-channel retail and marketing platform. With the store slated to open in SoHo in New York City in May 2020, Beautyque founders Sonia Khemiri and Sylvie Giret quickly reassessed their business model and now oversee the first 3D virtual store in the industry. Patents are pending for the revolutionary and mesmerizing technology that allows customers to walk through the store, browse the indie product lines they curate, and even take things off the shelf to examine product details. “We moved from a physical store to a digital store in the blink of an eye,” says Sylvie. “We were so quick to create a new experience that we didn’t even realize Beautyque was breaking revolutionary ground.”
In addition, Beautyque is changing the traditional retail model of sales to create a triangulated flow of communication between consumers, brand founders, and the retail platform. Not only does Beautyque provide product information to clients, but they have also created a virtual space for indie brand founders to share their story and mission directly with the customer through a virtual interface, and importantly, for brands to test products through sampling. In providing direct, live customer feedback, brands gain invaluable marketing information for new products. “As a result of the challenges of the pandemic, we were able to see with fresh eyes,” asserts Sonia. “The in-store shopping experience at Beautyque is 3D and high energy, not the flat, static website of the past.”
Clean Beauty Con, the trade organization focused on clean and sustainable beauty standards, has also found a big bounce in participation and interest by moving from an annual trade show, the Clean Beauty Conference, to a more balanced approach. Clean Beauty Con is now hosting weekly virtual business summits with the aim of education, support, and guidance for every business seeking advice during difficult times. The virtual summits allow for a greatly expanded roster of clean brand founders, celebrity influencers, health professionals, and veteran industry professionals to provide information and inspiration to the beauty trade.
According to Cassandra McClure, founder of Clean Beauty Con, “Switching to a digital platform has helped us build a strong sense of community and trust between clean beauty founders and consumers in an extraordinarily effective new way.” In addition, the innovative introduction of The Clean Beauty Kit, the first professional makeup artist-approved subscription box full of clean product samples, allows for participants to try new and trending items that are otherwise unavailable at a fraction of the cost, realizing at least a 75% savings. Further, as the enormous costs of organizing and executing trade show events are precluded by a virtual format, Clean Beauty Con is able to pass those savings to participants in a significant way.
While no one would have chosen the current path, the Beauty Industry, uniquely vulnerable to the loss of critical communication and one-on-one interaction with customers, has taken measures not only to adapt but also to evolve. Across the board, new industry opportunities have been put in place to support the trade and consumers. Online shopping has been refined, with built-in services designed to simplify, energize, and elevate the customer experience. The Beauty Industry has moved quickly to fulfill the need to focus on self-care, wellness, and service, and in many cases, new efficiencies are emerging that are clearly built to last.
Photo: Brian McGowan via Unsplash