Brand Innovators 2021 Outlook: Beauty

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In the ninth installment of our new 2021 Outlook Series, Brand Innovators talks to beauty CMOs and marketing leaders about what they expect to see next year in the category, and how 2020 has reshaped demand, discovery and how people shop for cosmetics.

As beauty brands and retailers look ahead to 2021, they will continue to offer consumers new ways to discover, try on and shop for makeup through digital innovations and influencer partnerships.

Additionally, the conversations around social justice movements that gained new momentum in 2020 will continue to shape how beauty brands approach consumers. Expect these brands to serve a diverse market of consumers in a more equitable fashion.

“This seamless integration of digital, physical and emotional that we have now has always been at the heart of what we do, but now that has been accelerated — and will be here with us to stay,” says Shelley Haus, CMO of Ulta Beauty. “There’s a newfound focus for people on the things that really matter, including human connections. Those won't go away, in fact they will become even more important [in 2021.]”

“The acceleration of focus across the board on diversity equality and inclusion is a renaissance, and it has shed new light and understanding for many, including agency partners and partners throughout the supply chain,” Haus continues. “And I think that focus was needed and is now here to stay.”

Erin Cast, SVP, Global Marketing Consumer Beauty at Coty agrees that social consciousness is growing within the beauty industry and is impacting how consumers spend their money.

“I expect to see that socially conscious beauty will continue to become more accessible,” she says. “We know that Gen Z, in particular, shops based on values. Gen Z has increased their clean beauty spend by 26% since the onset of COVID, and their rate of spend on clean products is outpacing other generational groups.”  

“We have seen brands like CoverGirl Clean Fresh and Sally Hansen Good.Kind.Pure become the top launches within their categories with a focus on clean, good for you options that work,” continues Cast. “CoverGirl Clean Fresh also showed incredible adoption among Hispanic and Gen Z consumers.”

Tia Cummings, VP of Marketing at P&G’s Walker & Co. Brands also saw “a huge focus on inclusive and multicultural beauty this year, with numerous new brands targeting diverse consumers that have long been ignored, as well as more established brands taking a more inclusive approach to their marketing.”  

“Inclusive beauty is here to stay, and I'm excited to see this area grow,” she says.

As brands look to be more inclusive in their product offering, they are also reimagining their marketing and are featuring a more diverse number of voices.

“2020 has provided fashion and beauty companies with the opportunity to rethink their brand and reimagine their marketing,” says Katie Welch, CMO of Rare Beauty. “ In 2021, we must look through the lens of our brand values at all times: from how we execute our creative to how we engage with our community.  Our brand values — what we stand for and we act — are at the forefront of consumers’ and employees’ minds. It’s an opportunity to make true impact and it’s what we must do as marketers.”

Wellness played a big role in beauty sales in 2020, as people spent more time on self-care and skin care regimes while they were stuck at home. "I think many people, myself included, thought the beauty industry would take a big hit in 2020 due to the pandemic, but, that didn't happen,” Cummings says. “Consumers became even more focused on skin care and wellness while they were stuck at home, and I think that trend will continue into 2021.”  

Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director at BASE Beauty Creative Agency noted “a continued focus in the area of self-care, whether it’s body care or taking care of hands after frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing.”

“In 2020, we saw a big trend and focus on maintaining the health and integrity of the skin’s barrier function,” says Katz. “Skin sensitivity appears to be on the rise, and with all day face covering and mask use, it has only increased. Using ingredients that help address inflammation while also hydrating the skin is top of mind for consumers. We see this conversation continuing to grow in 2021.”

“We’ve also seen a lot of conversation around gut health, the microbiome, and how it relates to overall skin health,’ Katz continues. “Just as claims like gluten-free or paraben-free were once a trend, but are very much now the norm, we predict the next buzz word for product labeling in 2021 will be microbiome-friendly.

Like other categories, in 2020 consumers began to shop for cosmetics more online than they had in previous years. Apps and VR experiences helped beauty brands recreate the physical shopping experience and influencers helped tell the story, and this trend could continue into the New Year.

“During the pandemic, shoppers shifted to e-commerce in droves, and I think they were pleasantly surprised by the experience,” says Cummings. “It's simple, personalized, and in some instances, better than in-store. Brands who capitalized on this behavior early on and improved their online experience benefited greatly.”

“Even as vaccines become more widely available and the world starts to reopen, brick-and-mortar retailers and brands will have to think about how they evolve their in-store model to re-attract consumers who are now used to a digital experience,” she continues. “Overall, I believe a heavy focus on digital experiences and content will continue to be crucial to success in 2021."

Sustainability remains a big topic for consumers and beauty brands are expected to offer environmentally-friendly choices to attract consumers that are spending based on their values.  

“While COVID-19 changed many of our sustainability behaviors in transportation and dining, it hasn’t slowed the consumer’s desire to make less waste with her beauty, wellness and personal care choices,” says Katz. “Brands will continue to evolve and innovate with waterless products and less wasteful packaging formats and materials.”

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