WHAT CHALLENGES WILL BEAUTY BRANDS FACE IN 2019?

Dave Corlett
19 December 2018

This time last year, my colleague Ellie wrote a fantastically popular post about the challenges beauty brands would face in 2018.

(Google “beauty brand challenges”, and at the time of writing this post it’s the very first result.)

Clearly it struck a chord with those who have a stake in this vibrant, ever-changing sector. So let’s do the same for 2019. What hurdles do our team here at Ready think beauty companies will need to overcome to have a successful year?

REPRESENTING OLDER WOMEN

One of our predictions last year was that beauty brands that didn’t appeal to a more diverse audience would be left behind.

It proved somewhat correct, as cosmetics lines started to increase their shade palettes and cater to a more gender-fluid audience.

However, one (very large and wealthy) segment continues to be dramatically under-represented.

A woman aged about 50

When it comes to media representation, women over the age of 40 still feel ignored by major beauty companies. On the limited occasions they are communicated to, it’s mostly to urge them to use products that make them look younger.

For the most part, women over 40 simply want to be proud of who they are – and for this to be reflected in how they look and feel. Next year must be the year that mainstream brands finally recognise this, and cater for it.

The excuse that the world is moving online, and that older women don’t make up a high enough proportion of this audience to justify the media spend, is no longer a valid one. Over-55s are now the second largest demographic on Facebook, and over-35s make up a third of Instagram’s global audience.

We’ll be watching on intently to see how this one plays out.

TRANSPARENCY

As consumers demand more transparency on ingredients, companies should prepare for the industry to tighten up on ‘clean’ and ’natural’ beauty claims in 2019.

At the present moment, the lines are incredibly blurred when it comes to labelling products with these terms.

Space NK’s recent Decoded campaign did a great job of outlining what consumers should look for from clean beauty products.

some beauty products claiming to have natural ingredients               (image: Space NK)

But even this is quite vague, defining clean beauty brands as those that make a “concerted effort” to manufacture “more consciously”.

Not exactly black and white, is it?

We have a suspicion that it will be consumers who end up driving real change here. We can’t be far away from a concerted social media movement that calls for clear and unambiguous guidance on what does and doesn’t constitute a ‘natural’ beauty product.

Maybe we’ll start one ourselves…

THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

It’s a strange time for beauty retail. Amid all the high street collapses and store closures, western Europe has seen more health and beauty shops open that any other type of retailer, according to CRBE.

Add to this the likes of Sainsbury’s and Selfridges essentially betting on beauty to futureproof their offerings, and it appears that we are looking at one of the UK’s most resilient retail sectors.

A beauty retail store from the inside

But does this mean it is truly immune to a downturn? The world of retail was rocked this week when ASOS announced a profit warning. Amazon and the internet in general continues to reshape how beauty products are sold. And we have absolutely no idea what the impact of exiting the European Union will have on consumer spending.

Analysts often refer to the ‘lipstick effect’ that protects beauty from economic woes. But we are on the verge of entering a period of unprecedented events. So the challenge, I guess, will be trying to predict how these will play out – whilst, as always, keeping fingers on the pulse of product and ingredient trends.

PERSONALISATION

For the modern beauty fan, their haul is more than just a collection of products. It reflects their personality, their style and their approach to looking good. It defines who they are.

Individual beauty is a deeply personal thing, and so companies are increasingly developing products and services that provide a more personalised experience.

Companies such as Volition Beauty and Julep, who crowdsource ideas for new products. Function of Beauty, who offer unique formula combinations to make bespoke shampoos. And Wella Professional, whose Color DJ service promises 60 billion potential colour combinations.

It’s not just products, either. We’ve been helping our client Bioré provide their customers with a personalised Clean Skin Plan, by asking a series of questions about their skin and using the answers to create the perfect regime.

A personalised ecommerce experience for skincare brand Biore

Businesses that want to get ahead in this game in 2019 should take a leaf out of the above brands, and explore how to get more personal with customers.

SUSTAINABILITY

The final point is one that everyone in our team mentioned when I asked them for their thoughts on this subject.

Collectively, the beauty industry uses a phenomenal amount of plastic, chemicals and resources to keep its huge wheels turning.

It’s not the only industry to do so. But like many others, it is coming under increased scrutiny to reduce its reliance on all of the above, and become a more sustainable sector.

A used plastic bottle on a beach

Some businesses are taking positive steps to eliminate plastic packaging and limit the amount of water they use. But there’s a long, long way to go before the industry makes even the slightest dent in its impact on the environment.

We don’t necessarily think that 2019 will be the year that beauty companies – large ones in particular – get this right. But we do think it will be a pivotal year in consumers putting pressure on those that aren’t taking action.

There’s no excuse to bury heads in the sand any more, and no hiding place for those that do.

Dave Corlett is the new business director at Ready. We specialise in breakthrough promotional and tactical campaigns for consumer brands, with a niche in beauty and personal care.

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