Beauty sector needs to adapt to new consumer behavior after pandemic-study

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the beauty and personal care industry and changed consumer behaviors, and companies need to adapt if they are to grow post-pandemic, according to a new report from Kantar.

The market research specialist said that in Asia, the beauty industry has rebounded relatively quickly following the height of the pandemic, but with different recovery rates for different categories.

Categories that are growing and actually doing better than before the pandemic are in the hygiene sector, including body wash, hand wash and sanitizer.

Necessities, including skincare and haircare, which endured a steep fall, are now rebounding quickly.

Discretionary sectors are taking longer to bounce back, particularly make-up, which continues to struggle.

The study also found that consumers are thinking beyond “skin deep” amid increased concerns around health and safety. They now expect beauty brands to help them feel and live better, not just look better.

“Priorities have shifted from fixing issues-such as erasing wrinkles-to building a strong foundation,” said the report.

At the same time, consumers want personal care products to be highly effective and more sophisticated in function. Derma-care products have ascended, and the trend is spilling over from skincare into body care and makeup. The leading country for derma is South Korea, with 56% penetration.

Clean beauty has also risen in importance, with brands expected to be safe and environmentally responsible. Complex ingredients are falling out of favor, as consumers lean toward natural, gentle and vegan, for example. In China, products that claim “repair and recovery” qualities are seen more and more frequently.

Moreover, e-commerce is now a part of daily life. “Consumers are not expected to move away from online channels now they’re able to visit stores again, as they’ve ‘tasted’ advantages such as convenience, greater accessibility and lower prices,” said Kantar.

But offline channels remain important. In Thailand, offline traffic is still 19 times higher than online traffic and this channel is recovering, albeit slowly, the report found.

And with the pandemic hitting incomes hard, most Asian consumers are asking maximum value for their spend, while still making choices based on benefits.

“Whereas premium beauty was on the rise before coronavirus, mass and ‘masstige’ brands are now growing their market share. Their appeal lies in offering an exciting unique proposition, building a distinct area of expertise, or matching the benefits offered by premium products at a more accessible price,” said the report.

Demand for luxury has remained strong in some markets, despite increased price sensitivity, due to the fact that the highest income consumers have been least affected by COVID-19.

Kantar said that to remain competitive, beauty brands must capture new consumer expectations and behaviors, and respond to the ways in which their markets have evolved.

In particular, they should review their product portfolio and innovation to embrace a wider perspective that meets consumer demands for safety, health and being “green.”

They should also provide value-seekers with a reason to buy, such as by improving efficacy and functions, or using new technology.

Another suggestion is to adapt communications with emphasis on health benefits, active ingredients or scientific or medical credentials.

Companies should build their e-commerce offer by making purchasing easier and more routine. For example, they can develop the supporting infrastructure and payment systems, and improve their delivery service.

They should likewise build a consistent and complementary online-to-offline experience to maximize exposure and availability.

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