Monday 6 June 2016

The beauty industry - no longer fashion’s sidekick?

The aspirational world of beauty has changed over the last few years due to many reasons. Once a sidekick to fashion, the beauty industry is one of the fastest growing industries, and it really goes hand-in-hand with social media. One of the key reformations to shake the beauty world has been the evolution of social media – from personal, to business-minded and then back to personal again.

Five to ten years ago saw the career launch of beauty bloggers along the likes of Tanya Burr, Zoe Sugg, Michelle Phan etc. Their careers began as a hobby, using YouTube as a platform to showcase their latest beauty buys and makeup tutorials. A small percentage of beauty bloggers are professionals, the others are often self-described amateurs.

One of the UK’s most successful beauty bloggers, Zoe Sugg (otherwise known as Zoella), began her career as a hobby, filming in her bedroom. She now has over 7 million subscribers on YouTube, two best-selling books and a beauty range selling in the UK’s best-known drugstores. Sugg successfully turned what was initially just a hobby into a worldwide business.

The 18 months has seen an additional 18 Mecca Cosmetica stores open as well as the first three Australian Sephora stores. Luxury beauty products are more in demand now than ever, and this is largely thanks to the online beauty community. Whenever a top beauty blogger mentions a product, it is guaranteed to be sold out within a day. You don’t have to be a beauty professional to become a beauty expert, with the help of an internet connection and thirst for knowledge (and the latest liquid lipsticks in every available shade of course).

Social media has had a large impact on how we shop for products. It has also changed who the authoritative voices in the beauty industry are and who we turn to for advice. Everyone nowadays can be a “beauty guru”. All you need is a computer, a camera and… a bit of money to keep being able to afford posting hauls and unboxing videos.

The accessibility of all things online has made beauty and all its tricks less of an underground art. This is especially the case because cosmetics create visual effects after all.

Credit: L'Oréal Paris Instagram

Casandra Ramos, Social Media Assistant Manager at L’Oréal Paris in the US, says: “The beauty industry lends itself so well to social media because social media helps make tips and tricks more accessible to everyone. Consumers can share their learned techniques and newfound expertise that were not easily accessible before social media. Because of that there has been an increase in demand for products that otherwise would not have been desired or really known about. Beauty content is visual and inspirational.”

With social media has come a demand for all things beauty to become personal. Customers are no longer content with recommendations from beauty journalists alone. We crave full knowledge of products before we decide to take the plunge. This has been facilitated by the almighty beauty bloggers of the world and the use of social media. Over last few years, social media has seen a shift and the big corporations have had to adapt in order to keep up with what customers want. What this shift in social media has done is that it has made unlikely products from faraway lands become cult items. Or if we’re sticking to the beauty blogger lingo: holy grail products.

As beauty product information becomes more accessible, the want for more unique products has developed. With image-based social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, and video-based platforms such as Youtube, the latest beauty products are at our fingertips before even committing to purchasing. There is an online beauty cult in the shape of bloggers and their monthly favourite products, vloggers and their hauls and Instagrammers and their lipstick swatches. If you have ever delved into this world, you might be able to name the shades of eyeshadows you haven’t seen in real life.

Steven Waldberg, Vice President of Integrated Marketing Communication at Maybelline New York says: “Companies used to sell products based on a promise. Consumers had to take a leap of faith and trust their brands to give them better skin, a beautiful red pout or smoky eye for instance. Image and video-based platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat, have given consumers a platform to play in front of an audience and truly put to test the saying ‘seeing is believing’. We’ve gone from a one-way monologue to a conversation involving many, often times millions!”

Waldberg argues that this shift has put the power into the hands of cosnumers. He says: “These platforms have further democratized beauty (and makeup in particular) and made it by the same token more popular with all age groups. Consumers are now empowered to experiment with beauty, sometimes even coming up with amazing ‘hacks’ which perhaps even brands had not thought of. Brands and retailers have reacted and also launched their own apps (like Makeup Genius for L’Oréal Paris) enabling consumers to try on makeup virtually which was a first at mass, when in most countries, consumers don’t have beauty advisors at point of sale to help them navigate shades and textures. In essence, brands cannot only sell products anymore, they have to also provide service and education to add value to the experience and to their consumers.”

Credit: Maybelline New York Instagram
The rise of Snapchat has certainly changed the way in which customers or fans of brands experience products. With the likes of the Kardashian sisters and other high profile celebrities giving a real insight into the products they use and how they achieve their look, beauty is becoming more accessible and in a personal way. Snapchat allows for 10 second long videos, which demands concise communication but it is at its core, visual. The visual aspect of social media is perhaps why this change can be considered so important.

Platforms such as Snapchat also allow for a behind-the-scenes exclusive content, which means that consumers know what kind of beauty looks are going to be hitting the world by storm. As much as editorial, highly produced content is still en vogue, there is a want for more personal, raw content.

Ramos says: “Snapchat allows for behind-the-scenes of fashion shows and events. This offers a glimpse into the exclusivity of events they could not access before. Snapchat can now also be used to filter our looks and optimize our visual content, which works well alongside the beauty industry.”

Although some may view the cosmetic industry as frivolous, it has played a large part in social acceptance and progression. The fascination involving creative makeup and drag has pushed for a wider acceptance of men wearing makeup. It has also sparked debates on what society considers to be beautiful and how it should be defined. As social media platforms allow for discussion and debate, it has allowed for progression to be made in the real world.

A love for cosmetics is also more wallet-friendly than a fashion obsession, as Waldberg says: “When the last recession hit in 2008, a lot of people were no longer spending the same amounts as they had been on clothes. Beauty became more of a thing because, as Anna Wintour once said on David Letterman, if one can’t afford an expensive dress, one can perhaps spend $10 or $20 on a lipstick, which is just as much of a statement and accessory of sorts to express one’s mood. Beauty brands have also widened their offerings creating many new products to address every inch of one’s face and body - bronzers, brow products, highlighters, to name just a few. In other words, the beauty category is more complete and interesting than it’s ever been.”

According to Statista, the country with the largest revenue from the cosmetic market is the United States, with a revenue estimated to exceed $62 billion USD in 2016. As the beauty sector continues to innovate and adapt alongside social media, the real question is: when will there be London, New York, Paris and Milan Beauty Week?

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