Last year was the year of self-care. Due to COVID-related restrictions, many retail stores, spas and beauty salons were shuttered, and we all were forced to take care of our beauty needs at home. We colored our own hair, did our own manis and pedis, and developed our own home spa regimens
We also turned to digital media as our primary source of education, devouring blogs, podcasts, livestreams and social media posts for information on skin, bath, cosmetics and other beauty topics. At the same time, many doctors, dermatologists and beauty professionals also moved online to provide us the info we needed.
During the pandemic, I myself listened to a ton of podcasts on health and wellness, and along the way, learned about the skin’s microbiome, which led to me paying much more attention to the ingredients in the products I use on it.
I certainly wasn’t alone. According to the dozen buyers I spoke with during ECRM’s Skin, Bath, Cosmetics and Natural Beauty Program, today’s consumers – armed with this newly-acquired digital knowledge – are more educated than ever before about the products they put into and onto their bodies, and this is changing how they shop and what they buy.
One result is a much stronger focus on ingredients; what these ingredients are, where they come from, and what functions they perform are front-and-center in consumers’ minds now as they shop for beauty products.
“Everyone has had more time to do their own research,” says Diana Gumbs, Category Manager, Everyday Bath, Skin & Sun for Wakefern. “Because of this, many consumer purchases are very ingredient-driven. They are looking for products with retinol, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera, for example, and are searching for websites and social media to find this information. Our beauty advisor program is now digitized to provide an additional resource for these consumers.”
While shoppers are seeking out products with functional ingredients, they are also very aware of ingredients that may be potentially harmful, and products with cleaner ingredient panels were increasingly in demand. Also popular – particularly among younger consumers or those with stacked households that span generations – are multifunctional products such as moisturizer with SPF protection, shampoo/conditioner combinations, or those all-purpose bars of soap. (I myself am partial to those all-in-one soap and shampoo bars that take care of all my shower needs in one product!)
Because of this, buyers say it’s more important than ever for brands to have callouts of these ingredients on their packaging, in their ads, and on signage at the shelf to help direct shoppers to products with the ingredients they are looking for.
Not surprisingly, social media is where many consumers are turning to learn about ingredients in beauty products. During the program, just about every buyer I spoke with mentioned Hyram and how he single-handedly was responsible for clearing store shelves of CeraVe products from his TikTok posts.
The person they are referring to is Hyram Yarbro, whose TikTok account, @skincarebyhyram, has millions of devoted followers who purchase products based on his recommendations. In a CNN article about Yarbro (who is now a paid ambassador for CeraVe), he said, “The assumption is that Gen Z is focused on color, scents and visual aesthetics of makeup. But they are really into their health, skincare and researching the ingredients that go into products.”
TikTok has become an essential source of information for beauty consumers, but Instagram, YouTube and Facebook also boast their share of mega-influencers. However, you don’t necessarily need a giant like Hyram or a Kardashian to move products off the shelves. In many cases, micro-influencers (or “skinfluencers”) can be more effective. (Click here to see a recent RangeMe post about how brands can leverage TikTok to grow their business.)
Micro-influencers typically have between 10,000 and 50,000 followers on social media platforms, and usually focus on a specific area of interest. “Micro-influencers tend to be much more engaged with their following,” says Taylor Carney, Assistant Buyer – Skincare, for Burlington Stores. “Consumers trust them because they have a closer connection. They’ll educate their followers about ingredients, teach people how to read the ingredient panels, and how to use the products, and they often respond directly to followers, something that’s difficult to do when you have an audience of millions.”
Along with this increased knowledge consumers now have of products and ingredients comes an interest in the social responsibility practices of those companies behind the products. They want to know that the products are made in a sustainable manner, using minimal packaging or recycled materials in the packaging. They want to know that animals weren’t harmed in the development of the products. They want to know that workers throughout the products supply chain were treated fairly, and they are seeking more products from diverse suppliers.
Indeed, supplier diversity in itself has seen tremendous interest among retailers. Earlier this summer, more than 640 buyers met with 485 brands during ECRM’s Diversity Week, which included programs for diverse- and minority-owned suppliers across food and beverage; general merchandise; and health & beauty care categories. Over 3,800 curated meetings were held on the ECRM Connect platform across the three programs.
Getting the message out with certifications
One of the best ways to let consumers (and buyers) know that your brand and products check all of the boxes in which consumers are interested is by certifications. As RangeMe noted in a blog post on the topic, getting certified is a way brands can set themselves apart from other suppliers in the retail industry. And as consumers’ shopping behaviors change and they become more aware of what these certifications mean, they search for products with familiar labels and icons.
Certifications are important to buyers, too, as they want to align their assortment with their consumer’s values and provide them with the products that support them. As shoppers seek more eco-friendly, cleaner, cruelty-free products, as well as products from diverse-owned suppliers, certifications are a powerful way of letting them know that a brand’s products meet those criteria.
Moving forward: a greater focus on self-care
While the salons may be opening up now, the combination of increased product knowledge and newly-developed self-care routines consumers have implemented over the past year – not to mention cost savings from them – will likely result in them continuing at least a good portion of these home beauty regimens long after the pandemic passes.
They will also have a much more integrated view of health and beauty care when making product decisions, a trend that was around prior to the pandemic that was greatly accelerated over the past year.
“The past year has definitely led consumers to view health and beauty much more synergistically than they have in the past,” says Siobhan Williams, Category Manager – Skin Care, Hand & Body Lotion for Bed, Bath & Beyond. “Moving forward, self-care is going to be a regular component of their beauty regimen.”
Those buyers and brands looking to maximize engagement with these consumers would do well to provide educational resources, products with the right mix of functional ad clean ingredients, and strong clear messaging about these products benefits – essentially, becoming a “skinfluencer” of your own.
Joseph Tarnowski is VP of Content at ECRM.