Post-Covid-19: Wrinkle free beauty industry

Post-Covid-19: Wrinkle free beauty industry

Béla Hlavacsek Head of Strategy 20/10/2020

Head of Strategy

If everything turns upside-down, how flexible do the different generations react? Is it possible to create the same experience in the digital space? Can brand loyalty still exist or is it likely to reach its customers online? We spoke with Lajos Pingiczer, Senior Regional Retail Marketing Manager at Laboratoire Bioderma for the Middle East market about the epidemic that also threatened not only the beauty industry, but faced the company to new challenges and adaptation strategies.

Progressive (P): We see that the epidemic has fundamentally changed the lives of consumers and this has had a strong impact on most markets. How do you see the changes in the beauty industry?
Lajos Pingiczer (L.P.): Indeed, the epidemic has had a strong impact on many markets on a global level. There are some markets that have been hit very hard by the crisis, they completely zeroed themselves- just think of tourism, aviation and education. Certainly, there are categories where their relevance has grown exponentially and have begun to see an unprecedented growth - the biggest challenge for them is how to meet the high demand. Unfortunately, the beauty industry is one of the losers of the epidemic period. Among other things, makeup as a category eased down due to the fact that people do not really leave their homes and in most cases, there is no daily video conference meeting, so our consumers use fewer products. But I could even mention sunscreens in line with the fact that people did not sunbathe as much this summer.

Our sales and communication channels have also fundamentally changed over the pandemic and the transition period has certainly not been easy. Not only did we have to deal with online sales, but we also had to figure out how we could provide online services. Our customers were used to being able to visit the shops where our hostesses and beauty consultants suggested what product to use for different skin problems. If the consumers were unsure what to choose, our consultants helped them with a discounted offer. With the outbreak, we had to retrain our consultants to be able to help customers as online experts, and we organized online workshops on various topics to stay in touch with our buyers.
As far as communication is concerned; digital communication, search engine marketing, content marketing has significantly increased and not to mention influencer marketing as well.

P: How flexibly did consumers adapt to the new situation? Have there been any generational differences?
L.P.: It was not easy for consumers either, regardless of age. They are used to going into a store and talk to counselors if they needed anything. Of course, the older generation had a harder time changing their shopping method, but it was not easy for the younger ones either. Although young people know the digital space very well, but all of a sudden, all the information became only available at online channels and it is also a challenge for them how to process the data.

P: What does Bioderma do better than its competition?
L.P.: In addition to consumer communication, we paid more attention to communication with pharmacists, as we are talking about a channel where personal communication with our customers still worked. Therefore, we found innovative digital solutions for this. Since the epidemic started, we challenged playful WhatsApp games for the pharmacist, and we introduced an application where main goal is education. The app is similarly playful and has in an easy-to-accept form. These are engagement-building solutions that we have never seen at our competitors.

P: What do you think, did brand loyalty change with the digitization of channels?
L.P.: We learned that brand loyalty represents a decreasing trend. On the one hand, new products from new brands were the answer for the new or changed consumer needs. On the other hand, customers in the digital space have received much more impulse than ever, they found more special offers and many new products have become available to them. As a result, an increasing proportion of new products have been tried. Although it is very difficult to change customer habits. Covid-19 rewrote the rules of the game. Therefore, we considered it important to strengthen our pharmacy communication, where previous routines still work.
In addition to the beauty industry, there are other markets and categories that have been affected much more by the weakening of brand loyalty. In many cases, consumers become more cautious and buy cheaper products within brands due to the current economic uncertainty. Moreover, spending less time among people had a negative impact on some brands that are status symbols.

P: The first wave of the epidemic is over. What changed in the period after the first wave? Do consumer routines seem to be reorganizing, or are the new habits left behind?
L.P.: We could see that everyone was waiting to get back into the community space. There are no big differences in this. In terms of sales channels, however, the picture is already mixed. Consumers are still looking for digital solutions, and partly returning to traditional channels. Who belongs to which group depends on generational differences and on who has had a positive experience in the new, digitized ecosystem.
Because of the personal advice service, stores are also relevant to customers and of course there are some products where testers are important. On the one hand, it is not possible to try a cream online. On the other hand, if shoppers are used to getting something extra, for example a gift, a tester, a discount, a magazine, advice, anything during digital shopping, they are happy to choose the online channel once again. Many new solutions stayed in the digital space because consumers have experienced it positively.
Let us not forget that the marketing communication challenge has not fundamentally changed: we need to answer the question of how we can give a distinctive experience to our customers. Previously, this was an easier challenge because BTL activities were already done almost instinctively by brands. Due to the epidemic, there is limited access to these, and providing an experience without BTL is a very difficult task. In many cases, digitization has not yet been able to make up for the missing solutions.
I think the key challenge for brands is to understand the customer experience in addition to the consumer experience in the new situation.

P: What did you learn in the previous months that you would suggest to other marketers?
L.P.: Everything can change in a second, so it is very important to be in constant contact with the consumers and to have an up-to-date knowledge of the target group. Based on this, we can give our customers special experiences. Moreover, customers and advertising agencies also need to be prepared to adapt flexibly to new solutions even overnight, and to stay on track with the rapid changes affecting consumers' lives through the development of digital solutions.

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