Innovation: How The Personal Care Sector Can Adapt To The ‘New Normal’

4 Min Read |

(United Kingdom) – Economic hardship – a term that many businesses around the world will be familiar with today and the personal care sector is no different. A national lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 enforced the closure of many suppliers, manufacturers, brands and retailers, with a considerable knock-on effect for consumer-facing salons and beauty bars as social distancing came to the fore. With a diminished clientele, employees were soon furloughed through government schemes to help keep the economy afloat. But the impact of an economic shutdown and sustained social distancing measures will continue to ripple throughout the industry in the months to come, especially for a sector that thrives off product innovation, interactive ‘touch and feel’ experiences for consumers, and in-store purchases, which accounted for up to 85 per cent of beauty product purchases prior to COVID-19. So, how do we define the ‘new normal’ for a £500 billion industry that accounts for millions of jobs, both directly and indirectly?

Changing Tactics

Based on current epidemiological trends and according to the latest research from McKinsey & Company, global beauty industry revenues could fall 20 to 30 per cent in 2020. For the US, in particular, this could fall as much as 35 per cent, should there be a resurgence in the virus. While online retail has soared for food produce, household and gardening tools amidst lockdown, online beauty and cosmetics sales paint a different picture. Although there is growth, this increase in online sales according to McKinsey is not enough to offset the decline of in-store sales. For companies in China 60 per cent of shopping centres and malls – even after reopening – reported a 30 to 70 per cent decrease in sales in the first quarter of 2020. It’s clear that life in lockdown has caused a major shift in consumer spending. But where there is a downturn, there is also resilience. 

The personal care sector must change tactics to evolve and flourish in the new normal. Since innovation is at the heart of the beauty industry, product development must meet those challenges head-on to provide consumers with new ‘touchless’ experiences. Electronic devices that can remove dirt on skin without a brush or bring instant radiance to complexions may surge in popularity. Gadgets that use ancient Chinese philosophy combined with 3D technology to deliver smoother and softer skin or bath mittens that can be used to naturally exfoliate the skin to clear the body of toxins could also see an uplift. Even spray and stick applications, which have seen an increase in popularity during the outbreak according to Mintel , are great ways to encourage a touchless beauty experience.

Keeping It Safe & Simple

For cosmetic companies that have furloughed staff, product development may be a slow uphill battle at first. The impact of COVID-19 has meant some complex SKUs, with ingredients that are difficult to import or export, have been removed in favour of simple, easy to manufacture products for a quick online sale. Now, more consumers are relying on products that are fuss-free, reliable and safe. Of course, this heightened safety awareness translates to products that contain fewer ingredients with simpler formulas. The idea of ‘less is more’ has never been more in vogue.

With economic hardship, and looming global recession, both businesses and consumers lack the financial backing they may have relied on beforehand. According to McKinsey & Company, 66 per cent of UK consumers believe their finances will be affected for at least two months because of the outbreak, and 36 per cent say they are cutting back on spending . With this in mind, the industry must focus on product development that can generate small but consistent wins. Businesses like UK based Cornelius Group who specialise in delivering innovative ingredients for skin care and cosmetic formulations to brands and retailers, are in a unique position to advise on NPD processes and support formulation recommendations. Delivering formulations that are simple, contain natural plant-based ingredients which are easy to obtain, and are perfect go-to-market solutions for helping a business get back on its feet.

Recover, Revive & Refresh

These small wins are just one of the ways the industry can recover from COVID-19. To revive trends and feed innovation, experts across the globe must pool their knowledge and share their successes to ensure smaller businesses can thrive. Between video platforms, beauty forums and Instagram influencers, knowledge is just one click or tap away – and it’s crucial we utilise it.

For example, as consumers have been wearing less make-up during lockdown, they’ve turned their attention to simple skincare regimes with easy-to-purchase products, either online or through their local supermarkets. Tapping into this culture with inexpensive products that enhance the skin’s natural barrier against disease, pollution and more, enable consumers to adhere to a regime without breaking the bank. Perhaps, when we emerge from lockdown, consumers will look to products that emphasise the eyes or soften the hair. Premium or luxury products may suffer in the short-term, but the industry cannot rely on those bigger wins.

Now is not the time to rest on our laurels, instead it’s time for experts to refresh the industry with a clean and simple look. As one of the most famous advertisements of our time stated: think small. Only then will we drive industry success.

About the Author: Jason Fitzgerald is Life Sciences Business Manager at Cornelius Group, an independent European manufacturer and distributor of speciality chemicals, raw materials and ingredients for the Life Sciences and Performance Chemicals market sectors. Established for over 80 years, the company operates across the UK, Ireland, Poland and Russia with additional sourcing offices in China and India.

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