The cosmetics sector represents one of the "Made in Italy" excellences, thanks to the constant care to innovation of formulations and to the management dynamics of the Italian manufacturing companies, concentrated in the north of the country.
Cosmetica Italia (National Association of Cosmetic Companies) described 2019 as a positive year for the sector, which reached a peak of growth on purchases of +2.2%, higher than the one recorded in 2018. The trend, however, has been sharply interrupted by the past year, which has literally changed the daily routine of consumers. Pandemic, masks and lockdowns have overturned traditional make-up care, inducing the consumer to focus on hygiene, scalp treatments and body care. E-commerce was the channel that led the entire sector and which allowed the achievement of a positive percentage (+ 12%) on direct sales in 2020.
During the period of closure due to Covid-19, companies in the cosmetics sector have had the opportunity to implement and expand their e-commerce platforms and to reinvent a method in order to communicate with consumers. Here are a couple of successful examples.
The Veralab case
A strategic and effective communication was implemented by Cristina Fogazzi, founder of the Veralab company, better known on the web as the “Estetista Cinica”. Her career begins with the articles published on her blog (estetistacinica.it), in which she feels the need to communicate in a sincere and blunt way to her customers (whom she calls "fagiane") and goes on with the decision to produce her own line of cosmetic products with Veralab. In 2019 she inaugurates the first store in Milan and to date she has managed to make 13 million just in the first months of the pandemic. The Estetista Cinica faced the lockdown by involving her followers with Instagram Lives and practical advice related to the world of wellness. From the houses of the employees of her beauty center in Milan, she organized free online consultations: video calls in which fans could show their face and body to their beautician in order to get advice about the purchasing of products.
The initiative obtained such public approval that the sessions’ bookings for the following months were exhausted in two hours. The entrepreneur also chose to support the people who were majorly proved by the closure for Covid-19 by involving online psychologists: free half-hour sessions for anyone wishing to meet experts.
"The e-commerce of face and body products saved me. In these months of quarantine, maybe there was no desire to buy dresses, given the inactivity, but there was the one of putting some mud on legs. In March I realized my record of takings: 5.3 million euros, double the amount of the last year in the same month. And 4 millions in April. I had been working online for a long time, it was my strength".
Cristina Fogazzi, in an interview to Fatto Quotidiano.
Last but not least, in-store safety: gloves and FP3 masks supply to staff and customers, installation of an innovative air conditioning system for rapid air circulation and suspension of all facial treatments to reduce the close physical contact.
The Pinalli case
Established in Emilia Romagna 35 years ago, Pinalli boasts over 50 Beauty Stores located in the historic centres and shopping malls of the main cities in Northern and Central Italy. In addition to over 5,000 m2 of retail space, they also have an e-commerce platform, (pinalli.it) which is one of the best and most innovative websites in the beauty industry.
During the lockdown, Pinalli made numerous deals with top influencers in order to present new collections and to propose promotional coupons. One of them, Paolo Stella, created a social campaign for Christmas holidays, participating as the protagonist of a short film made for the perfumery brand, together with four other well-known faces: Cristina Fogazzi (the Estetista Cinica), Daniele Lorusso (well-known as “Mr Daniel make-up”), Giulia Valentina and Stefano Guerrera.
Sitting around a table full of cosmetic products of various brands, the five influencers begin to compete for tricks and perfumes, accompanied by rhythmic and pressing music: there are some who throw themselves on the ground, some who throw themselves on the table and others who try hiding products inside their clothes. Exhausted from the struggle, with messy hair and smudged lipstick, they all show themselves close together with a gift bag and the words "At Christmas we are all more ... PINALLI", recalling one of the most recognized slogans of the Christmas period. The campaign goes on with the involvement of followers who have to guess on the pinalli.it site which beauty products each of them has put in their Pinalli Xmas Box. The result of this initiative has led to a 40% increase in total sales (as well as followers), showing that the choice of the right ambassadors and the study of an effective advertising strategy can determine the success of a promotional campaign.
Safe Beauty: form testers to real life
If before the effort to be made was to get users to buy online, the goal is now reversed. In the next months, every cosmetics company will have to figure out how to encourage consumers to return to the stores in total safety. According to a research conducted by First Insight, 80% of them stated they feel less safe in using the free samples received in store due to the risk of contracting diseases or bacteria. Although the concern keeps being high, there is a strong interest on the side of consumers to try products and to test their formulation and color on the skin, as confirmed by Euromonitor International: testers represent one of the main drivers of purchase, together with WOM.
We will certainly say goodbye to some packaging that we currently find on the shelves and which will be substituted by single-dose packs, maybe with single-use spoons to avoid coming into direct contact with the product. An example: in order to get lipsticks tested, Livcer, a company specialized in the production of samples for the beauty sector, created a sample consisting of a wooden stick placed in a single-use blister (realized with recyclable materials), whose extremities are covered with a small amount of lipstick.
The product caught the attention of a jury of experts of the Make Up fair in Paris (held from 28 to 30 September 2020) and received the IT Products Award.
Michael Nolte, creative director of Beautystreams, a global leading cosmetics trend company, during an interview for Harper's Bazaar highlighted: “The challenge will be to find sustainable alternatives: biodegradable sachets or cosmetic pills to be dissolved with water in a spoon in order to create the right amount of product. The creams in small jars, compact powders, sticks, which constitute a fertile breeding ground for microbes, will give way to sprays, airless formats and dosing pumps. In addition, packaging with antibacterial or antimicrobial surfaces will be increasingly used.”
Other brands have chosen a virtual reality solution, such as Sephora, its latest app update introducing the new Sephora Virtual Artist function, designed using a facial recognition software to allow users to test lip products and purchase directly within the application.
L'Oréal Paris did the same with the “Makeup Genius” application while Pinterest, the social media based on sharing photos, videos and images, unveiled “AR Try on” for eyeshadow, a feature which allows users to see how over 4,000 shades of eyeshadow from brands such as Lancome, YSL, Urban Decay and NYX Cosmetics brands would look on their face. A really interesting strategy to enhance the upper part of the face, the only one to focus due to the constant use of the mask.
Estèe Lauder goes against the tide, choosing to focus on new make-up collections rather than in getting its customers back in store: "We expect a renewed interest in colored make-up when the pandemic is completely over and we can go back to socializing and partying, as before’’, says Lesley Crowther, vice president of the brand, "We are focusing on this point for our next launches".
In short, even in the field of cosmetics, the key word remains "safety": in the last period each brand has declined this term in its own way by procuring single-use testers and touchless dispensers, or by promoting consultancies in videocall, while consumers have become accustomed to interacting with technology, which represents an excellent solution for experimenting with beauty products at distance. All that remains is to wait to figure out how companies will move in the coming months in order to meet the demands of their target and keep industry standards high.