4 min read

The future of beauty marketing

In these strange times, who knew how the beauty industry would fare in 2020? Store closures, enforced mask wearing, working from home, closures of salons and spas – these are all factors that have affected the way we purchase our beauty products, and indeed use them.

Brands who have prospered have put their focus firmly on digital, and are striving to ensure their websites are en pointe in terms of customer experience. Many of these changes to shopping habits look set to continue post-pandemic. Discover the key areas beauty brands should focus on as part of their online presence and brand perception in order to succeed and thrive in 2021.


Sustainable and ethical beauty

Superdrug has seen a 300% increase in the sales of vegan products since 2015, while Boots.com reports a 56% increase in vegan related searches in 2019. This isn’t just a UK trend, though, as the global vegan cosmetics industry is forecast to register a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 7.1% in the forecasted period 2018-2023.

Vegan beauty products are not a new concept, but the growth in interest in them is remarkable. Kathy Guillermo, Senior Vice President of PETA, is quoted in a recent article by the New York Times as saying: “The future of the beauty industry is vegan and not animal-tested. Not every company has realised this yet, but a lot of them have, and those are the ones that are going to get ahead and stay in business. We’re in discussions with enough of them to know that this is, without question, the trend.”

As a result, many brands are adding vegan lines to their ranges, or reformulating existing products. Giant publications, including Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire have all published lists of their top sustainable beauty products, which have been well received by their readers.  

And it’s not just the products themselves that consumers are more ethically aware of, but the packaging too. According to the Soil Association*, 64% of consumers said they were looking for products with recyclable packaging. The L’Oreal Group has clearly taken this seriously. Giorgio Armani Beauty recently launched their new fragrance My Way, presented in a bottle that is not only refillable, but is also made entirely of recyclable parts. According to Armani, the 50ml My Way bottle and 150 ml refill bottle use 32% less cardboard, 55% less glass, 64% less plastic and 75% less metal than their traditional spray bottle counterparts. 

Aleni Mackarey, COO at Base Beauty, said: “So far, 2020 has offered powerful reminders of how each of us can listen more, learn more and do more to be better for the world around us. With Covid-19 urging consumers to leverage and dispose of single-use gloves, masks, bags, cutlery and paper products to flatten the curve, perhaps the beauty industry can pick up the slack around sustainability.

“As the current largest industry in the US, the beauty industry can directly impact the world’s carbon footprint. Consumer packaging from brands and retailers will continue to make efforts towards sustainability.”


The events of 2020 have pulled diversity and inclusivity sharply into focus. The Black Lives Matter movement has had an enormous impact on the world at large, and the beauty industry is no exception.

Racial equity has long been an issue in the beauty industry, sadly, with many brands ignoring the market for darker skin tones, or catering to it very poorly. However, currently many brands are now expanding their product ranges, ensuring people of colour are represented in their advertising, and enhancing their brand tone and message to reflect a more inclusive approach. 

Back in 2017, Rihanna shook up the beauty industry, when she announced her beauty brand Fenty would be dropping 40 different shades of foundation for all skin tones. Given the amazing public reaction to this, other brands looked to follow suit.

When considering influencer marketing, it’s important to ensure your list of partners is as diverse as possible in terms of gender, sexuality, race, age, ability, and body type and skin type. Gone are the days of skincare brands only choosing white, slim, clear-skinned young girls to represent them. Good!

Rose Gallagher, an Instagram brand ambassador of IT Cosmetics, has rosacea and recommends beauty and skincare products to her 43k followers to help soothe / mask this skin complaint. Haircare brand, Pantene, launched their mainstream TV advert this year, featuring trans model Paris Lees, presenter Katie Piper who was the victim of an acid attack in 2008, and Ramla Ali, a black British boxer. Kate Grant, a model with Down Syndrome, was selected as a brand ambassador for Benefit in 2019.

Liz Dalton, director at Strada Creative, said: “Over the past two years, we’ve seen a shift in the models chosen to represent our beauty clients. This has included a wider mix of age, gender, ethnicity, and also what is considered stereotypical ‘beautiful’. This trend is set to continue as consumers want a genuine and meaningful connection with a brand.”

When brand ambassadors have a disability, or are older, or aren’t the expected gender, then more people are being – and seeing themselves – represented in the mainstream. This means that more people relate to the brand and it’s products, and therefore feel a meaningful connection with them.

Augmented Reality

The Covid-19 pandemic is illuminating the potential and benefits of Augmented Reality (AR). Its ability to revolutionise the beauty industry is becoming increasingly apparent as beauty giants harness the technology to boost consumer engagement and loyalty.

AR enables consumers to experiment with products as a visit to a physical store in order to experiment with and then purchase beauty products is no longer possible on account of hygiene standards.

Store closures initially forced the beauty consumer to purchase online. Now, even though stores have opened again, consumers must wear face masks and social distance, meaning the shift to online shopping remains. This will likely continue to be the case even after the pandemic, as increasingly more shoppers become comfortable with the online experience. 

Brands are ensuring they can still provide a personalised experience by using AR. NYX Professional Makeup has launched their Try It On service, allowing online users to browse, play and see how the shades look on them. Urban Decay, Mac Cosmetics, and Charlotte Tilbury all offer similar tools. Could this spell the demise of the in-store tester? Will swatching in-store be acceptable, or even allowed, in a post-Covid world? Who knows! But it’s certainly apparent that AR is allowing customers to make more confident online purchases, boosting customer satisfaction and decreasing return rates.


2020 has birthed the lovely word “maskne” (acne caused by wearing a face mask, for those not in the know!), which a whole host of beauty brands have jumped on, offering a range of products to combat this problem. 

Australian skincare brand Real-u Skincare, specialise in products that help tackle acne. Founder Ebony Ilsley announced: “Maskne is definitely a challenge we’re all dealing with at the moment […] We have seen a massive increase for our type of product”.

The brand has also launched silk-lined face masks, claiming silk masks are gentle on the skin, can help decrease skin’s moisture loss, and have antimicrobial properties. Brand new audiences have opened up to this brand, and Real-u Skincare is working hard to launch international shipping to make the most of this interest spike. 

This year has certainly shown the importance of being reactive for all brands, be that expanding your product range, improving your website, or targeting new audiences. Change is constant, and those unprepared to change will no doubt be left behind. Conversely, those at the forefront of change and developing new approaches or products in response will flourish.

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