COVID-19 has transformed the beauty industry, particularly in Asia. Holistic care, ecommerce and good value are key for brands to grow post-pandemic, according to a report by Charles Chow, Head of Marketing, Asia.
The personal care sector in Asia has rebounded relatively quickly following the height of the pandemic. In China, before COVID-19 hit, the personal care market was forecast to grow 9% in 2020 but is now on track for a -5% decline. In South Korea, the market has shrunk by -8%, compared with expected growth of 4.8%. The impact has been lower in Thailand, where the sector was expected to remain flat, but has declined by -2.1%.
Across Asia, we see different categories recovering at different rates:
- Growth categories: sectors that are doing better than before the pandemic due to increased awareness of hygiene, including bodywash, handwash and sanitiser.
- U-shaped recovery: necessities, including skincare and haircare, which endured a steep fall as occasions reduced, but are now rebounding quickly.
- L-shaped recovery: discretionary sectors that are taking longer to bounce back. Make-up in particular is still struggling, slowing the overall rate of recovery.
Consumers are thinking beyond ‘skin deep’
Increased concerns around health and leading a safer life have changed consumers’ expectations of beauty. Priorities have shifted from fixing issues to building a strong foundation.
Consumers want personal care products to be highly effective, and offer more sophisticated functions. Already gaining in popularity before the outbreak, derma-care products have gained further traction, and the trend is spilling over from skincare into body care and make-up.
Clean beauty has also risen in importance, with brands expected to be safe and environmentally responsible. Complex ingredients are falling out of favour, as consumers look for those that are natural, gentle and vegan, for example.
Ecommerce is now a part of daily life
Restrictions on physical movement have forced a shift in spend from offline to online platforms. Consumers are not expected to move away from online channels now they’re able to visit stores again, as they’ve ‘tasted’ advantages such as convenience, greater accessibility and lower prices.
The rapid development of ecommerce has given smaller ‘long tail’ brands greater reach, and helped them gain traction. These include local brands, which have excelled due to being ‘ecommerce ready’, combined with their understanding of local consumers’ needs.
To remain competitive, beauty brands across the world must capture new consumer expectations and behaviours, and respond to the ways in which their markets have evolved. In particular, they should:
- Review their product portfolio and innovation – to embrace a wider perspective that meets consumer demands for safety, health and being ‘green’.
- Provide value-seekers with a reason to buy – creating and demonstrating good value, for instance by improving efficacy and functions, or using new technology.
- Adapt communications – to emphasise health benefits, active ingredients or scientific or medical credentials.
- Build their ecommerce offer – making purchasing easier and more routine, through developing the supporting infrastructure and payment systems, and improving delivery, for example.
- Reach consumers online by addressing their beauty missions – understanding the main mission types and how each platform meets them, to decide which are most appropriate for the brand to penetrate.
- Build a consistent and complementary online-to-offline (O2O) experience – to maximise exposure and availability.