Radhika Singal, a research consultant at Euromonitor International, outlined cross-sector consumer trends that have developed in Singapore and Southeast Asia in response to the pandemic. According to Singal, beauty brands in Southeast Asia have been quick to adapt to ensure the continuance and convenience of pre-pandemic shopping. One subsequent trend, dubbed “Craving Convenience” by Euromonitor International, has seen WhatsApp become an essential shopping platform in Malaysia and Indonesia during the past year. For example, The Body Shop Malaysia launched an express delivery service through which consumers can place an order via phone or WhatsApp, pay for it and have it delivered on the very same day. The Body Shop also launched a curbside drive-through collection service that enables consumers to, again, place an order via phone or Whats-App, then collect their products from a designated drive-through location.
“We saw several beauty players revert to such express delivery services as a means for business continuity as physical retail became unavailable during lockdown,” said Singal. “It also helped them cater to consumers who may have elevated their beauty and self-care routines as they now spend more time at home but are fearful to explore physical retail even after lockdown. It helped The Body Shop to stay connected with consumers and maintain a sales outflow regardless of the situation.”
The Body Shop launched similar services in the US, where it partnered with Uber Eats to provide same-day delivery, and in Singapore, where it teamed up with Foodpanda.
“Partnering with food delivery or hyper local delivery companies became a norm for several beauty players,” observed Singal, noting that beauty brands Armani Beauty, Estée Lauder, Lancôme and Origins all launched WhatsApp Concierge services as a means of communicating with consumers and delivering products on demand.
Another consequence of the pandemic is the preference among consumers for open-air activities, such as dining and exercising, to support mental wellbeing. This trend, pegged “Outdoor Oasis” by Euromonitor, is less applicable in beauty than in other sectors, such as hospitality. Instead, with remote working the new norm, beauty brands are providing “emotional and mental wellbeing in the tough times either via free virtual consultations or virtual beauty makeover workshops,” explained Singal.
In Singapore, for example, Bobbi Brown held free “Beauty Recess” sessions on Facebook Live during lunchtime to provide consumers with a much-needed break.
“There is increasing conversation and marketing communication around self-administered beauty routines and rituals for home-cocooned consumers that can be performed to suit individual time demands as salons become unavailable,” said Singal. “This may yet again lead to the rise of beauty subscription box services that allow beauty consumers to experiment with new brands seamlessly at the convenience and comfort of their homes.”
In its latest beauty survey, Euromonitor found that 23% of beauty consumers in Thailand had used a beauty subscription service, up from 15% in 2018.
“On-demand virtual concierge consultation services where beauty consumers could pre-book a time for at-home consultations is another much-preferred engagement tool that many beauty companies touted as well,” Singal added.
Straddling Two Worlds
Phygital Reality, a hybrid of physical and virtual worlds, has also seen greater adoption by beauty brands in Southeast Asia, where consumers are fairly familiar with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). In its latest digital consumer survey, Euromonitor International found that 18% of people in Indonesia own a VR headset, compared with a global average of 11%. It also found that 35% of people in Indonesia had used VR or AR in the past year to, for example, preview a holiday destination, tour a hotel room, shop for household items, or try on makeup. This compared with a global average of 22%.
“Beauty is one of the industries that has most embraced phygital reality,” explained Singal. “Particularly in Southeast Asia, we believe the beauty players leapfrogged at least five years in phygital adoption. The pandemic saw a huge adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality makeup try-ons as well as skin analyzers, which only a handful of players offered pre-pandemic.”
In Indonesia, Perfect Corp partnered with Paragon Technology and Innovation in late 2020 to provide virtual makeup try-on across its four brands, Wardah Beauty, Instaperfect, Emina and Make Over. A number of local brands have now also adopted the technology, which is quickly catching on with consumers. In its latest beauty survey, carried out in October 2020, Euromonitor International found that 35.8% of beauty consumers in Indonesia had used a beauty app to try a virtual makeover. The market research firm also found that 23.2% of beauty consumers in Thailand used a beauty app to interact with beauty advisors.
“Web consultations are also something that skyrocketed last year to keep the beauty consumers engaged and entertained,” she added.
Caring Beyond Revenue
In the post-COVID world, we should expect to see purpose-driven initiatives that support the triple bottom line—people, planet and profits, according to Euromonitor International. In the past year, businesses around the world have joined the fight against COVID-19 by, for example, manufacturing hand sanitizer and PPE while protecting the wellbeing of the workforce and supporting local communities. With this, consumers have realized businesses are capable of protecting the health and interest of society and the environment in which they choose to work. An example of such initiatives that support the triple bottom line—people, planet and profits—within the beauty sector in Southeast Asia is the sustainability efforts of L’Oréal in Singapore.
“L’Oréal Singapore is ramping up its sustainability efforts in Singapore across a number of brands, including cutting down use of plastics as well as revamping packaging to make it recyclable,” explained Singal. “The company also launched a product environmental and social impact labelling mechanism last year to provide eco-conscious consumers with much in demand transparency so they can assess the environment and social footprint of their purchases.”
According to the Euromonitor analyst, “caring beyond revenue” will be an ongoing expectation as consumers enter a post-pandemic world.
Michelle Yeomans is an award winning multimedia journalist. She has been reporting on cosmetics industry movements in EMEA, US and Asia for five years and has won an award for her coverage of the complexities of operating in the Middle East. Michelle’s passion lies in tracking the beauty culture and trends of the Asia Pacific region. Ever the AV enthusiast, she also relishes the opportunity to create engaging video and podcast content for the B2B industry.