The Future of the Beauty Industry in an Increasingly Virtual World With new norms in place, there are three keys to building trust and making things happen.

By Imran Tariq

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During this year's lockdown, those of us who wear makeup were faced with an interesting dilemma: how to order makeup without the ability to sample products in-store. While I personally leaned on my tried-and-true products, I couldn't help but think how new foundation seekers or those who wanted to switch up lipstick colors were coping. The world is increasingly becoming more virtual, something that Covid-19 cemented. And yet, are consumers ready to give up the perks and habitual nature of in-person shopping?

This has brought the future of the beauty industry, a typically in-person shopping experience, into consideration. Online shopping for beauty is a new trend. To put it into context, the top ecommerce seller in the beauty industry in 2018 was shampoo, according to a 2020 report from Statista. And, as all makeup shoppers know, making a purchasing decision regarding shampoo is entirely different than choosing which makeup to invest in. When colors, skin tones and skin types are involved, the process of shopping for makeup must be highly customizable. Will shoppers, and makeup brands, rise to the changing times?

Related: The Secret to Being a Successful Fashion Entrepreneur

The Importance of Social Media Marketing

Research shows that a whopping nine out of 10 makeup brands have a social media account, and Franchise Help reported that 80 percent of women believe that social media is responsible for new trends. This means it's never been more important to offer a product that's shareable, whether that comes from fun packaging efforts or because of the experience of using the product.

For example, a lipstick called "Kiss the Black Sheep" from Essence went ultra-viral on TikTok this year because it changes color upon application according to the wearers' pH level. This experiential aspect stirs interest in viewers, who also want to see what perfect shade of magical pink will match their skin tone. Or, perhaps it's because seeing hundreds or thousands of the same videos sparks their confidence in the product. After all, no one is hesitating to reorder the products that have worked for them before. It's discovering new products and product shades that is difficult when done virtually.

Social media is contributing to a sense of trust and security in a product, which is especially important now that many makeup stores still have regulations and restrictions on sampling products in-store. Because influencers are somewhere between celebrity and online friend, audiences feel as though it's simply their pal telling them which makeup products to try.

Accordingly, it's never been more important to engage in influencer marketing. It won't break the bank, either. Whereas we think of influencer marketing as paying for exposure on accounts with over a million followers, statistics have found that micro influencers (in the ballpark of 10,000 to 100,000 followers) are considerably more influential in makeup recommendations. Research from Statista reported that 45.8% of brands named micro influencers as their most effective marketing tool.

Trust Sells

We learn the importance of product trust from influencer marketing, but there are other ways to gain trust for a makeup product online. Take Fiera Cosmetics, for example. They're a beauty brand built specifically for maturing women with aging skin, and they've captured this demographic by niching down to offer something that many other makeup brands fail to even acknowledge.

Additionally, they build trust through an abundance of online reviews. Their website features nearly 2,000 reviews from real customers who give prospective customers honest feedback on how the products work. Fiera's team is confident that this is how they'll win, too. "We don't pay for shelf space or access to the big brand retailers," comments Kate Duff, Fiera's branding coordinator. "Instead, we let the reviews speak for themselves. If you have a truly great product, word-of-mouth marketing is all that you need."

Augmented Reality Makeup Experiences

Other companies in the beauty industry are experimenting with ways to provide both trust and autonomy to online makeup shopping through AR experiences. Sephora has an app dedicated to it, and markets it in-store, too. Large screens titled "VirtualArtist" invite shoppers to "tap and try" on makeup products virtually.

Sephora also developed an app that allows shoppers to do this at home in partnership with AR app ModiFace. Everything that can be tried on can also be purchased through the app. To spur more sales and garner most customer interaction, the app also includes virtual tutorials. In addition to makeup, other brands are getting on the AR scene, with HiMirror plus introducing a technology that scans faces to detect skin types and make product recommendations accordingly. The question then becomes: Will this be enough to spur trust in consumers?

Related: 8 Things You Need to Become a Successful Fashion Entrepreneur

We're at a turning point in the beauty industry, as technology's ability to streamline makeup sales to virtual rests solely in the amount of trust it can establish right now. And brands need to keep up to continue gaining exposure and trust, because the world is only becoming more and more virtual.

Imran Tariq

CEO Of Webmetrix Group

Imran Tariq is the co-founder and CEO of Webmetrix Group, a digital marketing and reputation-management company. He is an author and voice on CNN and CNBC. Tariq also works with seven-figure companies and helps them drive traffic to become market leaders.

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