How to run a beauty brand in quarantine

Running any business during quarantine has been a test of strategies, fail safes and the resolve of any team. Moreover, to run a beauty brand in quarantine and during lockdown has the added challenge of navigating a tactile product in a socially distanced world. This includes new protocols, heightened health and safety concerns.

As lockdown regulations are easing around the world and we are recovering from the initial Covid-19 shock and grief, I have continued to show up and try and get on with life. For example, in the last few months I have written two articles for trade publications on the African personal care market. Specifically on 2 of the highest growth beauty product categories. One on shampoo and conditioners, and another on the women’s skin care market in Africa.

The Afican cosmetic & beauty industry

What is clear is that the beauty industry and cosmetics market in Africa should not be swept aside but given the opportunity to be seen and recognised. This is a real market, not the vague representation that a search engine returns when you type in ‘African skin care or African hair care’. The limited representation of a multi page suggestion of retailer products for Afro hair care or dark skin. I hope this will improve over time as the African cosmetics and beauty industry starts to mature.

Although the current state of the industry is largely informal, the African beauty and cosmetics industry is a real contributor to the GDP of most African nations. This industry positively impacts unemployment numbers, as well as offering the chance to create a skilled labour work force.

Natural ingredients: The key ingredient of beauty brands

For decades, there has been a ‘borrowing’ of the continents active natural ingredients in global formulations and by companies worth millions. These active ingredients have helped build billion dollar industries across the globe. Despite this, due to the structure of the industry, the commodities that these ingredients are, rarely get to impact their local communities.

Usher in a new era of accountability in the last 5 years and all this is changing.

The consumers impact

Nowadays, consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and they are demanding more. This includes transparency from the brands they buy, sustainable products and recyclable packaging with the efficacy to match the marketing.

Furthermore, an in-depth analysis of the African consumer includes:

  • Her relationship with her skin and hair.
  • The major market and industry players, highlighting some niche local players as well as analysing the big 5 ( L’Oréal, P&G, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive).
  • Strategies for competitive advantage, market growth and product innovation.

You can read the article on the evolution of African women’s skin care here.

New local beauty brand players

With the growth of new local players emerging daily, two things struck me:

  1. How little information and data there is available on the African beauty and cosmetics industry. This enable smaller brands and their entrepreneurs to navigate the African cosmetics and beauty market with an understanding of the beauty business.
  2. How little information or data there is on most African markets in Africa apart from South Africa.

What is clear is that the informal marketplace that is reserved for start-up entrepreneurs is gaining traction.

New consumer centric brands are catering to specific consumer needs in the market. And these niche brands are hungry for the tools needed in order to join in the market race. In order to be seen, taken seriously and to start competing.

The Covid-19 effect on beauty brands

In light of this, the beauty industry took a knock with Covid-19. Brick and mortar stores were closed for months and have now re-opened with limited trading hours, protocols and additional restrictions. The
business model of the beauty and cosmetics industry has had a revision. Almost overnight, the whole world has been accelerated 10 years into the future.

In spite of this, for brands with existing omni channel strategies (sales and marketing approach that provides customers with multiple shopping experiences), the pandemic and lockdown has simply meant switching strategies. That’s leaning more towards other channels and investing cautiously.

These changes have brought new opportunities. Furthermore there are opportunities for smaller brands, especially those that are more nimble with the consumer attention.

6 ideas for cosmetic and beauty brands

Here are 6 ideas and marketing strategies that any cosmetics or beauty brand should be considering or implementing during the pandemic:

1. Make use of digital innovation

Production, promotion and distribution have all been affected during lockdown. This means beauty brands are having to pivot, innovate and improvise.

Not withstanding there have been successful launches in fashion and beauty, focusing on Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) e-commerce, virtual catwalk shows, virtual shopping and consultation experiences.

The beauty consumer has always wanted to interact; talk to someone, touch and feel the products. So we have to transfer this experience into the digital world: websites, social media communication, brand content and the consumer experience are now being put through their paces.

2. Brand Ambassadors

Aligning with the right brand ambassadors and beauty influencers will also help you to amplify your message and your products value.

Even though there might be a lot of digital ‘noise’, carefully and strategically done this action can help bring your beauty business closer to a consumer who is seeking sensitivity from their brands.

3. Brand collaborations

Strategic brand collaborations can help keep you top of mind. Most consumers and even you as a beauty business owner are asking the following vital question: “What do I need right now?”.

Dig into your business mission, ethos and find the brand value you can create for your customers. Take your time and really think about the psychography of your customer.

4. Sampling

Sampling is a costly but effective marketing tool. This is great way to get your beauty products in potential customers hands. It is also good to generate word of mouth and User Generated Content (UGC) on social media. This will effectively offer you more reach as well as an honest profile of your potential customer and their appetite for your product.

5. Brand content

Invest in brand content that will convert customers and in a short time will help you to build your brand with consumers who are now time rich.

6. Internal operations

A real investment on internal operations can be a life saver. For example, customer service, business logistics and delivery matters more now than ever. Throw in the added management of what might possibly be an extended need for freelancers with increased digital activity while managing public health issues within your production and supply chain.

In conclusion, nowadays the time to research, source and implement is vital.