There’s no denying things have changed since the pandemic began; from simple everyday tasks through to significant life events, everything seems a little different. Across the beauty industry, companies and customers have seen a substantial change in how we consume products and information. The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Master of Professional Studies in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management’s (CFMM) class of 2022 investigated the paradigm shift in the beauty industry accelerated by the pandemic. The findings of their study, “Beauty After Covid-19: Beauty’s Reformation or Renaissance,” were presented by CFMM graduates on June 22 in the school’s Haft Theater.
The CFMM class of 2022, collaborating under the name Beauty Think Tank, conducted a global analysis of quantitative and qualitative research, international fieldwork, and interviews with beauty executives and market experts, surveying over 900 respondents. The study divided findings into two prominent categories. The first category focused on ways beauty organizations can readjust their in-house working practices to thrive in a “new age” after the pandemic, honing in on an increased demand for remote working, as well as the call for the end of the five- day workweek. The second category focused on assessing how emotional tensions and desires since the pandemic, as well as the rise of technological advancements such as the metaverse, have led to the catalysis and realignment of the everyday beauty consumer.
“This year’s Capstone Research event by the FIT Beauty Think Tank, brought together parallels in consumer behavior shifts from ten years ago, and today, and parallels in the changes needed to future-proof corporate cultures for more adaptive work-life balance and more adaptive culture to nurture diverse talent, ”Professor Stephan Kanlian, Chair of Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management, FIT, tells BeautyMatter.
CFMM Market Opportunity #1: Beauty Reformation
The mass exodus of workers from their jobs, commonly known as The Great Resignation, has left the beauty industry reassessing traditional employment structures and ways of working. Since the five-day workweek was introduced in 1926, not much has changed in the way people work. However, CFMM’s research found that COVID-19 has revealed commonly overlooked employee challenges within beauty corporations that are posing threats to organizations. These challenges include:
- 53% of industry professionals agree structure and policies often stifle agility and experimentation.
- 80% of industry professionals surveyed agree that a five-day workweek is an outdated model.
- 65% said the pandemic made them rethink the place that work should have in their life.
- 26% of employees say they only plan to stay with their employer between 0-2 years.
- 71% would look for another job if they weren’t granted the flexibility to work from home.
- 55% feel an environment designed to foster efficiency and creativity would increase their desire to visit their office.
- 89% of companies now expect to compete largely on the basis of customer experience.
- 73% agree that employers need to remove administrative and other mundane tasks that negatively impact productivity, and introduce technology such as AI to take on these tasks instead.
“The cost to businesses, borne out in both this year’s research and a look back at research on DE&I from 10 years ago, is very high in terms of employee turnover and ability to retain diverse talent, both of which impact a company’s ability to deliver on their promise to consumers and maintain a strong and talented team, “Kanlian says.
Presentations further suggested that the over-prioritization of two stakeholders, consumers and investors, is hindering industry potential. The Think Tank concluded that beauty businesses should come full circle. The CFMM suggests organizations do this by implementing their CIRCLE model, “a network developed with the intention for the beauty industry to form, grow, and work together as a whole.” The researchers imply that by investing time into four different areas of importance, brands can have a clearer understanding of post-COVID threats:
- Resources: Creating a Chief Agility Officer position (CAO), building a Central Artificial Intelligence (CAI) hub, and creating a pool of flexible freelancers.
- Culture: Defining organizational and personal purpose, fueling DE&I, and offering time flexibility.
- Leadership: Implementing an adaptive “hierarchy,” being mentality changemakers, and reimagining retention.
- Environment: Appealing to new employee needs, leveraging the metaverse, and embracing fluidity.
“It was interesting to see the parallels in this year’s recommendations for adaptability in corporate culture and consumer engagement in the post-COVID period, and the same areas of focus from research done 10 years ago on DE&I with Deloitte. The industry needs to create more adaptive work environments and engage a broader definition of ‘stakeholders’ in order to succeed in creating environments that will embrace diversity in the workplace and complexity in the consumer space, ”Kanlian continues.
CFMM Market Opportunity #2: Beauty Renaissance
The CFMM’s report compared the current post-pandemic recovery period to the Renaissance, when society emerged from the Dark Ages with breakthrough innovations in the arts, architecture, society, and culture. COVID has changed consumer behavior forever, with lines blurring between physical and digital worlds, pushing beauty consumers to face a complex reality with endless ways to interact with brands.
Despite excitement around technological advancements and innovation, there is still a looming sense of uneasiness brought about by the fast-paced acceleration of society and technology. Consumer research conducted by the Think Tank uncovered these findings about the beauty consumer post-COVID:
- In the 18-29 age group, 62% of respondents stated they have feelings of restlessness and lower energy.
- 57% of consumers stated that they have changed the way that they find and interact with new people since the pandemic began.
- 66% of survey respondents showed a fear or distrust of companies or brands acquiring and having their data.
- For phygital innovations that bridge the gap between digital and physical, such as virtual try-on, the gap between awareness and interest is only 11%.
The report further suggested that organizations need to adapt to the idea of a neo-consumer landscape, a fluid spectrum where consumers seamlessly navigate online and offline worlds. The idea of the “real me vs the meta me” is essential for businesses to explore, with a clear differentiation between living in the moment with meaningful in-person interactions and new forms of expressions and escapes for consumers to experiment with in the metaverse.
Brands also need to inspire their customers to come together and emotionally invest in their story as well as each other. In order to do this, companies need to allow their customers access to full transparency into their products and progress, as well as providing tools for them to creatively express themselves in an unprescribed way across platforms and worlds.
Overall, the FIT Capstone presentations highlight that in order to ensure future success, brands must adapt to the changes taking place within the beauty industry through the perspectives of workers, employers, and consumers. Organizations have to learn to thrive, not just survive, with consumers, investors, resources, culture, leadership, and environment becoming integrated, interconnected, and interdependent. Think Tank’s CIRCLE model could be the best way forward, with a mindset that revolves around the need for corporations to remember that employees are human beings who prioritize their well-being. With beauty consumer habits having undergone such a large shift post-COVID, and considering consumer anxieties, brands must go beyond what was before the pandemic. In order to prepare for what the future brings, businesses need to go beyond their current strategies, forming deeper connections with their consumers.