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Looking good: beauty goes virtual

by Carla Heath

25 November 2020 12:07pm

For most beauty brands, up to 85% of sales came from bricks-and-mortar stores pre-Covid. Since worldwide lockdowns began, they’ve had to think outside the box to overcome store closures, as well as hygiene concerns (can you imagine touching a tester in a busy store now?)

We take a look at the beauty brands expanding into the digital sphere and speedily reshaping their retail strategies.

Digital make-up

Snapchat and Instagram users are already familiar with AR beauty filters; now L’Oréal is hoping to turn digital make-up into a new revenue stream.

Soon customers will be able to buy L’Oréal make-up filters to wear on Snapchat, Instagram, and most interestingly, Google Duo conference calls. With so many of us working from home, being able to instantly apply professional make-up looks without the hassle or skills it takes in real life is pretty tempting.

E-commerce boost

When it comes to selling more traditional, tangible products, online comms now have to work harder than ever to make up for store closures. Clean beauty brand, Lawless Beauty, for example, detailed in a recent Glossy article all the steps it has taken to grow during the pandemic, including boosting its Instagram following, creating before-and-after photos and tutorials, and investing in shipping.

With no sampling on offer, before-and-after photos are the most effective way of demonstrating the benefits of products. Up-and-coming, online-only British brands like The Glowcery and Like It On Top have started to offer discounts to any customers who send in their own before-and-after photos, which they use as social content as well as on their website.

Tester times

Fragrance is notoriously hard to sell online. Until scientists perfect Smell-O-Vision, customers will always want to sample scents IRL before they buy.

Vogue Business reported how L’Oréal, which owns brands like Ralph Lauren Fragrances and Giorgio Armani Beauty, has started to send three samples with every perfume purchase, the idea being that customers buying familiar scents might try something new once they’ve sampled it.

Floral Street has created a new way to sample, with a sensory at-home experience. Customers buy a scentschool™ box which includes eight samples, cards scented with hero ingredients and a code to attend a live tutorial. A Floral Street expert then educates the customer on ingredients and helps them find their signature scent.

Personalised perfume

The Perfume Shop has also ventured into personal virtual fragrance consultations, although this feature actually launched last summer – a fortuitous move, as sales through virtual consultations have grown 45% every month since lockdown began in March.

We love the idea of virtual consultations as it removes the need for sampling altogether. Just as skincare experts can recommend products simply by asking the right questions, fragrance experts could prescribe the perfect perfume by profiling alone.

Future beauty

At the start of lockdown there was plenty of debate about consumer need for beauty and fashion and the effect this would have on retail worldwide. Now that there’s (fingers crossed) an end in sight, it’s become clear that while sales have been impacted, our long-term relationship with beauty has not.

Some beauty lovers still prefer to face the day with a full face of make-up, whether they’re seeing anyone in real life or not; while others have eschewed make-up in favour of better skincare.

We’re hopeful that the beauty industry will thrive whatever happens and, with the growing consumer need for clean and ethical products, be better than ever.

Tags

retail
digital
AI
E-commerce
Virtual Experiences