How Social Influence Is Evolving Beauty & Wellness Retail

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In this regular column, creative agency Household explores how modern wellness businesses can leverage consumer behaviour to create brand stories and experiential points of discovery for customers. 

This month Household explores how the rise in social influence is evolving beauty and wellness retail.

Over the last few years, we’ve been tracking the rising emergence of a behavioural force called ‘Self-Expression’. Today, this trend has exploded as people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation and age seek opportunities to curate, express their own identities and drive change through the power of beauty and wellness products. 

What’s enabled the rapid rise of self-expression is the medium of social media. From Instagram tips and tricks to TikTok hacks, social platforms have enabled the fluidity for new generations to self-express, stay entertained and find belonging by connecting with like-minded communities. According to recent data by Nielsen, 3 out of 4 people said that TikTok is a place where they can express themselves openly and 60% feel a sense of community while using the app.

As consumers continue to use the power of social media to express their individuality, brands are looking to innovate, moving to new worlds to meet their customers where they are, creating authentic experiences that resonate with them. 

Power of social media partnerships
WIth 52% of people now saying that they discover new products through TikTok, brands are exploring new ways to leverage the hype of trends, partnerships and influencers to create entertaining and meaningful moments of engagement.

Take TikTok for example. Last year, videos belonging to NYX’s #BrowFitness TikTok challenge gained over 705 million views in just two days. The beauty brand roped in well-known TikTok influencers, Demi Bagby and Brent Rivera (to name a few), to demonstrate how to use NYX’s eyebrow makeup in new and innovative ways.

For acne-patch brand Starface, meanwhile, enlisting the help of TikTok stars Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae to create a series of videos showing them wearing its stickers, also racked up millions of views.

Starface

Image: Starface

TikTok challenges are an easy way to get fans involved, generating content that inspires and encourages viewers to take part and discover the brand for themselves, incentivising purchase.

Social media has always been a space powered by community-led entertainment. What we’re seeing now is that brands are becoming an active part of the conversation, leading the trends by generating hype through resonate and engaging content that forges new relationships and inspires loyalty.

Personalised ways to test and play
While TikTok and Instagram challenges are used to drive hype, brands are leveraging the variety and innovation of other social media platforms to create a more frictionless shopping experience for consumers, combining virtual product play and brand expertise that seamlessly transitions into IRL beauty purchases.

MAC Cosmetics recently partnered with Snapchat to utilise its augmented reality (AR) try-on lens. Customers can test different lip and eye product shades on themselves virtually, through their own mobile device. Once deciding on their optimal shade, users can click-through to the MAC cosmetics website to purchase their item. Virtual-try on tech is similar to an expert store associate – but it’s on-demand and completely personal. It ensures customers receive tailored assistance conveniently so they can try and buy makeup online more confidently.

Elsewhere, Australian athleisure brand P.E Nation created a custom-built AR changing room ahead of the launch of one of its latest collections.

The Instagram AR filter enabled customers to step into an international snow environment where they could ‘try on’ selected garments from the brand’s ‘Sustainable In Snow’ collection.

With 94% of people expecting to use AR for shopping as much or more in 2022 compared to 2021 (Deloitte x Snapchat), we expect to see brands leaning into innovative tech to blur the lines between physical and digital, enabling instant and personalised play that links to IRL purchase. This will ultimately change the way people shop for beauty and wellness, as consumers will expect a more interactive, digital experience that recognises their need for individuality.

Stores blur boundaries between selling and social entertainment
The next step for beauty and wellness brands is to fluidly link this experience across channels, creating socially inspired moments that enable effortless self-expression and entertainment, at any moment. To do this, brands will need to supercharge the retail experience by infusing social media functionality throughout, blurring the lines between physical and digital.

Western brands can learn from WeChat’s partnerships in China. One of the most recent is with luxury skincare brand, SK-II.

Together both brands launched a ‘social retail’ pop-up throughout May 2021, inspired by SK-II’s brand purpose #ChangeDesitiny and a six-part anthology film series that tackles social pressures facing women, called ‘VS’ films, created by SK-II Studio.

Image: P.E Nation

While at the pop-up, customers could use the WeChat mini-programs to watch ‘VS’ films and engage with AR experiences, such as battling an underwater kaiju with Olympian Liu Xiang. Customers could also freely self-express by using Mini-Magic Scan mirrors which analysed their faces and gave them instant product recommendations that were completely tailored to their needs.

Soon the boundaries between physical and digital will be all but removed, creating social worlds that facilitate belonging. SK-II is continuing to push this, with the brand recently launching a virtual SK-11 city online, for loyal fans to discover iconic places in Japan such as Mount Fuji and the Tokyo Tower. Fans could interact with the brand in a new way, watching ‘VS’ films and view behind the scenes footage in the virtual cinema, located within the city.

SK-II and WeChat are on a joint mission to create a beauty buying process that’s always-on, fun and completely interactive while helping women feel good about themselves. This is what new beauty and wellness retail are about. It mixes consumer desire for self-expression with the want for a socially connected, personalised experience that can be picked up at home or in-store.

What’s next?
The rise of social media beauty and wellness is changing the way people browse, shop and test products online and in-stores. The future will mix beauty and wellness retail with social entertainment, creating an interactive experience that’s accessible anywhere, designed to connect with customers to drive hype and engagement, and most importantly sales.

We’re at the beginning of tracking and developing this exciting new world of shopping with our clients, which brings an immersive and entertaining dynamic to the customer experience.

We’re working together with our clients to solve the following challenges:

  1. How new digital behaviours and trends are influencing how consumers shop for beauty and wellness online and in-stores
  2. How to encourage and engage consumers 1-2-1 in testing, trying and buying new products
  3. How to create a socially connected, 360 shopping experience for customers

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