Exploring the key trends in beauty retail

Apr 03, 2019

GDR CEO Kate Ancketill discusses personalisation, sustainability, transparency and how beauty brands are working hard to fit into the wider context of their customers’ lives

Earlier this year GDR CEO Kate Ancketill spoke to Retail Focus about the current trends and disruptors in the health and beauty category.

The article is available here, but you can read Kate’s thoughts in full below.


What trends have you seen in the health & beauty retail sector? 

Personalisation has been a key theme for the last few years, but we expect this to be pushed into exciting new areas in 2019. In terms of personalisation based on human biology, we expect the use of biomes to really take off and, potentially, to eclipse DNA. It’s easier to understand, more analogue, and extends beyond beauty into more general health issues, so the biome conversation will be supported by adjacent categories (diet, gut health, clean eating, self-medication etc), yet the subject is still grounded in solid science. Gallinee is a great example of this.

Sustainability and transparency will continue to move more and more into the mainstream and it will be increasingly important for brands to bake this into their core purpose. While this is happening, we’ll be interested to see how activist-led start-ups continue to push the envelope. Boie USA, a personal care brand with reusable and recyclable body scrubbers and toothbrushes, Nécessaire, which lists their “obsessively researched ingredients” in “The Yes List” and those they don’t use in “The No List”; and chemical-free, eco-friendly Sustain have all caught our eye recently.


What does today’s consumer want from health & beauty brands? 

In short, consumers want brands to fit within the wider context of their lives. Consumers don’t view their health and beauty treatments in isolation, they see them as something that supports their overall health or lifestyle goals. Brands need to position themselves within this space.

Interestingly there is an inherent tension between the two most popular approaches to achieving this. Some solutions, influenced by Korean step-based beauty routines, are about slowing things down and engaging consumers in long, thoughtful, mindful engagements, while others, like Recess (single-use products “that go where you go,”) and Fenty Beauty Matchstix Trio (magnetic packaging that sticks together, making it easy to find in the handbag) are all about the quick fix for on-the-go consumers.


Why do you think brands such as Glossier are storming the beauty sector and thriving? 

Glossier reflects a current mood where consumers want products “by people like me, for people like me”, which really challenges the old school approach where scientists in remote labs announce that they know exactly what people need. People still want science, but they want science rooted in personal experience. So many start-up challengers, like Glossier and  Sam Farmer, begin with: “I couldn’t find the product that was right for me so I went out and figured out the right formulation” origin stories. This speaks very clearly to modern consumers’ values.


Which other brands are worth noting that you feel are disrupting the sector and are successful with their formats?

We’re really big fans of Beautycounter, which opened its first physical store in New York late last year. More than just a space to sell products, it’s a place to educate its community and promote its lobbying efforts to change beauty industry regulations. It includes a customised phone booth for contacting your member of Congress.

Neutrogena’s MaskiD, which has just been launched at CES, is potentially a very disruptive take on personalisation. The 3D-printed face mask pushes beyond providing a tailored solution for each customer, and offers bespoke, contextual treatments for each different zone of the face.

Thirdly, The Ordinary have been around for a few years, but they still stand out with their really stripped back, minimal approach to product and packaging. No ads, no fancy packaging, just products that work at a fraction of the cost, pitched at the knowledgeable in-crowd. They’re like the Everlane of beauty.

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