Beauty's Big Makeover

27 February 2018

Beauty. It’s got a new face. But we’re not talking the next Aboah or the new Moss. This is a noticeable shift in the industry. From up and coming brands taking charge to new and innovative tech developments, this is the beauty world, reimagined. Join us as we take a deep dive into the significant changes in the sector and get the inside scoop from the experts at Beauty Pie on changing behaviours, shattered stereotypes, ingenious business models and more.

The newcomers


Recent years have seen a recognisable growth of smaller independent brands and businesses in the sector: the beauty disrupters. Just take Glossier. The authentically real millennial brand that's redefining customer experience. Creating the Glossier world, they managed to gain over 100,000 followers before even creating a single product. Then there’s skincare label Rodan + Fields. By following an ingenious multi-level marketing model – where the shoppers are the brand consultants – they turned over a whopping $1.2 billion in sales last year.

And these new business models are proving to be a threat for larger, commercially driven brands. Sophie Jenkins, Marketing Manager of members model Beauty Pie, tells us that, “The barriers of entry have somewhat reduced in recent years, therefore paving the path for increased accessibility and social connectivity that independent beauty brands have been able to take advantage of.”

“The industry comprises of a handful of beauty conglomerates, causing restrictions in terms of innovation. Said brands have locked themselves into a routine manner of working, making them delayed in reacting to ever-changing demand. Smaller businesses have the ability to take a different route.”

Access, all areas

But why now? What’s changed that significantly in recent years that's allowing smaller, independent companies to break into an already over-saturated industry? Two words: social media. We’ve become needier than ever. We crave constant newness, constant inspiration, constant engagement. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 11.20.30.png

And in a world, that’s always on, social media is the answer. It’s mass-availability, on a global scale. It’s what Sophie puts down as the key to Beauty Pie’s success. “We’re audience-focused and feedback-driven. Our founder and Beauty Pie team are intimately involved in consumer conversations and regularly spend several hours a day directly engaging with customers via Instagram and other social media channels. From product development questions to packaging designs, we want to know what they want.”

Beauty, for you

The beauty industry has never been inclusive. Not unless you’re one of six skin tones, ranging from fair to dark (whatever the hell that's meant to mean). However, the use of social media has been pivotal in making the industry more diverse. A broad reach allows customers to have a voice. Now, more than ever, they’re able to specifically define what they want from their favourite brands, instead of being dictated to. Something the big dogs haven’t been able to deliver before. 

American brand, Ulta is the perfect case study. By offering shoppers enrolled in their loyalty programme tailor-made incentives, they’re able to get something back in return. What? Real-life consultants to promote their product. A marketing model that's proven its success. Now, 90 per cent of their monthly sales come from customers enrolled in the loyalty programme. Why? Because it feels honest. 


Jeii Hong, Creative Consultant, welcomes the change because, “you’re having a conversation with the customer and it’s built for you. In all honesty, brands have been doing this forever but with the rise of social media and the concept of community-lead brand and product development – and conversations being at the forefront more than ever – the consumer can feel part of the experience.”

“They can identify themselves and their input in the final outcome, which I think consumers find fresh. The more traditional brands – especially in luxury – are really seen to lead and present back ideas to consumers which they deem to be the next big thing. But I think there’s starting to be a shift. And it’s the brands hitting the balance between the traditional approach of leading and listening to the consumer that are succeeding. This is very prominent in the beauty sector.”

Keep it in the community


Now, mega beauty brands are starting to jump on the community bandwagon, too. Last year, American giant Sephora launched Beauty Insider Community – an online platform that allows customers to interact – sharing hacks and tips, as well as finding all the answers to their product-related questions.

Across the pond, household retailer Boots launched Your Good Skin – their first own branded range of skincare products in almost 15 years – and co-created with thousands of real women, with equally real skin issues. 

Sophie tells us that, “Consumers are taking an active role. They're informed, shrewd and connected. Brands will only keep the consumers' attention if they’re perceived to be relevant so it’s crucial to understand what their needs are, and how the brand can meet them in their campaigns and communications. It's not about making them think they're involved but working out how to get them involved and making it scalable.”

Jeii agrees, “I think beauty is definitely a community-lead industry where the success of brands is really built on referrals, suggestions and the idea of sharing information. The membership aspect really plays up to the sense of community. Also, we live in a world where responsibility, accountability and honesty is becoming more centralised in the conversation around product.”

Let’s talk diversity

With a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour, brands are able to offer a more targeted selection of products. Whether it’s a rainbow of foundation shades or skincare designed specifically for different conditions, change is being embraced. And it’s about time.

With their 40 shades, 40 powers campaign – which celebrates the diversity of women by featuring beauty advisors of every race, age, colour and ability – Lancôme is a prime example of a big brand that's smashing the barriers. 

Here at Portas, we’ve also taken notice of this step-change. Our latest body of work for Liberty Beauty set out to challenge the ideas of beauty norms. Zara Ineson – our Creative Director – explains the thinking: “We wanted to break the traditional beauty marketing codes and celebrate diversity and inclusivity. We featured all ages, sizes, genders, skin-types, skin-colours and refused to retouch what the industry labels as their imperfections. Whilst it’s a trend we’re seeing across other sectors, nobody is being this bold and brave in the beauty space right now. From plus-size models to men and beautiful older women, we didn’t get rid of a single wrinkle or bit of cellulite.”

  Portas x Liberty Beauty

Portas x Liberty Beauty

Jeii describes this new revolution as, “The industry’s definitely becoming more inclusive and diverse. It still has miles to go on both but you can feel the beginnings of the evolution which is very long overdue. With more brands like Beauty Pie and Deciem coming to the market and challenging price points, there’s a huge opportunity for communications to become more real and approachable.”

“I think campaigns will start to reflect this with castings becoming more diverse, real and relatable. With brands welcoming and actually encouraging consumer conversation more than ever, this has and will help brands hone what they need to create for their consumer, helping them be more efficient and successful. It’s a very exciting time.”

Celebrity backing


Speaking of diversity, celebrities are backing the big beauty change, too. Coming in 40 shades, the Pro Filt’r foundation from Rihanna’s makeup line Fenty sold out in the darkest shade shortly after it was released. Since, shoppers have taken to the internet in their masses to leave heart-warming, positive reviews of the product.

As well as Rihanna, the likes of Madonna, Pat McGrath and Kylie Jenner (her lip kits sold out within minutes of going on sale) have their own beauty lines. It was recently announced that David Beckham will be getting in on the action too, launching grooming brand House 99, in partnership with L'Oréal.

Blurring the lines


Except he’s not the only bloke doing it. There’s been a shift. Men want to feel and look as good as women do, making male beauty the fastest growing global trend of recent times. 

How have brands reacted? They’ve become more gender fluid. Originally made as a men’s brand, Glossier markets their products with neutral packaging to ensure they stay as a mixed-use label. Jecca – a new line of cosmetics – is a unisex brand making leaps, designed specifically with transgender people in mind. And that's just to name a few.  

New tech

Technology is advancing at an alarming rate. Brands are having to move fast to keep up with new developments and trends. Naturally, app use is common among mega companies like Sephora and L’Oréal, whose Makeup Genius app allows people to virtually test beauty products both at home and in store. 

Yet it’s not all about apps. Colour matching, VR and AR and making big waves in the beauty sector, allowing consumers to virtually and physically experience products like never before. Kiehl’s has gone as far as using tech to provide product personalisation. Their new multilingual technology – Skin Atlas – allows store staff to assess and rank customer skin concerns and ultimately create a bespoke oil and serum. 

Shopping, reimagined


Google is changing the way we shop too, creating curated shopping results for a visual, all-encompassing experience. Jeii describes the importance of having a voice online: “I don’t think brands can survive without an online presence. It’s too much of a touchpoint for any customer so it’s crucial that brands embrace this and actually really contemplate what it means for them. It’s not a one-size-fits-all.”

“I’m a believer that in-store experience will never disappear. While we may all be glued to our phones and computers, as human beings I think we long for the physical experience of seeing and feeling things in person. Beauty is all about application and how it makes you feel. I think we will continue to try and emulate that feeling and experience online but there's nothing quite like being able to try a product and have that discovery IRL. As with everything, balance of the two is key to survive.”

Brands like Charlotte Tilbury are championing this balance, bringing visual and augmented reality to a physical space. Using Magic Mirror touchscreens at her store in Westfield, you can see how her makeup looks on you, before deciding to try.


Sophie describes this change as, “Beauty brands have remained static for a hundred years, operating within the same retail model, whereby brands dictated to women what they needed. Now, to adapt to an increasingly autonomous, technology-savvy consumer, beauty brands need a new way of putting the consumer at the heart of the brand and connecting with them. And they’re embracing technology in order to do this.”

So there you have it. It’s an exciting time for the beauty industry. But it’s definitely still got a long way to go. Watch this space.