Fletcher Knight - Generation Z Beauty

Part 1 – Beauty Under Quarantine: Customer Journeys Take A Detour

While beauty remains essential during the pandemic, how women engage with beauty has abruptly shifted – making it crucial for beauty brands to re-think every touchpoint along their various customer journeys.

With consumers and influencers sheltering in place, the style, fashion and beauty markets have been completely upended. As beauty stores stay shuttered, trial is practically disappearing. Brands must rapidly revisit customer journey strategy – to both optimize existing journey touchpoints and invent new ones – from building awareness through to engagement, conversion and brand loyalty.

Thoroughly mining digital data will continue to be essential for piecing together consumers’ new pathways, but in today’s topsy-turvy landscape is that enough? With such seismic shifts affecting women’s lives, brands using only data analytics will struggle to gain full insight into beauty’s “future normal”.

In our recent work mapping customer journeys before and during the pandemic, we’ve consistently found that complementing analytics with a “stay human” storytelling approach has never been more critical. Psychographic mindsets – qualitatively conceived, quantitatively proven – have been an invaluable human-centric tool around which journey insights can be anchored – even in today’s data-driven age. Consumer psychographics have helped marketing and insights teams stay both strategically focused and tactically nimble as they navigate the zig-zags and roundabouts across rapidly evolving customer journeys. 

In this three-part series, we explore three human-centered questions essential to successfully discovering and mastering beauty journeys in the age of coronavirus:

  • How are core beauty motivations evolving?
  • What is changing in how women fulfill their aspirations through journeys?
  • How are women emotionally connecting with brands during this unusual time – and how is this impacting loyalty?

To gain insight into these questions, we complemented the many hours of conversation we’ve had with women about beauty in recent years with online labs in mid-April with Gen Z women home from college and keeping it together with beauty.

Part 1: How Are Beauty Motivations Evolving? 

“Beauty as an exterior thing has not been a priority for me or my friends. There’s been so much going on adapting to this change. I’m trying to spend time relaxing. Skin care and body care have increased because there’s time for it and it’s a good way to calm down. It’s something I can do to boost my mood.”

Speaking to women screen-to-screen, this sentiment came through loud and clear – shouting out that much has changed during the pandemic. What women want and need from beauty is different – at least for now – but beauty remains an anchor, an absolute essential.

Whether it’s the structure of a daily routine, stress-relief of a bath bomb or the fun of playing with makeup, beauty is helping women achieve what seems, against an out-of-sorts world, like the ultimate aspiration – just feeling normal.

As one woman explained, “Positivity and comfort have become more important aspects of beauty now.  Everything is sad and negative if you’re watching the news. It’s easy to be pessimistic when you’re alone. Beauty gives me a sense of wellness and feeling of being in control.”

Core Motivations Are Centering On Self 

While beauty remains essential during self-isolation, the core motivations behind beauty are shifting.

Brands need to stay in lockstep with women during lockdown. Sensing even subtle shifts in women’s wants, needs and desires is critical for optimizing every touchpoint and interaction that shape the customer experience – whether it’s personalizing content, sharing user-generated posts or communicating authentically about how the brand is responding to COVID-19.   

Separated from school, friends and non-essential contact, women are forced to turn inward – and that’s inspiring them to focus on themselves. With feel-good, do-good skin and hair treatments at the top of their priority list and makeup at the bottom, they’ve been investing in themselves – and liking it.

“I’ve enjoyed doing more hair care treatments and body care. When I have so much time, why wouldn’t I do something to better myself? Even after this is all over, I’d like to continue doing that.”

Women’s core motivations for beauty are re-aligning from something they primarily do “for others” to something they do consciously “for self”. Reflecting on the role of beauty during the pandemic and beyond, our Gen Z panelists are more fully appreciating that beauty “for self” is, fundamentally, a valuing of self – leading to a confidence that makes you naturally more attractive to others. “I like to be pretty and girly, but at the same exact time, I’m about more than just beauty.  I’m doing things that push me ahead as a powerful woman.”

“For Self” Manifests Differently By Psychographic Mindset

This heightened valuing of self jumped off the Zoom screen during our online conversations with women – but how it was expressed varied. That’s where psychographic mindsets figure in. Mindsets are inherently customer-centric. They add human insight to data, helping brands discern more deeply, and with greater nuance, just what it is women are wanting from beauty during these crazy days – and potentially beyond.

Achievers, Magnetics and Self-Expressives, for example, each come to beauty with unique psychological needs. During the pandemic, they’re each prioritizing self in ways consistent with who they are as women, and as beauty consumers.

Strong and independent, Achievers strive for a polished, put-together look that projects their professionalism and substance. During the pandemic, beauty is helping Achievers maintain a sense of order and purpose in their lives – with solid skin care and hair care routines keeping them grounded, productive, organized. Makeup provides the occasional mood boost.

“The first few days of the quarantine, I didn’t have a routine and didn’t feel like myself. Once I started doing my routine, it made me feel more human.  It was a good way to start the day – to get out of bed and feel more productive.”

“In the beginning, I didn’t keep up with my hair care routine. It put me in a bad mood and made me feel de-motivated.  But now I’m in a routine and not in a weird transition.”

“Over the past month, when I haven’t been in a good mood, it’s worked to just go put makeup on. It makes me feel good and inspires me to keep on going.”

Extroverted and outgoing, Magnetics exude a natural healthy allure that can’t help but attract others to them. During the lockdown, Magnetics are investing in beauty to enhance their natural healthy glow – and feel even more empowered to love the faces under the makeup. Ever eager to connect, they’re investing in self to build their bank of confidence.

“Beauty is about confidence, whether it’s going out, having a full face on and feeling my best or just for my everyday, go-to-class look.”

“I think I’ve become more confident with less makeup. During the summer when I’m tan and wear less makeup, I feel more confident.  It’s been nice not wearing makeup, so maybe after the quarantine, I’ll go a few days without it.”

“I’ve been doing more skin and hair treatments. I’ve really enjoyed it, and liked the results, so I think I may do more of that going forward.”

More daring and experimental, Self-Expressives use beauty as a way to project their individuality and originality. During quarantine, beauty serves as a creative outlet and a canvas for expressing their unique selves. More externally-oriented categories like makeup and hair styling remain high in importance, enlivening long, shapeless days with a sense of levity and fun.

“Right now, makeup is fun. It’s not like I’m seeing anyone. No one will say ‘oh, I like your makeup.’ I’m not looking pretty for someone else. I’m looking pretty for myself.”

“Even though we’re under quarantine, I get dressed every day. I don’t wear sweat pants. I do my makeup every morning.  I know it sounds dumb, but I just like to feel cute, even if I’m not seeing anyone except my parents and younger brother.” 

“I think people are more comfortable being themselves right now. What’s trendy is just being yourself.  I think people are more willing to try new things, to express themselves, to take risks.”

Staying Human Through It All

The pandemic has jolted the beauty industry. It’s still in shock as it tries to rapidly absorb how women have been forced to take some major detours from their preferred customer journeys. But change offers opportunity for those who seize it. Future brand winners will start to think about how women are now open to reinventing their preferred journey. To do this, brands will need to stay centered on psychographic mindsets, remaining true to those mindsets’ core motivations – and focusing on creating new journeys that fulfill consumers’ aspirations.  

Keyword search trends, traffic analytics, social listening – it can all help illuminate how consumers have shifted behavior, but with such dynamic change taking place, big data will not be able to predict how customer journeys will evolve going forward.  

It’s impossible to know what the “after” picture of the pandemic will look like for beauty, but one thing is certain. Brands that “stay human” and closely follow their consumers along their evolving journey are likely to arrive post-pandemic in a much better place.  

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our three-part “Beauty Under Quarantine” series where we examine how women’s aspirations thread through customer journeys, inspiring women step-by-step along the way. 

Please visit FK LiveLabs to learn more about our online research capabilities and submit an inquiry under “Contact Us” or send a message directly to info@fklivelabs.com.

FK LiveLabs is a division of Fletcher Knight, Inc.

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