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COVID-19: Current Key Takeaways for the Beauty Industry

19 Mar 2020 Elizabeth McHugh

in Beauty, Strategy

As consumers—and brands—negotiate their way through this challenging and scary time, we’re offering a real-time assessment on what we are seeing in the beauty industry, with ideas on how brands can anticipate consumer behavior as we work past the difficulties and look ahead to what Nielsen calls stage six of the Covid-19 consumer behavior stages: Living a New Normal.



At Stella Rising, we are monitoring our beauty clients’ business every hour. We are still currently seeing positive developments from e-commerce, particularly with skincare brands. In the past week, several of our brands showed incredible performance via Friends and Family sales. The discount matters here, but the real lesson is that consumers are not fully pessimistic. At present, consumers seem to be re-allocating funds typically spent on dining out or entertainment toward self-care, personal care, and stocking up on food. Depending on the stimulus package enacted, this could continue. Color cosmetics, a sector already struggling prior to the virus, may continue to decline, without a change in messaging. Messages that encourage consumers to learn a new tip or look their best—as a means of feeling more normal—may stem this decline.

Interestingly, paid channels continue to perform well for clients; with so much organic content flooding all channels, paid remains a way to rise above the noise, and proof that consumers are still looking for discretionary purchases for excitement. However, brands must be extremely strategic with messaging on paid ads right now. 

Reviewing different channels and beauty, we see consumers so far relying on Amazon for staples and brand websites for “luxury” (or discretionary) purchases. In general, brands need to be extremely channel-specific right now, frequently re-analyzing each channel as its role in the lives of consumers changes.


As part of our 2020 beauty trends we predicted that this would be the year for clean cosmetics. We now believe that the prioritization of clean sourcing and ingredients will be a fixed consumer habit, and one that impacts every category within beauty. At present, we are seeing success with brands assuring consumers that factories, packaging, and shipments are all safe and clean.



Most beauty consumers are riding out this time of social distancing through their devices; consuming heightened levels of media and turning to social channels for news, entertainment, and escapism more than ever. The brands messaging collective communities, pulling users virtually together as we physically separate, are building loyalty both now and in the post-corona world. Transparency really matters now; we recommend that brands show their human side. This can translate into social posts of employees WFH with their pups, Instagram Live videos where founders discuss their own current experiences, or messaging that expresses vulnerability. Consumers are also seeking something to look forward to, so consider scheduling virtual makeup tutorials or skincare routine how-tos. Furthermore, now is not the time to stay in your lane, as everyone is looking for new books, unique internet experiences, activities, and workout classes.


Though a difficult move financially, the brands that support hourly workers despite closures will gain the long-term loyalty of consumers. Esteelaundry has been quick to communicate the positive (or negative) performance of beauty brands during this time. Integrity is critically important.


As the situation changes every day, so too should your strategic approach. We are by no means encouraging rushed decision-making, but we do encourage brands to re-assess channels frequently, properly read the mood on social media, and use data and consumer insights to direct their businesses. Keep in mind, too, that once we reach Nielsen’s stage six, “Living a New Normal,” post-downturn, there is likely to be a considerable uptick, as, with relief, consumers re-stock their favorite things.


At Stella Rising we are a digital agency built on research and insights, and we are here to support you in this new and rapidly changing world.

Beauty Strategy