The future of retail for fashion and beauty

Like many other industries, fashion and beauty have gone through tremendous changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic. With many companies having taken a financial hit with the closure of all non-essential physical stores, navigating the operations to safely re-open retail spaces is of the utmost importance for brands to preserve their workforce and enter a recovery period.

Most brands have nailed the omni-channel approach during lockdown, working hard to transform online experiences and increase their websites’ traffic. From online consultations to a shift in promotional content production on all social channels, the strategy has seen many brands through what would have been the biggest hit since their launch into the market. With fashion and beauty retail spaces being known as tactile and experiential environments, recreating the feeling in a no-touch, socially distant manner can be tricky. From potential regulations to in-store traffic levels, we have looked at what the ‘new normal’ might look like for these industries.

The future of fashion retail is still uncertain, however, brands are hoping to see a bounce back in profits, with non-essential stores being set to reopen soon. The environment will undoubtedly have to be tweaked to allow social distancing, with many retail spaces already having signs on their floors and implementing ‘one-way’ traffic systems to avoid large crowds of consumers. Depending on each store’s dimensions, measures to manage footfall and establish the number of customers allowed in-stores simultaneously are very likely to be put in place.
When it comes to luxury brands, some retailers have even taken into account the possibility of customers booking appointments before their in-store arrival, with a 15-20 minute timeframe allowed for browsing. When it comes to fast, mass-market fashion however, this solution is less likely to favour brands.
Hand-sanitising stations and an increased demand that consumers wear face masks when visiting stores are other measures likely to be put in place to manage the spread of infection. Touchless, cashless payments are also likely to be encouraged to protect the health of customers and employees, and regular hygiene procedures (wiping countertops, hangers and sanitising products) are bound to practiced more often than normal.
Relying on digital technologies, such as virtual fitting assistants and other tools to support purchasing confidence, will become go-to approaches for consumers in order to avoid excessive product touching and fitting rooms. Brands like ASOS are already displaying this feature on their websites, but retailers are encouraged to embrace a shift towards technology-driven in-store experiences.

Lockdown restrictions have pushed a whopping 90% of beauty purchases online, urging brands to build online experience that can replicate in-store interactions. From digital skin consultations to live beauty chat rooms, shopping for products online has become easier than ever. With easy-to-access information educating consumers on skincare and product formulations, and websites like allowing shoppers to find their foundation match across many industry brands through a cleverly curated data base of colours, digital-first purchases have become the norm. A study by PR agency Seen Group has revealed that 29% of British consumers have purchased more beauty products during lockdown, with increased demands for educational videos from brands and influencers about product and ingredient specifics.
With department stores set to re-open in the coming weeks, brands have sent internal communications to their point-of-sale staff explaining the health&safety measures put in place to ensure a secure environment. From the removal of all shop-floor testers for beauty products, to operating in a completely touch-free environment, the future of beauty retail will very much rely on education rather than demonstration. Some experts wonder if this will affect the performance of physical retailers; with beauty departments being hailed as a mix between a discovery-driven environment for colours and textures and the accessibility of expert advice, removing the tactile factor can push consumers back towards the online experience. Some of the most in-demand physical conversations in stores are predicted to be about foundation matches, mascara recommendations (for ex-lash extension fanatics) and skincare advice regarding active ingredients such as retinol. With many industry experts predicting salons will experience increased demand, some consumers might revert to make-up products for temporary solutions when it comes to eyebrows, lashes and even lip fillers (think lip-plumping formulas, lip liners to ‘cheat’ a fuller pout and 3D-effect glosses).

By Maria Bita