How legacy beauty brands are losing a big chunk of the $ 500 billion pie to smaller brands – and how they can reclaim it

It’s not your parents’ beauty industry. Transformed by both the constant wave of e-commerce and the sudden shock of the pandemic – two forces that have eroded brick-and-mortar dominance in space – beauty sales are moving away from store windows for websites. In fact, by 2023, online sales are expected to account for almost half of all industry sales.

As the battle for control of the beauty market unfolds online, the industry approaches a watershed when the market share of traditional and established beauty brands is seriously threatened by publishers and content creators. innovative. Evidenced by a recent SEO report that shows beauty publishers like Allure and Byrdie (a company that doesn’t even sell beauty products) now have the majority of the market share in organic beauty research, beating traditional brands such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty.

It could be a crucial tipping point in space. If traditional brands do not quickly adjust their online search strategies, the industry landscape could be realigned to one where direct-to-consumer brands and publishers outperform traditional brands and retailers not only in in terms of online research market share, but also in terms of market share and actual sales. .

Why is the industry transforming in favor of publishers and direct-to-consumer brands?

There are a few key factors driving a shift in consumer demand and hence a shift in the industry landscape:

There is a growing demand for highly personal and relevant content.

Content is still king, and the brands crowned king of digital content today are those that go beyond traditional product promotion to deliver relevant content to consumers and educate them on the products that best meet their needs. unique. Users look for personalization, such as the variety of models and products in different hues and sizes, that helps them be the most authentic, especially in the areas of inclusiveness. Publishers such as Byrdie have proven to be the most adept at meeting this growing demand by delivering highly personalized content that educates users about beauty products and connects them with those who help them be the most authentic themselves.

Online shoppers still miss the engaging in-store shopping experience.

Many consumers yearn for the pre-pandemic experience of sampling products and chatting with in-store customer service associates to receive personalized product suggestions and recommendations. Publishers and direct-to-consumer brands have helped fill this void with interactive content that replicates the in-store experience of trying one product and receiving comparisons with others, using virtual trial technology. and helpful guides and product comparisons.

Google’s algorithm recognized changing consumer demand to prioritize most searched content.

Google has pivoted to give consumers what they are looking for most often by updating its search algorithm to prioritize informative content over content related to products and transactional websites in search engine result pages.

How can traditional brands improve their content to maintain market share, increase search visibility, and capture more clicks online?

The name of the game is no longer to create robust in-store experiences or out-of-home advertisements inside malls, but to do the equivalent of that online through smart content and digital experiences focused on the user experience that replicates in-store experiences.

In order to increase search visibility, traditional brands should try to help this industry transformation rather than fight it. They could do this by taking a page from the publishers’ book and prioritizing strategic content that allows them to connect with consumers instead of just selling them a product. Delivering high-quality content that understands what consumers are looking for and links them to it will help brands rank higher and capture valuable web traffic.

Some examples of this type of online beauty content include this roundup of the best makeup brushes written by Byrdie, Pinterest’s virtual try-on feature, or Instagram’s skin-matched makeup filters. Other engaging content includes visual beauty guides, tips, tutorials, how-to videos, and in-depth Q&A that delve deeper and deliver personalized advice to consumers. There is also plenty of educational content targeted at unique demographics that promotes concepts like body positivity or solutions for aging skin.

However, the examples above are somewhat generic. To truly understand the needs of a specific audience, brands need to study the research intent of their target demographics and perform analysis of existing content. This will help to have a clear view of what their consumers are looking for and how current content is failing to deliver what they want. Marketers can then use this gap analysis to implement a marketing strategy that prioritizes consumer education and personalization over product promotion.

By shifting from traditional product-based online marketing to a model that offers more personalized, education-focused, and experience-rich content for consumers, brands will be able to maximize their search market share and ensure that they are best placed to reach their target audiences, especially in a cookie-free future where authenticity will be the key to building the relationship between the brand and the customer. In turn, they will also meet the needs of some very hungry shoppers who have thirsted for this experience since the start of the pandemic.

On the other hand, if they fail to modernize their content marketing strategies, they will continue to lose market share on search, as personalization continues to drive the transformation of the industry which, so far, benefited small brands and publishers.


Supriya Venkatesan is Senior Director of Content at Terakeet, where she provides strategic leadership and operational management of Terakeet’s content team, supports interdisciplinary integration and drives team development. Previously Director of Content Strategy at Critical Mass, Venkatesan has developed enterprise-level content strategies and supported clients like Apple and Dropbox on digital transformation projects. She also co-founded the Board of Directors on Diversity and Inclusion of Critical Mass and was recognized for her contribution with an ADCOLOR award from ADWEEK. Prior to Critical Mass, she was a communications consultant for the United Nations and the Washington Post Brand Studio and worked as a reporter for publications such as the New York Times, CNN, and Forbes.


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