Interview: We expect to return to our previous sales figures by Diwali says, Suraj Vazirani, The Beauty Co.

Suraj Vazirani

In conversation with Social Samosa, Suraj Vazirani, The Beauty Co. talks at length about the COVID-19 impact on the beauty industry and how the brand is attempting to recover in the aftermath of the lockdown.

Beauty industry overall faced a mixed impact of the pandemic. While makeup sales were at an all time low, the demand for self care and DIY remedies spiked. Social Samosa gets in touch with Suraj Vazirani, Founder, and CEO, The Beauty Co. to delve deeper into the many challenges posed by COVID-19 on the industry, the marketing and communication strategy of the brand, social media gameplay, and more.

Edited Excerpts:

As a brand, how are you approaching COVID-19? How are you trying to help your consumers survive this difficult phase?

Considering the products did not fall under the essential goods category, we were not able to take or ship orders for a brief period. Being a bootstrapped brand, it becomes difficult when a huge block of sales is experienced. The Beauty Co. business was majorly impacted with sales at an 80% low. But with the situation resuming normalcy and the dependency of consumers on eCommerce platforms increasing by each passing day, we expect a revival soon.

We have already started witnessing positive signs, with our sales touching 70% to 80% of what it used to be. We expect to return to our previous figures by Diwali, with the festive shopping season kicking in by Mid October.

How do you view the impact of COVID-19 on the Beauty and personal care industry?

While many manufacturers moved into the safety and sanitization space manufacturing hand sanitizers, sanitizer sprays, masks, PPE kits, the rest chose to stay on the periphery by diverting their efforts on sustaining operations. Logistics particularly has been a major hurdle for retailers with inventory and shipments being stuck for days in the end. Making the product available to the consumers was a huge challenge.

Another setback was ordered pooling in from red zones and containment zones which could not be fulfilled. While e-commerce treaded the distance at snail speed, offline retailers faced major losses owing to being shut. With stock not moving, manufacturing too hit a halt. Many beauty and skincare brands with inventory and shipment operations who were predominantly brick and mortar are now ready to scale up their eCommerce operations to capitalize on the growing potential of the online market. Even though the magnitude of the crisis is major, the resilience of the industry will prove promising in the future.

Please take us through the marketing strategy for The Beauty Co. According to you, what kind of message should be put out by brands considering the sensitive times?

Over the years, we have witnessed a gradual change in consumer preference towards cruelty-free, natural, and organic products. They are very particular of what they consume, but do not pay much attention to what they apply. Swayed by the glitz and glamour of a product, they often fail to pay heed to the ingredients used in a product.

Hence, we have always as part of our marketing strategy, communicating the ingredients in our products, and the benefits of using them.

We have adopted a two-pronged strategy as we retail through our own website and through third-party eCommerce platforms.

The products are retailed on The Beauty Co. website as well as through e-commerce websites like Nykaa, Amazon, Paytm Mall, Myntra, Flipkart, Big Basket, Shop Clues, Snapdeal, Jabong, to name a few.

While we focus on brand recall techniques on our own website with attractive banners, videos, tutorials, blog articles, contests, and offers, we extensively strive for brand identification to break from the clutter on eCommerce platforms. With a plethora of options available, it becomes important for brands like us to secure exclusive slots, do boosting, have pop up banners to attract customers towards your product.

When the pandemic became prominent in India in March, most brands had to revisit their marketing & communication strategy. What was it like for The Beauty Co.? How did you decide on your current content hooks?

With consumers at home, there is an increase in online engagement and spending. Beauty and skincare retailers will need to prioritize digital and social media channels to capture and convert the attention of existing as well as new customers who are constantly on their phones.

With the brand #UNTYPE campaign, The Beauty Co. also propagated the message that beauty is not only what you see, it is about what you feel. Stereotypes affect the way we look at ourselves. We are constantly reminded that our gender, color, size & sexuality defines us. Beauty brands play an important role in creating these stereotypes.

The marketing and communication campaigns focused on identifying an individual’s skin type, skin conditions, and provided skin/ hair care tips for attaining a healthy glow at home. Collaboration with influencers, bloggers for natural ingredient awareness in The Beauty Co. products, the benefits of using these ingredients in one’s daily regimen as well as fun DIY care videos was a way of connecting with our consumers confined within their homes during the lockdown.

Also Read: Opinion: Marketing a beauty brand during a pandemic

How has social media been helpful in engaging with your consumers? Which platform has yielded maximum results for the brand? 

Instagram has proved as a successful platform over time in reaching out to the younger audience who are driving the demand in the industry. We launched our own custom-made glitter glow mask filters on Instagram during the lockdown. Users can swipe over to their live camera on Instagram and see what they look like when they use The Beauty Co’s fabulous four glitter glow mask filters. The filter allows users to virtually wear the face mask with an option to swap between the four glitter color options – black, lavender, green and pink by just tapping on the screen.

Additionally, we also launched four half-face filters for the bearded men who would like to try on the filter. The glitter glow mask filters represent the four variants and colors of The Beauty Co’s Glitter Glow Face Mask, which is lavender, black, green, and pink. Made with natural ingredients, the four variants include Lavender – Lavender, and Chamomile Glitter Glow Peel Off Mask, Black – Activated Charcoal Glitter Glow Peel Off Mask, Green – Green tea and Aloe Vera Glitter Glow Peel Off Mask, Pink – Mix berries Glitter Glow Peel Off Mask.

Leveraging facial recognition technology, users will be able to bring the mask elements to life in their photos/videos and share these via social media. To maximize the beauty factor, these filters integrate interactive elements that respond to user movements.

How does the team coordinate to execute the real-time marketing strategy? Please take us through your creative, communication & marketing team’s day to day hustle.

The number of employees on the payroll including contractors, casuals, and labor hire staff is 14. While the team has been working from home, they have been devising real-time marketing campaigns to reach out to a vast multitude of young audiences who were suddenly at home with ample time in hand and the world at the click of their fingertips. Engaging these consumers and keeping them connected to the brand has been of foremost importance. The strides made during the lockdown are now reflecting in the form of renewed sales figures.

How has the business been impacted?

With the emergence of social networks and bloggers, marketing efforts are growing more personal and customized in nature.

We no longer focus on what we want to convey but more on what the consumer wants to hear from us, know about us – about our products.

While conventional forms of advertising were more of a one-way street. Social media engagement has taken communication with end consumers to a whole new level. It has become a major influencer when it comes to purchasing decisions of millennials.

Most of the consumers today purchase products after viewing them on Instagram, watching their favorite bloggers using it, etc. We as a brand completely depend on these new-age tools to reach our target audience who are in the age group between 18 years to 45 years. We use digital ad tools on social media to reach our existing and potential customers.

We plan to continue to grow our social media presence to communicate our future brand campaigns and new product launches.

With changing consumer behavior at this time, what are the changes in consumer trends observed during the lockdown?

A key trend is the customization of products to suit an individual consumer. With a clutter of brands in the market, it is often difficult for a consumer to make an informed choice based on their needs and preference. The consumer often buys a product impulsively swayed by its price, brand name, packaging, marketing appeal rather than its actual benefits. The consumer is no longer keen on using a one size fits all approach. Brands are now helping consumers to identify their skin and hair concerns and providing them with customized solutions basis those problems. A person having dandruff, hair fall cannot use two different shampoos to solve individual problems. Brands have realized that and are capitalizing on this space.

With rising global concerns, the focus for many has shifted to sustainable and environmental alternatives. With the growing inclination towards natural products, the trend is going to continue to the next several years.

The pandemic has seen the entire A&M industry evolve to rise as one and help citizens. What are some of the marketing trends you have witnessed in these times in the category?

Women are constantly struggling to attain the perfectly depicted version of themselves as reminded constantly through various advertisements that promote elusive beauty. Photoshopped beauty and computer-enhanced figures of models no longer appeal to the well-read generation. The consumer has now become aware of it. They are looking for natural products, honest reviews, third party credibility before they invest in a beauty regime. This wave of change has made many top-notch brands stop in the track and introspect.

Over the last few months, we have seen many prominent brands drop stereotypes and embrace the beauty of making consumers feel beautiful in their own skin. Beauty brands are becoming responsible. The realization is not to make any consumer feel less but to make them feel more confident.

Secondly, brands are discovering the potential of social networks and are making great use of the visual medium and user engagement to build loyal customers. Online video content has become the most sought-after social media marketing channel for beauty brands. Beauty related content or conversations generated by bloggers or vloggers has transformed the dynamics of conventional beauty or skincare marketing with tutorial videos paving the way. Now brands are actively analyzing social media and the various influencers, bloggers, and celebrities to promote their products. The approach allows marketers to save budget on contextual advertising and also manage customer experience effectively.