Posted: Wed 8th Apr 2020
Is anyone worried about how they look during the coronavirus lockdown? Probably not. But beauty and wellness products can offer a rare element of escapism in difficult times.
Many indie beauty brands are responding to the desire for a little pick-me-up and finding ways to adapt their existing resources to the new retail environment.
"The shop was the focus because we wanted to build something that had a real sense of community. I wanted to build that through education and service and encourage people to come in and try the products."
The shop in Richmond, London was a pop-up. The plan was to open pop-ups in different locations throughout the year. Events would help build a sense of community and the online presence tied everything together. Each location showcased independent brands, including lots of businesses from the local area.
"Unfortunately, we had to close the store two weeks ago, which was a lot of work, particularly with a newborn baby. I'm hoping we can run lots later in the year and one for Christmas as well."
Seekology's staff didn't qualify for the employee furlough scheme offered by the government because, like a lot of new businesses, they weren't employed directly.
Leveraging the skills and time you have
Seekology's pivot to online-only meant changing up job roles. Team members that were brought on to do roles like store management had to help with activities like building their online product catalogue.
"I've been able to retain them all in one capacity or another. It's been people cutting hours and changing what they do. We've had to have some difficult conversations. That's the hardest part as a small business owner. It's really devastating to see your sales line drop significantly,"
She recommends business owners have honest conversations with staff about their skillsets and what they've done in the past – you may be able to identify opportunities for them to move into new roles.
Ian Hills is the founder of Purple Pilchard, working with disruptor brands for 14 years as a consultant. He said it never ceases to amaze him how "risk-taking underdog brands" are adapting to the uncertain economic landscape.
"The primary skills set of a well-run 'challenger' is to adapt faster than most to an ever-changing marketplace, rolling with the punches, quickly recalibrating before finally exploding out of the blocks."
The impact of the crisis on sales of wellbeing products
Rebecca said Seekology's website is starting to see an uptick in sales but thinks consumers are focusing on essentials in the short term.
"I think it's going to be a little while before we start to see demand coming back for certain categories."
Kirstie Garrett, who founded beauty brand ebo, said sales have increased on the company's website and across some of its smaller platform partners, primarily wellbeing sites. Shopify has enabled the use of gift cards on all plans and Kirstie used that to promote their membership package too.
Rebecca believes online beauty sales will increase as people want to start treating themselves.
"We've seen people buying yoga mats and bath products, so that they can have a relaxing time at home. Whereas people might have gone to a spa or massage, they're creating those small moments of calm at home – particularly if they have kids."
How to communicate with your customers
Many health and wellness brands are looking for ways to support their community.
Kirstie switched the focus of ebo's social media channels away from selling to create a resource with links to trusted culture, health, education, fitness and nutrition resources.
"By becoming a 360-degree wellbeing hub, we are also reinforcing our holistic brand approach to beauty. But it was instinctive rather than strategised because ebo was never only skin deep."
Her two-minute Tension Release Facial Massage and Homemade Banana and Honey Hair Conditioner videos performed well and drove direct sales from subscribers who received the links in a "Beauty Flash" email.
Seekology has been sharing stories about founders through its 'Meet The Maker' and 'A Cuppa With' profiles. Rebecca advised:
"Think about how to engage with your community to build up a customer base. That personal touch is really important at this time. Showing the people behind the brand. That's been successful over the past few years, but it's even more important now."
Running special offers and promotions
Boundless founder Cathy Moseley said customers are spending more time online, moving from a one-click purchase to a more investigative shopping journey.
"Interestingly, customers don't want discounts simply thrown at them, clogging up their inboxes. Instead, they want an offer they can trust, even come back to.
"Our method has been simple: educate the consumer on what offer we're running, keep it as a constant for a dedicated amount of time, while enabling our customers to return to it as and when they wish."
Ebo's Kirstie stressed the importance of staying authentic and not devaluing your products by chasing sales.
"Give and share your knowledge and experience now for free – but not your core product! – in the hope that when customers are confident to spend again they will remember you."
The Beauty Exchange 2022
If you're looking to start or grow a beauty business, book your ticket for The Beauty Exchange now. Industry experts and successful entrepreneurs will be on hand to provide top tips for growing a great brand and buyers will share how you can pitch your products.