A Fresh Look at Beauty Marketing Post-lockdown

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It’s easy to think the beauty and cosmetics industry drives interest through its star-studded TV advertising campaigns. We see beautiful celebrities talking to the camera, telling us how the product helped them battle their grey hairs or rejuvenated their skin, or they post a thinly veiled endorsement online, and that’s what makes us buy, right?

It’s not that simple.

Although these are certainly the most eye-catching forms of beauty and cosmetic marketing, the reality of what drives us to pick up a new moisturiser, mascara, or blusher is not so glamorous.

It’s email.

This isn’t entirely new. For years, major global beauty brands such as Natura, Grupo Boticário and Beleza na Web have relied on Validity’s email deliverability solutions to ensure their marketing materials reliably reach their customers’ inboxes. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated email as an even more important facet of beauty businesses’ marketing output.

In recent blogs and webinars we’ve discussed how email marketing has supported the retail and travel industries, with our own Gabriel Gastaud using the power of analytics research to demonstrate how impactful email really has been in these sectors. On a similar note, Validity’s latest research shows beauty and cosmetics brands are leaning more heavily on this effective, but maybe not so Hollywood, marketing channel.

Our researchers’ analysis reviewed hundreds of Health & Beauty companies to identify what percentage of their website traffic was generated by the email channel during lockdown. As the chart below shows, 8.8% of all traffic for this sector came from email, second only to its effectiveness for Shopping brands. Given the fact email only consumes ± 3% of global digital spend, this implies the channel is almost 3X more effective than other digital spend (PPC, SEO, etc.) when it comes to traffic generated vs. spend incurred.

What’s most important in these stats is the growth from last year. The Beauty and Fitness vertical is the single biggest improvement year-over-year compared to others. In April 2020, during the height of lockdown, email generated 9% of total visits to Beauty and Fitness websites. Compared to this time last year, email’s contribution to online visits grew by 58%.

In terms of engagement and retention, visits coming from the email channel overperform against all other channels. For example, 63% of visits from email are from returning visitors compared to 48% for all the other channels, and email generates 5.3 pages viewed per visit compared to 4.2 pages viewed per visit for all other channels.

We also see a marked difference in the strategy beauty companies are employing around their email marketing campaigns. Email frequency actually decreased slightly from 4.6X per week to 4.3X per week. This may reflect a pause earlier in the crisis, as senders re-considered their strategies.

Email timing shifted to be afternoon-centric, with most campaigns going out between 12 P.M. and 6 P.M., potentially reflecting changed working circumstances for customers.

Content-wise, we’re also seeing greater use of promotional strategies including discounts, money off, BOGO, and free delivery—up from 37% to 41%. Most significantly though, the tone of the messaging changed similarly to what we’ve witnessed across many sectors, including travel and greater retail.

The above campaign from Jo Malone is a great example of crisis-inspired empathy, reminding subscribers now is the “time to be kind,” and small, positive gestures can have a big impact. Also note the free gift, emphasising the principle of fair exchange of value, and making consumers feel they are appreciated. This is a recurring theme in 2020.

Other big beauty brands, like Liz Earle and The Body Shop, followed a similar route to our customer icelolly.com, with all three brands reshaping their email marketing away from overtly pushing products and providing valuable content instead. This example from The Body Shop provides tips on how to work on a fake tan, which is clever, considering they know customers wouldn’t be getting the real thing on a Spanish beach any time soon. They position their brand as a value provider with this strategy, not just a vendor.

As the above demonstrates, under lockdown, people had to take care of their own beauty treatments as spas, gyms, and salons had to close. Now that these locations have opened up again, will we see a drop in email traffic to beauty websites? Perhaps. However, we’re still not out of the woods yet, and with the possibility of further lockdowns to come, and potentially the reclosure of spas, gyms, and salons with them, hopefully beauty brands are paying attention these to figures.

Whether or not further lockdowns are in our future, it is hard to argue with the data from this research. Beauty brands would be well placed to double-down on their investment in email marketing and take advantage of email’s effectiveness to supplement their sexier marketing channels.

Though email may not be flashy, and it may be older than some of these other channels, it’s growing old gracefully and becoming more effective than ever.