Lancôme had planned to launch its Drama Ink liquid lipstick, one of its biggest lipstick launches in years, in July. Instead, the L’Oréal-owned makeup brand launched the product in May, two months ahead of schedule, with the 13 shades of the $ 28 lipstick now available on the Lancôme site, with distribution. wider retailers still going as planned.

The last-minute change came in response to a sudden surge in demand for makeup, the brand said. With vaccination rolling out in the United States faster than expected and restrictions on masks loosening, people are eager to step outside, giving beauty consumers a reason to wear colorful cosmetics again.

“Skincare had its moment on the pandemic, now we see the pendulum swinging back to makeup,” Lauren Malecha, senior director of omni activations at Lancôme, told BoF. “We have to be very flexible… and adapt to our consumers in real time because of how quickly things are changing now. “

Lancôme is not the only brand to experience a strong comeback in color cosmetics. Brooklyn-based boutique Maybelline, MAC Cosmetics, Ulta Beauty and Shen Beauty, and many more are seeing their makeup businesses pick up. Last year, sales of premium makeup in the United States fell 34% year-on-year, according to The NPD Group.

But even as consumers warm to the idea of ​​foundation and lipstick again, their habits have changed since before the pandemic, both in what they buy and how they buy it. Brands adapt their assortments and strategies accordingly.

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A sign of current trends, at Ulta Beauty, pre-pandemic favorites like complexion and lip products, as well as more colorful eye shadows are selling again, said Maria Salcedo, senior vice president of merchandising for the retailer. .

“The pandemic has helped reset and rekindle the timeliness of that excitement around new launches and new brands and new usage opportunities to come,” said Salcedo.

A Lancôme advertisement for Drama Ink liquid lipstick, the launch of which was brought forward before the pandemic. Courtesy of Lancôme

Jessica Richards, owner of Shen Beauty, sees similar numbers. She said Shen’s makeup sales in May were up about 75% year-on-year. Shen’s current color business even exceeds 2019 by 40%. Richards attributes the increase in sales to products like lipstick, foundation and blush, and adds that in-store services, including facials, are already booked eight weeks later.

But lipstick, which practically died out during the pandemic thanks to the use of masks, is experiencing a particular resurgence. Richards called the lipstick a “real winner” from Shen Beauty.

It has proven to be a powerful product, even for brands that are not known for their lip products. Benefit Cosmetics, for example, is best known for its eyebrow product line – eight of its top 10 products last year were for eyebrows. But now the brand is finding success with its new pigmented lip balm. Launched in May, California Kissin ‘Colorbalm did 2.5 times better than Benefit’s latest lip product, released in 2017, said Christie Fleischer, brand general manager.

However, while the enthusiasm for colorful cosmetics is back, more specific pre-pandemic makeup trends are unlikely to make a return. While consumers will never forgo makeup entirely, it’s unlikely that they’ll return to that signature “Instagram makeup” look popularized by brands like Huda Beauty and Anastasia Beverly Hills.

“It’s not a super defined eyebrow, a streamlined moment [anymore]”said Manola Soler, director of Alvarez & Marsal Consumer and Retail Group, a global consulting firm.

More than the makeup that people buy, it’s where they buy it that has changed.

According to Accenture’s March Global Covid-19 Consumer Study, consumers are now four times more likely to purchase makeup online than before the pandemic. Additionally, 20% of those surveyed said they have had a virtual hairstyling or beauty consultation since March 2020, and almost half will continue to do so even with stores and salons open.

“The fact that consumers have changed their minds and are ready to buy makeup online opens up opportunities,” said Depraeter-Montacel.

That’s not to say physical sales won’t rebound. Consumers increasingly feel safer when they return to their favorite stores to test, touch and smell products in person (albeit with improved safety protocols). In beauty, the tactile experience traditionally wins. Brand-name retailers should expect online sales growth to slow in the coming months, although e-commerce remains a larger part of their overall business than it was before the pandemic.

“We know the Internet will continue and ultimately we expect there will be a mix of the Internet and the Internet as they play different roles,” said Alanna McDonald, President of Maybelline , Essie and Garnier.

Make marketing changes

In marketing, brands are not just pushing product launches, but building this renaissance in makeup. Maybelline’s latest campaign slogan is “Make-up for everything you’ve missed,” while MAC Cosmetics prepares to launch “MAC The Moment,” a cross-platform content strategy to show people how to reintroduce makeup into their lives. life.

“It’s to remind people when they go out, when they go on their first date, to the movies to see ‘Cruella’, whatever they do… to bring people back into the makeup world,” Drew said. Elliott, senior vice president and global creative director of MAC Cosmetics.

MAC will associate different “moments” with a corresponding trend and product suggestion, such as a new “Love Me” liquid lipstick for a date or items that give a “Golden Glow” for the holidays that people can finally. spend this summer.

Lancôme has taken into account the new beauty habits of consumers when developing its marketing strategy for a new concealer coming out this month. The formula is the same as the one that was developed before Covid, but the brand speaks about it differently from what it could have done if it had been released in 2019, which explains the desire of consumers for “multi-use” products. , Malecha said.

Lancôme will not only focus on hiding the signs of fatigue under the eyes, but will also highlight the other attributes of the concealer, such as its ability to highlight and contour.

To promote new launches, brands will continue to use digital tools. During the pandemic, brands were forced to introduce new items online instead of spectacular in-store launches, such as storefront takeovers and in-store events and activations. Now they have realized the value of an online approach.

Tim Coolican, Managing Director of Milk Makeup, said the introduction of online products has allowed the line to gain momentum with online exclusives (the Melatonin Night Lip Mask and the Night Serum melatonin), as well as removing friction from time-consuming in-store processes such as designing and updating gondolas. Online content can be updated and streamed as often as the brand wants.

“This creates an unrestricted launch environment,” Coolican said. “Previously, you didn’t launch something in a big way just online.”

Maybelline’s most successful mascara launch to date (in terms of sales) went live in January with the launch of its Sky High mascara. The product has sold five times online and the hashtag “skyhighmascara” has nearly 255 million views. One unit is sold every three seconds, depending on the brand.

“As people started to normalize whatever the ‘new normal’ was, women started wearing lipstick and more full-coverage foundation again.”

Follow the example of Asia

Brands were able to predict trends after witnessing what was happening in the Asian market, which overall recovered from the pandemic faster than the Western world. John Demsey, chairman of the executive group of Estée Lauder, said the company saw its makeup sales increase in China last October, but it wasn’t until March that it saw a “big comeback” in the category.

“If you want to see the future of what’s going on, look at where Covid got its first strike,” Demsey said. “As people started to normalize whatever the ‘new normal’ was, women started wearing lipstick and more full-coverage foundation again.”

Audrey Depraeter-Montacel, global head of beauty at Accenture, added that makeup sales in China and the APAC region – which she described as “back to normal or even increasing” – are a good indication of what’s going to happen in the rest of the world. Already, she has seen brands adapt their media plans, including a return of television commercials, which disappeared during the pandemic.

“As we move from containment to something more open, it is not yet visible in consumption patterns but it will accelerate rapidly,” said Depraeter-Montacel.

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