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How Gen Z is growing the beauty industry and pushing its innovation

For some industries, reaching out to Gen-Z consumers has proven an elusive task. How can brands accustomed to the buying patterns of older generations adapt their business practices for the extremely online, easily distracted Zoomers? Social media outreach, influencer marketing, “authenticity”… it takes a lot of work to connect with a generation who are rapidly emerging as a dominant force in the economy.

Not every industry is struggling equally, however. Unlike many other brick and mortar retail segments, the Beauty & Cosmetics industry remains highly popular among Gen-Z. According to a recent report by WGSN, Zoomers – and particularly Zoomer women  – are the biggest buyers of beauty products, spending an average of $368 per year, with an 18% increase year by year.

This brand loyalty starts early, too; 60% of Zoomers make their first beauty purchase before the age of 14, compared to 39% of Millennials and 23% of those over 55. Research from Knit shows that beauty brands are among the most popular branded accounts for Gen-Z to follow on social media, further confirming the generation’s makeup-mania.

To what does the beauty industry owe their success among Gen-Z? And what lessons can other brands take away from their good fortune? There is no single answer to these questions, especially in a field as diverse as beauty and makeup. But there are some important insights that can be surmised from the beauty industry’s popularity among Zoomers, which insights include…

Embrace Digital, But Not Exclusively.

As is true across all industries, social media and digital experiences are a key part of how Zoomers interact with beauty and makeup products. According to RDSi Research, 56% of Zoomers follow a beauty or personal care brand on their social media, giving these companies a direct line of communication with a key demographic. Beauty influencers have an even bigger sway, with 74% of Zoomers claiming their purchasing decisions have been directly inspired by these so-called “skinfluencers.” The impact of digital marketing can be seen in every step of the customer journey, from doing online research before making a buying decision (62% of Gen-Z), to relying on reviews from experts and their peers (58%).

However, it would be an oversimplification to say that beauty brands have succeeded with Gen-Z solely by speaking to them through their screens. While, yes, more than half of Zoomers interact with beauty brands on social media or other digital touchpoints, the key stage of their purchase experience still happens overwhelmingly IRL. A staggering 90% of American teenagers, the youngest of the Zoomers, prefer to purchase cosmetics in-store. This puts to bed the common wisdom that young people do all of their shopping online. Perhaps it is the Zoomers’ well-documented love of experiences that keeps them coming back to the malls for their makeup. Whatever the reason, it behooves beauty brands to adopt a hybrid strategy when it comes to outreach, taking full advantage of social media outreach while also remembering to preserve the storefront as a central part of the experience.

@charlotteparler Science is this incredible thing that can tell you if a claim is BS or not 😇 #skincare #tiktokbeauty #myrecommendation #beautyessentials #aging #skin ♬ Therefore I Am - Billie Eilish

Changing Values, Changing Strategies.

Gen-Z is known for championing progressive and inclusive causes – and for expecting the same from their brands. While previous generations may have placed the most importance on what a company was selling, the sheer volume of options available to modern consumers means that Gen-Z can demand a little more. This means that, increasingly, Gen-Z expects brands to share their values in the fields of diversity and inclusion, environmentalism, and even current political issues. Many Zoomers subscribe to the philosophy of conscious consumerism, and if a brand doesn’t sufficiently align with their values they will gladly trade their loyalty to another.

This holds true in the beauty and makeup industry too, where a focus on inclusion and ethical consumption have begun to permeate the market. There is no shortage of articles comparing the current generation’s approach to beauty to that of their forerunners. Whereas Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials were subjected to advertisements promoting monolithic and unrealistic beauty standards, Gen-Z is increasingly pushing back. Critics have become increasingly vocal in their push to make beauty more inclusive by celebrating diversity and individuality.

Brands like Fenty Beauty have released foundation collections for a much broader range of skin tones as an answer to the racism and colorism that has long defined the industry. Meanwhile, companies like Ainself promote their products as cruelty-free and organic in an attempt to cater to the over 80% of Zoomers who either use or want to use more sustainable beauty products.

(Fenty foundation product line)

Expressing Themselves.

Finally, it is worthwhile to consider that Gen-Z’s relationship with beauty & makeup may be influenced less by short-term marketing campaigns, and may instead be more indicative of a more powerful paradigm shift. Put simply, makeup means something different to Zoomers than it may have to previous generations. Rather than focusing on concealing blemishes or making themselves more conventionally attractive, Gen-Z sees makeup as a method of self-expression.

Once you consider this shift in attitude as a driving force behind Gen-Z beauty-shopping habits, you will begin to see it everywhere. It is the engine behind the popularity of beauty influencers, who provide their audiences with a creative outlet as well as a way to connect with other beauty enthusiasts. It is the driving force behind the increased focus on diversity and inclusion, which seeks to celebrate the endless shapes and shades that beauty can take. Finally, it is even behind the brands that Zoomers pledge their loyalty to. Members of Generation Z see makeup not just as an accessory, but as an extension of themselves. They will flock to brands that talk to them on their level, and that reflect back to them their values, personalities, and interests. It is this idea, more than any one-off marketing gimmick, that has allowed beauty brands to succeed with the Zoomers.


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