The company, which owns the influential beauty retail and information platform @cosme, surveyed over 1,600 Japanese women aged 15 to 59 that were members of @cosme.
More than half of the respondents said the outbreak of COVID-19 and the new habit of staying home have decreased their needs to buy cosmetics, especially make-up.
This was reflected in iStyle’s performance FY2020 performance, which saw net sales fall year-on-year for the first time since the company was founded, resulting in operating profit decline by JPY2.3bn (USD22m) and an extraordinary loss of JPY3.6bn (USD34m).
The company attributed this loss to the global slump caused by pandemic, which caused the majority of its brick-and-mortar stores to temporarily close for two months.
During the pandemic, the company has observed new trends forming in the wake of the outbreak.
In particular, it has noted that 50.8% of consumers now take into account a brand’s community and social efforts before making the purchase decision.
The number of consumers that said they would buy a brand that supported social causes increased as the year progressed, and the pandemic worsened.
From April to May, after Japan declared a state of emergency, 27.3% of consumers responded positively compared to 9.3% from January to March. This continued to rise to 32.8% from June to August.
During this time, terms related to social causes also began to pop up on @cosme reviews.
On one review, a consumer noted that she chose to buy a Dior product as the brand “contributed to society during COVID-19”.
Dior is owned by the luxury conglomerate LVMH Group, which mobilised its network to battle the pandemic.
It retooled its production lines to make hydroalcoholic gel for hand sanitisers and distributed them to hospitals, non-profit organisations and other healthcare institutions.
Furthermore, iStyle noted that consumers were extending their support brands that advocated causes other than COVID-19 relief.
One @cosme reviewer highlighted that she preferred to “support a brand that firmly considered the environment”, which is why she shopped with L’Oréal-owned Khiel’s, a brand that rewards consumers for recycling empty packaging.
When looking back at reviews from 2010 to 2020, the appearance rate of words such as ‘support’ increased in 2011 when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred.
The rate of appearance plateaued before rising again in April this year when COVID-19 fears peaked in Japan.
Skin care tops rankings
@cosme’s rankings have also shed light on consumers’ beauty interests. The site’s annual product rankings are based on reviews written by @cosme members.
From 2019 to 2020, products in the @cosme rankings shifted from having a higher ratio of base make-up products to more skin care products.
Additionally, @cosme’s Grand Prizer winner this year was awarded to Lancôme’s Clarifique Dual Essence Lotion.
This is the first time in recent years a skin care product has won the top prize on the platform.
Previously the grand prize award had gone to colour cosmetic products. In 2019, it went to Cezanne’s Pearl Glow Highlight and the Opera Lip Tint bagged the top prize for two consecutive years in 2017 and 2018.
According to iStyle, this signalled that ‘skin-consciousness’ was growing among consumers and more interest in maintaining the appearance of their skin through skin care rather than make-up.