Understanding consumer profiles had long been front-of-mind for the beauty sector but grouping these into ‘personas’ of the future - those that will become important by 2023 - would prove critical in future new product development efforts and marketing strategies as the beauty industry edged out of its pivotal post-pandemic year.
And at WGSN’s online Beauty Live event last month, Clare Varga, head of beauty at WGSN, outlined the five beauty personas set to define the next two years: skinimalists; refillutionaries; beautopians; super basics; and the skillusionists.
These personas tied in nicely with the five big beauty ideas defined by WGSN at the same conference.
1. Skinimalists – ‘hybrid products’ for intelligently streamlined beauty routines
The first beauty persona set to take centre stage in the market over the next two years was the ‘skinimalist’, Varga said.
“Skinimalists are one of the most important consumers. Committed to reducing consumption and taking pride in buying well, this group of informed beauty consumers value efficacy and efficiency; using multi-tasking products to streamline their beauty routines and reduce waste. These are beauty-smart consumers. It’s all about intelligently streamlining beauty routines.”
Demographics-wise, these consumers were both male and female and trended towards gender-inclusive brands. They would be “well established” in Europe, Asia and the US by 2023 but also gain momentum in Latin America.
US active beauty brand Venn Skincare and Swedish prestige brand Verso Skincare were two examples of brands that held strong appeal amongst skinimalists because of their ‘streamlined’ and ‘genderless’ offerings, respectively.
Going forward, Varga said skinimalists would favour “hybrid products” that merged skin care and cosmetics and offered multiple active ingredients. They would also invest in tools and supplements they considered to be a “natural extension” to their beauty routine.
“Performance is a key motivator for the skinimalist – they measure value for money by results rather than cost. They’re also really at ease with technology and innovation and are the early adopters of beauty. They use beauty devices to enhance or maximise results and they’re happy to embrace new innovation like lab-grown ingredients.
“To resonate with the skinimalists, brands, products and systems will need to align with core values of efficacy, efficiency and sustainability. Skinimalists are very, very brand loyal, so if you deliver on these two to three things, you will have this consumer for life,” Varga said.
2. Refillutionaries – alternative beauty options to ‘drive positive change’
The second beauty persona that would be important over the next two years was the ‘refillutionary’, she said.
“These consumers are leading a new beauty ‘refill-ution’ and are committed to alternative products and business models that drive positive change. They are optimists who believe whole-heartedly in positive action. They’ve been galvanised into action by escalating climate emergencies but also encouraged by how quickly nature resets itself.”
From a demographic perspective, this consumer group came from all generations and were equally divided between male and female. The cohort was already well-established in Europe, the US and Australia. This consumer group was also growing in popularity across Asia and gaining “grass-roots momentum” in Latin America.
Swedish handwash sachet startup Forgo held strong appeal amongst refillutionaries, Varga said, as did New Zealand solid hair care brand Ethique with its shampoo bars.
Looking forward, refillutionaries would continue to engage with refillable and recyclable beauty products but would also consider subscriptions and milk-type delivery services an “absolute must” along with anything else that made “being sustainable easy”.
“Early adopters in product alternatives, this cohort will always favour independent or local community brands. They prioritise personal care and skin care over beauty and colour cosmetics and favour natural bioactive ingredients that are rooted in culture and tradition but are now backed by science. Eco-ethics is their main beauty driver and they use proactive purchasing to protect the planet.
“…To fully resonate with this ethical consumer, products will also need to be safe. Lingering concerns around product safety post-COVID will see this cohort shift from clean to clinical – clinically formulated to ensure safety, stability, and also extended shelf life,” Varga said.
3. Beautopians – worldwide phenomenon to ‘glow up and show off’
The third beauty persona set to be prominent over the next two years was the ‘beautopian’, she said.
“For them, beauty is quite simply their happy place. For this persona, beauty is a lifestyle rather than a daily routine. They find happiness and wellbeing through beauty and they love to share their beauty journeys and discoveries with the world. They are natural extroverts and they see themselves as the real beauty experts, using social media to share prowess and knowledge.”
The demographics of this cohort, she said, tended to be younger – in the Gen Z and Millennial brackets – and were predominantly female, though the gender gap was starting to close. Geographically, beautopians were a “worldwide phenomenon” but particularly present in South Korea, Australia, the UK, Scandinavia, Brazil and the US.
US cult beauty brand Glossy and Australian men’s skin care startup Bro-To both resonated with beautopians and understood this cohort well, Varga said.
Looking ahead, these consumers would continue to choose “joy-inducing products” that delivered “quick and visible results” and they would definitely be swayed by product design and screen appeal – “it’s all about the glow up and show off”, she said.
“When it comes to drivers and motivations, social kudos and performance are top of their lists. This makes them extremely brand fluid, very high-volume consumers and they are always on the hunt for the next cult product.
“…Although they have a veracious appetite for products, they do care about eco-ethical issues and sustainability. They offset their high consumption by choosing positive brands – vegan, clean or inclusive – and they will quickly and very vocally call out any brands that do not meet these standards. This is not a consumer you want to upset,” Varga said.
4. Super basics – vintage beauty that makes basic ‘totally cool’
The fourth beauty persona set to take the spotlight over the next two years were the collective ‘super basics’, she said – the “polar opposite” of ‘beautopians’.
“This Gen Z super basic persona makes basic and being basic totally cool. Emerging from the TikTok-generated buzz around CeraVe and The Ordinary, the super basics are entering the post-pandemic era with a desire for normality but new perspective on beauty needs. They draw real comfort from simple product choices, and they embrace frugality. But they are price conscious rather than price restricted – they measure value by quality and comfort and are quite happy to invest, especially if [products] are science or derma backed.”
As mentioned, this persona was most widespread among Gen Z consumers but it was also very gender-fluid. Household, vintage brands like Unilever’s Vaseline held strong appeal amongst these “no fuss” consumers that saw no need for separate face, body or gender-targeted products, Varga said.
Moving forward, the super basics would continue to shop in drug stores and supermarkets for their beauty items because convenience remained a big driver. They would also opt for products formulated for “everything and everyone”, she said.
“Super basics will invest in innovative personal care items, especially ones that support good health and hygiene.
“…Nostalgia is another huge draw for the super basic. This persona loves to re-discover less-than-glamourous ‘mum and dad’ products or so-called ‘zombie brands’. Old Spice and The Body Shop’s White Musk have both had a very huge non-core resurgence, so do consider revisiting your archive and reimagining vintage portfolios for the super basics consumer,” Varga said.
5. Skillutionists – ‘total self-expression’ in a digital-first realm
The final beauty persona set to steal the spotlight over the next two years was the ‘skillutionist’, she said.
“These are a disruptive, highly creative cohort who reject conventional beauty standards in favour of alternative narratives, self-expression and the beautifully bizarre. Themes of inclusivity and diversity will dominate going forward, bringing alternative beauty narratives into the mainstream and allowing the artistic skillutionist community to create their own visions of beauty; blurring the lines between the real and unreal to create post-human looks.”
The demographic was predominantly younger, largely Gen Z and younger Millennials who identified as non-binary. The cohort also transcended borders as it was largely digital in nature and therefore undefined by geography, she said.
Super-inclusive makeup brand about-face was a great example of a company that aligned well with the skillutionist mindset, Verga said, as was Swedish cosmetics firm Byredo with its colour sticks.
Looking ahead, these consumers would choose brands that shared values of inclusivity and diversity and purchase products that enabled “total self-expression”.
“Very much at home in the digital realm, the skillutionists will be the first beauty consumers to fully embrace the metaverse – a shared space where real-life beauty looks are merged with digital egos.
“…Skillutionists also prize product performance, choosing cosmetic brands with high-quality, really hyper expressive pigments and precision formats that feed into their artistry and creative application,” Varga said.
For more insight on what’s ahead for the rest of 2021, take a look at our CosmeticsDesign 15 Global Beauty Trends To Watch video outlining what our editors believe will be key for industry.