Best of brands: Top 10 most-read cosmetic brand stories of 2021

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The biggest brand stories of the year featuring beauty heavyweights such as Shiseido, L’Oréal, Kao, Estée Lauder, and more. [Shiseido]
The biggest brand stories of the year featuring beauty heavyweights such as Shiseido, L’Oréal, Kao, Estée Lauder, and more. [Shiseido]

Related tags Brands trends

Here we reveal the biggest brand stories of the year featuring beauty heavyweights such as Shiseido, L’Oréal, Kao, Estée Lauder, and more.

1 – Human touch: How Shiseido is using tech to make 2021 ‘the year of the empowered beauty consultant’

Shiseido is adamant that human contact is still essential to drive beauty sales but believes it can be enhanced greatly by tools​ such as Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, according to its chief digital officer.

Angelica Munson, global chief digital officer at Shiseido, highlighted just how essential beauty tech tools like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) became for beauty brands in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“COVID-19 gave rise to this very digitally powered stay-at-home economy. It has hyper-accelerated all the consumer behaviours… In retail, we call it the new retail world order… And it forces us to rethink how we sell and how we service. AI and AR were just amongst the few digital technologies in our category that essentially kept the economy going,”​ she said.

Like many companies, Shiseido accelerated its digital development last year, pushing out a raft of initiatives like livestreaming and video counselling.

2 – Bridging the gap: SK-II turns to personalisation to forge closer consumer connections via e-commerce

Procter & Gamble-owned skin care brand SK-II is reinforcing its e-commerce business​ with personalised beauty initiatives to deepen its bond with consumers in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the brand saw its e-commerce business grow 7% in 2020 to account for 28% of its business.

“2020 has been a challenging year in the face of such rapidly shifting dynamics. We’ve seen that some channels are recovering slower than others, including less footfall to department stores, for example,”​ said Sandeep Seth, CEO, Global SK-II.

In the past few years, the brand has been steadily expanding its online presence and its online partners include Tmall, Rakuten and brick-and-mortar retailer than have expanded online such as Sephora, Aeon and Lotte.

3 – Beauty, streamlined: Sephora pinpoints demand for multipurpose beauty products that won’t compromise on skin TLC

Beauty retailer Sephora says consumers are looking for skin care, hair care and make-up products that offer more while allowing them to do less​.

This trend, dubbed purposeful beauty, is defined by the retailer as a ‘streamlined beauty routine that delivers more’.

Products that can help achieve such a routine are those that are multipurpose, effortless in terms of usability and ‘value for money and time’.

In other words, these products can be any skin care, make-up or hair care product that can address multiple concerns and needs, helping consumers build a less complicated everyday routine.

4 – Make-up ‘renaissance’: How Estée Lauder expects colour to trend based on China’s COVID-19 recovery

Beauty major Estée Lauder Companies has revealed how the rapid recovery of colour cosmetics in China has informed its global make-up strategy​.

While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to disproportionately impact makeup usage, with net sales declining across nearly all its brands, the company is preparing to welcome a make-up ‘renaissance’.

“Looking ahead, we are preparing a renaissance in make-up, and we anticipate that momentum will gradually build around the world, driven by local reopening and social and professional occasions,” ​said Fabrizio Freda, president, CEO and director of The Estée Lauder Companies.

“We are strategically well-positioned to grow our sales and capture prestige beauty share make-up recovery with our hero products, robust innovation pipeline, analytics engine, driving aspirational intelligence, and enticing in-store and online activation centred on the omni-channel consumer.”

5 – Shiseido shedding assets: Why focus on high-end skin care will strengthen company’s long-term position – Experts

Japanese beauty group Shiseido’s decision to sell off three more brands in bid to focus on high-end skin care as its core category was a ‘no-brainer’, with beauty experts saying it was a smart decision to strengthen the company’s position​ in uncertain times.

Shiseido announced on August 26 that it will sell three of its prestige US-based make-up brands – Laura Mercier, BareMinerals and BUXOM – to private equity firm Advent International for U$700 million.

Shiseido cited its strategy to focus on its luxury skin care as the reason for shedding the trio of brands – the same reasoning it gave in February when it decided to sell off its personal care business to CVC Capital Partners.

“It’s a no brainer for them. COVID has hit most companies quite hard. Most consumers have cut back on using make-up, and that is a global trend, not just a trend in Asia,”​ Nicole Fall, founder of Asian Consumer Intelligence.

6 – Star product: How cleansing sheets have driven Men’s Bioré’s consecutive sales growth for a decade

Kao Corporation has revealed that cleansing sheets have been the star product for its Men’s Bioré range across the last decade, with sales soaring by 743%.

Men’s Bioré was launched in 1995 offers a range of personal care products specially for men, including facial cleansers, pore strips and cleansing sheets.

Sales for the latter, which includes face and body sheets, have grown to become the brand’s biggest products.

Sales for cleansing sheets increased by 743% from 2010 to 2020 and retained the top spot in the cleansing sheet category in Japan during the same period, according to INTAGE’s Nationwide Retail Store Panel (SRI) report.

7 – ‘Beauty for all travellers’: Valentino Beauty among new brands L’Oréal will be launching in Hainan to drive growth

Valentino Beauty will be among the new brands​ that L’Oréal’s will debut in Hainan, China, as it continues to invest into the lucrative holiday destination.

Despite global tourism woes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, growth of L’Oréal’s travel retail division has been positive, largely due to its performance in APAC – especially in Hainan.

“The foundation for beauty consumption is solid in Travel Retail China, and we are experiencing strong dynamic in all three categories – skin care, makeup, and fragrances,” ​said Emmanuel Goulin, Managing Director at L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific.

Among the three categories, the firm said the demand for skin care continues to be a driving force in terms of growth.

8 – Make or break: Kao hopes new Essential range will save hair care business from stagnation – CEO

Japanese personal care conglomerate Kao Corporation has announced a new hair care range under the Essential banner, which it believes will help revive its hair care business​.

Founded in 1970, Decorté Cosmetics is a cosmetics brand under Kosé’s high prestige beauty portfolio, which also consists of brands including Jill Stuart and ADDICTION.

To capitalise on the potential of Decorté, Kosé has announced a series of initiatives to boost the brand globally.

Coming September, the company will mark the debut of a revamped version of Decorté’s Liposome serum.

9 – Factor in this: Smashbox founder Davis Factor tips make-up enriched with skin care ingredients for success

Smashbox Cosmetics founder Davis Factor, a great-grandson of Max, says the pandemic has created more demand for “hardworking” make-up products​ that are enriched with skin care ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.

Smashbox Cosmetics was founded in 1996 by Davis Factor, the great-grandson of make-up mogul Max Factor.

Factor and his brother Dean were photographers and owners of Smashbox Studios. They developed the brand’s cosmetic products to withstand the tough environment of a professional photography setting.

The brand is best known for its primers, such as the original Photo Finish Foundation Primer, which was created to minimise touch-ups and help make-up last longer under the glaring studio lights.

10 – Global potential: POLA expecting overseas sales to surpass $270m by 2023 on the back of China demand

Japanese skincare brand POLA has been projected to achieve more than $270m in overseas sales in the next couple of years thanks to the strong demand from China’s luxury beauty market.

POLA is the ‘ultra-prestige’ skin care brand owned by Japanese cosmetics manufacture Pola Orbis Holdings, which is also the company behind J-beauty brands ORBIS and THREE.

The brand has been expanding across Asia in recent years and is now present in seven markets. Over 2017 to 2020, the brand’s sales have grown four times over.

In the latest report to its shareholders, the company expressed optimism for the brand’s position and said it would now focus on achieving profitable growth of its overseas business.

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