In line with its directive to make further progress toward living with COVID-19, the Singaporean authorities have generally relaxed COVID-19 measures. This has allowed more events to take place to the delight of many smaller beauty businesses.
One such event that made its hotly anticipated return after a two-year hiatus was Boutique Fairs Singapore. Held from April 22 to 24, the shopping event welcomed back 160 brands and designers including a raft of local beauty champions.
Speaking to these local brands on the ground, CosmeticsDesign-Asia learnt that the lack of opportunities to hold events has highlighted just how much smaller beauty businesses rely on them to attract new customers and drive momentum.
“Not being able to hold events actually slowed us down by at least 50%,” said Hann Chia, founder of Fawn Labs, a brand which has relied on workshops and events to build brand awareness since launching in 2019.
“You have to understand that we mostly get new customers by word-of-mouth. When we get to interact with people, it will grow exponentially faster,” she said.
Chia believes the firm is on track for growth this year, and a lot of it hinges on the fact that it will be able to hold in-person events.
“Amongst us vendors we have seen some revenge spending. They also want activity; to touch, feel, smell. They want to see what the brands have been up to in person. It’s been too much of an online thing for the last few years,” said Chia.
Hildra Gwee, founder of Oasis Skincare, echoed Chia’s statements, noting that the firm relied on events to build brand awareness when it first launched in 2018.
“Before COVID, we did a lot of events for brand exposure. Now that events are coming back, we’re excited because we get to meet a lot of people, especially new people who have not heard of the brand.”
Like Chia, Gwee was optimistic about the return of events and the positive effect it can have on business growth.
“Just from the past few days at Boutique Fairs, I can already see we are getting a lot of new customers. The exposure from these events is just different. I thought that with digital we were already doing fine, but from this we can see that it cannot replace events.”
Lack of engagement
For brands that launched during the pandemic, the lack of opportunities to step out and meet potential customers has not been ideal, said Nupur Khemkar, founder of Mira Skincare, a brand that launched at the start of the pandemic.
“In some ways, it has held back the business with no events. Without events, you don’t get to meet and engage with people. At the end of the day, people still want to see, touch, and feel products. I’ve explored with stockists to get my products out there so people can see it, but events are special because you can get one-on-one interaction and feedback in real-time.”
It is not just new brands that have been affected by the lack of events. Re:erth, a well-established brand in the market that has been around since 2017, has also found it challenging.
“For us, capturing new customers was a bit more difficult. [Online] advertising has become a lot more competitive because a lot of the mainly retail brands shifted online,” said Shinji Yamasaki, founder and CEO of Re:erth.
The company was fortunate in that it had developed its online footprint prior to the pandemic. In 2020, it was able to secure a year-long pop-up store at Tangs department store on Orchard Road.
“A majority of our business is through e-commerce, but we’ve branched out a little into retail. We now have a few retail partners across the city, and we feel that having these touchpoints definitely has benefits for our products,” said Yamasaki.
Gwee told us that while migrating online has helped brands to continue growing their businesses, the return of events has highlighted the limitations of online activities in the beauty space.
“When we were not able to do events, we did a lot of digital stuff instead. We also launched a store and that helped with getting people to try the products. But at the same time, we were limited to who we could reach digitally. With events, we’ve got a chance to showcase what we have, and you can see everything we have on offer which is a different experience from online. In a physical setting, all your senses are activated.”
Yamasaki said that the company was excited to be able to hold more events in the near future.
“It's really so refreshing to be able to be out and have face-to-face conversations with our customers and meet new customers. It's really great to be here and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”