‘AI is not the same’: NITA Cosmetics is prioritising the return of consumers to brick-and-mortar stores

By Nurul Ain Razali

- Last updated on GMT

NITA Cosmetics founder Nita Azman is prioritising the return of customers to conventional stores in the endemic. [NITA Cosmetics]
NITA Cosmetics founder Nita Azman is prioritising the return of customers to conventional stores in the endemic. [NITA Cosmetics]

Related tags Cosmetics market insights Colour cosmetics COVID-19

Nothing beats the brick-and-mortar consumer experience when choosing new colour cosmetics despite advances in AI technology, claims the founder of Malaysia’s NITA Cosmetics.

Interest in colour cosmetics for the face, lips and cheeks got a rebound when governments in South East Asia relaxed rules on mask-wearing outdoors earlier this year.

While a raft of AI solutions were launched​ during the pandemic, the main focus for NITA now is to get consumers back into stores and allow them to start sampling.

shades swatching NITA Cosmetics
NITA Cosmetics is promoting customers coming in to swatch. [NITA Cosmetics]

“Using AI is not the same because there are different undertones for lips and facial skin. We want customers to start swatching again and try testers. It’s okay if they purchase products online. It’s important for them to return and experience cosmetics all over again, ​said the founder of Malaysia’s NITA Cosmetics, Aznita Azman, also known as Nita.

“We cannot blindly follow trends like Korean beauty, which uses shades of orange and red. Those shades suit their skin. For our tones, we need to use more nudes. It makes a huge difference when you test it on your lips using a cotton bud. Blush will also vary between individuals. Hence, it is important to have offline outlets so you can see and meet customers, observe their purchasing decisions and showcase products.”

She founded the Kuala Lumpur-based brand in 2016. Its 150 hypoallergenic SKUs retail at AEON Mall and Fashion Journal of Setia City Mall, both in Shah Alam and around a half-hour’s drive from the Kuala Lumpur city centre. Other retail channels include its e-commerce site, Lazada, Shopee, Watsons Online and drop shipping in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.

The brand attempts to incorporate local customs, traditions and cuisine into the product name and packaging. For instance, its eyebrow jam is named after ‘kaya’ (a sweet spread made of coconut and breakfast staple) and ‘mentega’ (butter in the Malay language), whereas its mascara is named ‘mata kucing’ (literally ‘cat eyes’ in Malay, but also refers to a fruit commonly eaten in the region).

The SKUs are priced not more than RM50 (US$11) to maintain affordability for its target audience of cosmetics enthusiasts ages 18 and up.

Catalyst for return

The firm found that Reels and TikTok are the channels to catalyse the customers’ return to stores today. They observed that consumers preferred candid, compact and informative content in videos not more than a minute long.

Curated content and still photography in studio settings no longer generated the reach and engagement needed to survive. The time invested in editing a single video was more worth it to the brand than a still photo on Instagram, claimed Nita.

“Consumers want the TikToks and Reels to be as real as they can be. They don’t want curated content. Instagram is very curated. Usually, we would upload thrice a day, but now we pop up once in a while, like once a day.

“Content is better than quantity, especially for TikTok users and Reel lovers aged 18 to 24. For consumers aged 25 to 34, we generate content on Facebook and Instagram. For consumers 35 and above, we mostly utilise Facebook to reach them. And Twitter is still as relevant today for us,” ​she said.

Colour comeback

velvet matte lipstick NITA Cosmetics
Puff Pen velvet matte lipsticks by NITA Cosmetics. [NITA Cosmetics]

Another trend Nita noticed was the comeback of colour cosmetics during the endemic phase around the period leading to the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr in May 2022. This September, Nita will start preparing stock for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr in March 2023.

Before that, the business had slowly reached a standstill starting on 18 March 2020, when the first Malaysian COVID-19 Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed. Then, consumers hit the brakes in 2021.

“We’re still in the endemic phase and must be alert to the timing of product releases. For instance, it is no longer mandatory to wear masks outdoors, but people are still careful. Therefore, we should be careful of the timing of launches and the reception of products like foundations.

“From now until August 2023, we aim to simply survive this endemic. It’s a gamble. The future is uncertain. Hopefully, the economy will recover. We’re lucky to be around and owe everything to customers. Our principle is to provide what customers want, not what we want,”​ she said.

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