Mar 07, 2019

And other key insights into the newest generation of beauty consumers.

Young beauty enthusiasts demand more from the beauty industry than previous generations. Consumers between age 13 to 34—spanning the Gen Z and millennial generations—they’re seeking more transparency, inclusivity, and authenticity from beauty brands and marketers.

They have good reason to be demanding—as the largest and most diverse generation in history, Gen Z packs some serious purchasing power, a whopping $44 billion. Gen Zers are spending more on cosmetics than their Gen X parents, and they’re seeking products they won’t find on their mothers’ makeup counters. Together with millennials, they are used to taking selfies and posting to social media and tend to be hyper-conscious of the way they look, so when it comes to their beauty buying experience they want the best products out there. But, their desires don’t stop at smudge-proof eyeliner or cruelty-free shampoo.

A recent study by Viacom's Marketing and Partner Insights team explains how millennials and Gen Z are also the ones driving change in the industry. Technology is at the center of major shifts in beauty thanks to this mobile-savvy group. Diversity at the beauty counter is also on young adults’ list of demands. Retailers are working to give them what want.

The importance of feeling beyoutiful

Young adults today are unapologetically themselves. So, for them, beauty is about freedom of individuality, authenticity, and diversity. Viacom’s study found that 8 in 10 Gen Z teens and millennials said “being yourself” is the phrase that best fits their personal definition of beauty, but they don’t simply want to be themselves, they want to be their best selves.

Thus, when it comes to their beauty buying experience young people expect authenticity from brands, they want retailers to see them as unique individuals. In an interview with Coveteur, Beautycon CEO Moj Mahdara explained, “Prior to the YouTube generation and Generation Z, I don’t know who a girl would look at and think, ‘She’s just like me’ or ‘I have a community, I have someone to talk to.’ Everything you look at in traditional media is so quote-unquote perfect and unattainable to most of the world.”

"8 in 10 Gen Z teens and millennials said 'being yourself' is the phrase that best fits their personal definition of beauty."

Young adults also have more diverse beauty ideals so they want inclusive product marketing that features models of color, of all colors, ages, and sexes (and models that don’t identify as a binary gender). For example, makeup artist James Charles became CoverGirl’s first Coverboy in 2016, there’s been an increase in gender-neutral makeup, and manpering (man-pampering) is becoming a trend. Plus, makeup lines like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty offer a wide range of different shades of foundation and concealers to accommodate various skin colors and undertones.

The recently announced partnership between Mally Beauty and RuPaul Charles, the producer and host of VH1’s Emmy-winning competition series RuPaul's Drag Race, is just one example of brands working with celebrities to resonate with younger demographics. Mally Beauty’s mantra: “What makes you different makes you beautiful,” and RuPaul exemplify the values of self-love and self-acceptance this generation holds dear, and he has worked to spread these values in the beauty industry for years, notably as a spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics and the first drag queen to land a major cosmetics campaign in 1994.

Many young people see the products they buy—whether natural body butters or bold lip colors—as an expression of self so they’re drawn to campaigns that align with their values.

The rise of YouTube makeup channels and online video culture

The Mally x RuPaul collaboration is also an example of how cosmetics retailers are reaching and engaging with Gen Zers and some younger millennials, as Mally Beauty announced the partnership on Instagram (of note: 71% of Americans ages 18-24 actively using the platform).

While the majority of millennials are mobile pioneers of sorts, Gen Z is comprised of digital natives who have never experienced a world without the internet and who grew up on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat. Across social platforms, they’re building their own personal brands, and part of that means looking good in photos and using different makeup palettes and beauty products to achieve a polished look that will allow them to stand out on the newsfeed of their followers.

"32% of Gen Z teens and millennials say that without YouTube tutorials, their look wouldn’t be nearly as good."

Gen Z is also a video-first generation. Whereas older generations turned to department store beauty counters for advice on how to make their eyes pop or their cheeks a rosy red, teens and young adults today are turning to YouTube tutorials to discover how to get creative with their makeup. Viacom’s MPI team found that 32% of Gen Z teens and millennials believe that without YouTube tutorials, their look wouldn’t be nearly as good.

The video streaming site has become a hub of makeup and beauty-related content from beauty vloggers and several of the top influencers in the industry have used the platform to launch their careers or carve their own niche in the industry.

Some YouTube superstars like Manny Mua are widely recognized for candid product reviews, while makeup artists like Kendra Atkins and SunKissAlba are known to give advice on natural look and organic, cruelty-free products, respectively. Others like Australian makeup artist Stephanie Lange teamed up with MTV Australia to create tutorials inspired by the reality series Geordie Shore. The brands are, in turn, increasingly reliant on bloggers for marketing.

The wide availability of tutorials online also feeds the demo’s need for accessible information.

The in-store experience remains crucial

The advent of the digital age and convenience of online shopping hasn’t discouraged teens from heading to stores. In fact, consumers are more likely to purchase beauty products in stores, with 78% admitting that they purchase cosmetics more in-store rather than online, according to Viacom’s study.

"That's the nature of beauty and why brick and mortar will continue to be strong," Ulta SVP of Merchandising Monica Arnaudo told Retail Dive in an interview. “Our guests, both male and female, like to come in and experience the products and try them on."

MPI’s research shows that despite mass access to information and products, young adults want to smell perfumes and compare makeup shades first-hand to save themselves time and money.

"78% of consumers say they purchase more cosmetics in-store rather than online. "

Moreover, because of their desire for dynamic, engaging, and shareable experiences, Gen Zers and millennials also want to be able to have a tactile and social experience of beauty brands, attending events like beauty brand Winky Lux’s “Experience Store” and Sephora’s Sephoria, an interactive beauty house pop-up shop.

Some retailers have gone beyond temporary pop-ups to completely re-imagine their stores for experiential. NYX Professional Makeup stores offer beauty bars that double as interactive tutorial stations providing pointers and how-to’s for testing products, as well as touchscreens built into product displays that consumers can use to scan products and search for Instagram photos of people wearing the selected product.

Last year, Viacom Digital Studios and the BET team partnered with Beautycon to create tutorial-style clips that featured black influencers and models with different hair textures and skin tone that led to a presentation on the Beautycon stage that will showcase a handful of the tutorials that attendees could witness in real life and real time.

Ultimately, as the industry shifts to accommodate the needs and desires of the youngest generation of consumers, the face of modern beauty is morphing to match—becoming more diverse and dynamic than ever before.

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