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The Thread: Beauty and Wellness Brands See Payoff From Digital Efforts

Virtual initiatives born out of the coronavirus have led to a rise in social media engagement and in the best cases, a lift in sales.

Online music festivals, Snap Camera Lenses, Instagram Live workouts: Brands are starting to see the benefits of their digital savvy in the age of the coronavirus.

Angel Merino, celebrity makeup artist and founder of cosmetics company Artist Couture, hosted an online “festival” the weekend of April 18, filling 12 slots over the course of two days with workouts, a live DJ set and discussions with influencers such as Nikita Dragun, Jackie Aina and Desi Perkins. Supplementary to the programming, Artist Couture ran a promotion of 20 percent off its web site and created “Homechella” product bundles, priced at $40, using past inventory.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how to stay connected to our brand fans and build a community with everyone during this pandemic, giving people a distraction from what’s going on and something to look forward to,” Merino said. “We were not prepared for the volume that we did.”

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Artist Couture’s “Homechella” product bundles sold out twice. The company experienced a 376 percent growth in revenue compared to April 2019. The virtual festival received more than 500,000 views on Instagram, and Artist Couture gained 20,000 new followers as a result.

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NYX Cosmetics, too, hosted an online music festival on April 10. Headlined by Jessie Reyez, Kim Petras and Princess Nokia, the virtual concert drove an increase in social media engagement of nearly 14 percent week over week, according to NYX.

While Artist Couture and NYX’s pre-existing alignment with music festivals such as Coachella contributed to their recent successes, other beauty brands have turned to augmented reality to cater to their customers. One popular choice is Snap Camera, daily downloads of which have increased by more than 30 times since people began sheltering at home, according to Snap Inc. Snap Camera announced this week a partnership with L’Oréal, kicking off the rollout of a new beauty tile on the application’s opening page.

In January, Smashbox connected with Snap to develop a Lens that can be downloaded for use in conference calls, Twitch livestreams, Skype, YouTube and a host of other video platforms.

“Now more than ever, it’s a really important way for consumers to be able to not only shop, but interact with and experience a product and do self-learning,” said Samantha Citro Alexander, director, North America consumer engagement at Smashbox. “As we look forward, I think it’s something we’re going to continue to invest in more and start thinking about the ways where the physical and augmented reality worlds can blend.”

On average, Snapchat users play with Lenses nearly 30 times a day, according to Carolina Arguelles, head of global AR product marketing at Snap Inc. The company has found that when brands add Lenses to their Snapchat campaigns, they see an average increase of 31 percent in the reach of those campaigns.

“This AR experience can be beneficial to brands in the learning of what products are resonating with what audiences,” said Arguelles. “Something like AR can give you an early signal on which shades of a lipstick are resonating with which demographics, which age cohorts, which regions more than others.”

Augmented reality platforms make sense for brands pursuing a Gen Z audience — and, of course, for those with a budget big enough for experimentation. Still, Instagram remains a low-stakes alternative, and it helps when brand founders have celebrity connections who can give them a boost.

Dr. Barbara Sturm has gone live on Instagram with Hailey Bieber. Pat McGrath has invited the likes of Aina, Naomi Campbell and Sondjra Deluxe on Pat McGrath Labs’ Instagram Live, averaging 115,000 views per video.

“What I’m seeing more than anything is people saying that our 60 minutes of gossip, glamour and giveaways brighten people’s days,” McGrath wrote via e-mail. “The thing I’m loving the most about LABSTV: Pat McGrath Live is how much fun the audience is having.”

Forced to close its physical gyms in March, Rumble quickly pivoted to free workouts on Instagram Live. On April 27, it launched a pay-to-workout model on Zoom.

“Our Instagram usage has skyrocketed,” said Andy Stern, general manager of Rumble. Rumble’s Instagram following was around 150,000 pre-COVID-19. It has since jumped to more than 200,000.

“Our customer is home, they need to stay sane, to work, to maintain a healthy lifestyle even in this crazy world we’re in right now,” Stern said. “We were so encouraged by the amount of views.”

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