The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the expectations of not only beauty consumers, but also the industry’s own workforce, and brands need to adapt accordingly — and quickly — in order to thrive.
That was the chief message of the capstone projects presented by the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management master’s degree graduates on Wednesday evening in the school’s Haft Theater.
Following sponsor remarks from Liza Rapay, head of marketing at Cosmoprof North America/BolognaFiere USA, and an introduction from FIT’s Stephen Kanlian, the night kicked off.
The evening was themed “Beauty After Covid: Renaissance or Reformation,” with the reformation team examining how beauty organizations must reevaluate their company cultures in accordance with the shifting priorities of post-pandemic professionals.
Among the overarching changes the graduates suggested were increased remote work options and abandoning the five-day work week, a model that has been heavily called into question as of late, with employees across industries expressing that a four-day work week would boost worker morale, without impeding productivity.
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With employee burnout, resignations and turnover rates accelerating following the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the presentation suggested that the adoption of a chief agility officer by organizations could prove key to “transforming the way work gets done” by alleviating the hindrances to experimentation that 53 percent of employees feel are imposed by internal structural hierarchies, per the graduates’ research.
The presentation proposed that a shift toward a gig economy, rather than binary employment relationships, offer mature employees the ability to retire later, while granting all workers the level of flexibility they have begun demanding.
“It’s now time to look beyond the consumers and the investors alone as we have historically done, and instead look more introspectively — meaning, looking to your organization’s culture, resources, leadership and your environment to ensure that you’re able to maintain business continuity in the long term,” said graduate Jamie O’Brien in an interview with WWD.
The second presentation, led by the renaissance team, explored how brands must adapt and develop their omnichannel approaches to the increasingly complex expectations of consumers, which have transcended mere product efficacy and extend further into brand values and identity than ever before.
According to the presentation, brands who delve into the metaverse sooner rather than later will be able to develop increasingly personal connections with their consumers, who may soon have one foot firmly planted in the virtual realm, with or without them.
“The whole world is headed to the metaverse,” said graduate Nicole Martino to WWD. “Our research concludes that there is this split, or a dichotomy, in consumer mind-set in which the consumer lives on two extremes, without giving too much away of their real selves.”
With COVID-19 fundamentally changing the way we socialize, consumers of all ages — but particularly Gen Z — have turned to alternative platforms, such as social media, to interact with others.
The collective sense of loneliness enveloping populations in recent years will only bolster the growth of the metaverse, the presentation continued, stating that the immersive universe can potentially offer a safe space for consumers seeking a sense of community.
Between the rise of NFTs, AR and the metaverse, brands that don’t leverage technological advancements into contemporary strategies will likely be forced to grapple with elevated customer churn, the renaissance team concluded.
In no particular order, the 2022 Fashion Institute of Technology Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management graduates are: Jamie O’Brien, Alexa Krynicki, Joshua Borzooyeh, Phyllis Orozco, Katherine Desloge, Lía De Sola, Marissa Squeri, Ségolène Dewey, Michelle Imperiale, Gabrielle Zwyer, Alex Alfaro Garcia, Christina Madsen, Corey Fenton, Randy Malm, Aldana Ferrer Garcia, Nicole Martino, Amanda Rand, Maria Llanos and Shir-el Teboul.