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Net-a-porter’s Newby Hands on What’s Selling in Beauty — and Why

Skin care is "massive," with active ingredients and high-tech devices driving growth.

Skin care is boosting beauty e-commerce sales during COVID-19.

Industry-wide, beauty companies are seeing online gains during the pandemic, with skin care and wellness driving growth. At Net-a-porter, “skin care is massive,” said Newby Hands, beauty director, at WWD’s Digital Beauty Forum, in conversation with senior editor Allison Collins.

“We have the time to use [skin care],” Hands said. “Instead of commuting, we’re derma-planing and using our LED masks, the gua sha. Instead of baking banana bread, we’re now looking after our skin intensively.”

Traffic to Net-a-porter’s skin care content is up 100 percent over the past year, with wellness content up 55 percent. Skin care was Net-a-porter’s top-performing beauty category in 2020.

Beauty enthusiasts who have taken up a consistent skin care routine during the pandemic are now seeing the results of their commitment, Hands said.

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“Proven science” and “clinical” beauty have become consumers’ go-tos, and natural search for ingredients has increased.

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“Women are smart. They’ve spent a lot of time looking up ingredients, looking up what products do what, sharing,” Hands said.

The most searched ingredients — hyaluronic acid and retinols, for example — aren’t necessarily new, though search trends seem to indicate increased education on what the ingredients do.

“Women were searching for vitamin C, and come September and the end of summer, there is this huge increase in natural search for retinols, showing that they not only know what they want — they want an active and they know what it does — but they also know, ‘end of summer, now I should be using it,'” Hands said.

Despite the higher price tag, high-tech devices are outperforming items such as facial rollers and gua sha tools. One of Net-a-porter’s best-selling products over the past year has been Angela Caglia’s Cellreturn Premium LED Mask, according to Hands. The mask retails for about $1,900 and is currently sold out on Net-a-porter’s web site.

Content in the form of Instagram Live videos and social media sharing has been driving sales at Net-a-porter.

“There’s no gray areas. It’s very clear what people want,” Hands said. “We’ve seen a big shift away from the aspirational. They want practical. They want to know, what does an LED blue light, red light, green light, what do they do? How do I use this product? How do I treat this? It’s very straightforward. It’s clear as to the content they want and how they want to digest it.”

The pandemic has caused behavioral shifts product usage, too. Hands said Net-a-porter has developed a “Netflix test” to determine how easy to use — especially when multitasking — a given product is.

“A few years ago, when you bought a device, there would be an app you had to download and then you had to watch some videos and you had to concentrate,” she said. “The Netflix test is, once I know how to use it, can I now use it watching Netflix? I don’t actually think we’re in the bathroom doing this all. For me, it’s in the morning, watching the morning news programs — that’s when I do my LED or my microcurrent.”

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