2020 WWD Beauty Inc awards

For Sunny Jain, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever, positivity isn’t just the key to surviving a tumultuous year, but imperative for business growth.

At the 2020 Beauty Inc Awards, held for the first time virtually on Thursday, Jain gave a master class on his brands’ purpose-driven philosophy. “We know from the latest Edelman Trust research that 85 percent of consumers want brands to solve people’s problems, and 80 percent of consumers also want brands to solve society’s problems,” he said.

Jain has dubbed his altruistic business strategy “positive beauty,” as each brand implements thorough programs to raise the quality of life for consumers. “We want to measurably improve the health, well-being and inclusion of over one billion people through deep impact programs,” he said, pointing to Unilever’s campaign to end animal testing and Dove’s Self Esteem Project as examples of the approach in action.

Jain said sustainability is also imperative to brands’ future success. “Sixty-five percent of people globally now want to buy a product that is made and packaged in an environmentally friendly way,” he said.

While Jain is following consumer behavior closely, he’s also set his sights on the future, specifically that of retail. “There’s a myth that physical retail will completely vanish. It’s here to stay, because they have different roles to play,” said Jain, who was at Amazon before joining Unilever 18 months ago. He envisions brick-and-mortar retail specializing, and engaging consumers’ five senses, comparing the difference between buying online versus buying in a store to the difference between watching a hockey game on a tablet versus live in an arena. “All of those things can’t be done by the smartphone,” he said.

In the realm of consumer experiences, Jain was optimistic about the recent partnerships between Sephora and Kohl’s and Target and Ulta Beauty. “‘Store-within-a-store’ is a trend that’s here to stay, and an even more important one is partnering up for the consumer,” he said. “I don’t have all the details to understand what the experiences will be like, but it’s clear who’s going to win: the consumers and shoppers.” 

Marla Beck, cofounder and chief executive officer of Bluemercury, had her own thoughts on what retail will look like in coming years. “The pandemic has turned the industry on its head and has been, to say the least, incredibly disruptive. But when you have disruption, you have opportunity,” she said.

Like Jain, Beck saw consumers move quickly to online shopping, and thinks the behavior is here to stay. “Years of e-commerce penetration growth was pulled up to the spring, some estimate 10 years’ worth,” she said. “As we shut down over almost 200 locations, clients who shopped with us in our friendly neighborhood stores became omnichannel customers overnight.”

Customers’ digital behaviors, however, have bled into brick-and-mortar retail. “With the lockdown and the desire to stay at home we have seen a new level of customer connection and intimacy, being within our customers’ homes and developing new more intimate relationships with them,” Beck said. “Now that our stores are up and running, our clients still want these intimate experiences both digitally and in our stores.”

Bluemercury’s level of tailoring and personalization to its consumers is where Beck sees the industry heading — maybe with the help of technology. “Take the concept like the mirror for workouts into the bathroom for intimate skin-care advice. Can I have Alexa for skin care and ask her what product can fix a dark spot, or a pimple that just appeared? Can we imagine technology that replicates this intimate connection with an omnichannel approach for world-class service?” she said.

After Beck’s and Jain’s respective discussions, WWD Beauty Inc revealed the winners of its 2020 Beauty Inc Awards. Here is the full list:

Start-up of the Year: Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez

Changemaker of the Year: Sharon Chuter, founder and ceo, Uoma Beauty

The Social Responsibility Award: The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.

Launch of the Year: Byredo Makeup

Newcomer of the Year: Stéphane Rinderknech, ceo, L’Oréal USA

Sustainability Initiative of the Year: P&G Beauty for Responsible Beauty

Newsmaker of the Year: E.l.f. Beauty

The Wellness Award: The Honey Pot Co.

Breakthrough Brand of the Year: Youth to the People

Transformational Deal of the Year: Puig and Charlotte Tilbury

 

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