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Virtual Consultations Are Paying Off for Beauty Brands

While the explosion in online beauty consultations was born out of necessity, the boost in sales means most brands will continue doing them in a post-crisis world.

Across the Internet, aestheticians, makeup artists, hair stylists and beauty educators are holding consultations, classes and beauty confabs. And while the explosion in online activity was born out of necessity from the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity of such events — including a boost in sales and increased conversion rates — means most brands will continue doing them in a post-crisis world.

Gretchen Saegh-Fleming, chief marketing officer of L’Oréal USA, said that across the company’s portfolio, brands were growing their digital presence. Color & Co., the at-home customized hair color kit that launched last May, has seen a tenfold increase in sales and 25 times the volume of requests for digital color consultations, for one. Meanwhile, NYX Professional Makeup’s Instagram franchise, “The Livebeat,” featuring a live makeup tutorial, had about 4,000 people for the 45-minute class.

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“We’re doing a lot to service consumers,” said Saegh-Fleming. “We want to meet them where they are.”

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Saegh-Fleming sees the digital boom as a post-quarantine mainstay, both for L’Oréal and the industry as a whole. “Some of this is going to become the new normal expectations for consumers,” she said. “People are getting used to taking livestreamed yoga classes instead of going to the gym. Maybe it wasn’t part of people’s routines before, but it definitely will going forward.”

“Things are changing very dramatically — the way clients are shopping, how they are determining their beauty needs,” agreed Danyelle Boilard-Paul, executive vice president and general manager of Clarins USA. “This crisis is going to create so many new things — new habits, new routines. It forces us to think outside of the box and reinvent what retail is going to be.”

For its part, Clarins has created 15-minute, one-on-one consultations called Clarins and Me, complimentary sessions which are being conducted by the brands’ consultants, its education team and makeup artists. The program is working: In terms of sales, self-care items are booming. Sales of V-Facial Intensive Wrap, a $61 mask that relieves puffiness and swelling caused by stress, are up 5,000 percent year-over-year, for example, Boilard-Paul said, while the hand cream category is soaring.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare is likewise experiencing exponential online sales growth, both on its own and retailers web sites, driven by a robust program of virtual events. “Before, we were getting on planes and doing master classes with Dennis and peel parties,” said Carrie Gross, president and chief executive officer. “What’s interesting is that we are able to communicate everything we were doing before, just as intimately, but at a larger scale.”

She noted that the events are driving traffic from international markets like India, Lebanon, Germany and Singapore, markets that traditionally wouldn’t have one-on-one access to Gross himself. The interest has translated into sales, both for hero products like the Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, as well as for more specialized items like its Pro Facial Steamer, $149, and SpectraLite FaceWare Pro LED mask, $435, which Gross said is the top-selling device at Sephora.

NuFACE, too, is using the power of virtual consultations to drive sales of its microcurrent face and body devices. The brand has always offered virtual house calls to celebrities, VIP clients and industry professionals, but opened up the program on April 24 to consumers as well. Within 24 hours, all of the slots through May were booked, said cofounder and ceo Tera Peterson.

The brand is also reaching out more broadly, via frequent livestreams on Instagram, for example. The program is working: According to Peterson, grew over 300 percent in April alone, an increase which has enabled it to bring furloughed employees back to the workforce to support the initiative. L’Oréal USA, too, has retrained 250 employees across Kiehl’s, Lancôme, SkinCeuticals and CeraVe to support its digital growth.

For Dermalogica, the addition of 15-minute video consultations with a skin therapist or Instagram master classes where a therapist answers questions posed by a host has also exponentially increased sales.

“Our conversion rate was 19 percent for those who speak with a therapist,” said Lauren Consiglio, vice president of U.S. marketing and global programs. “For those who don’t speak with a therapist, it’s about 4.3 percent. It’s also a higher basket size. From January to April, it was a 158 percent increase.”

Consiglio sees all of these initiatives remaining post-quarantine. “New behaviors are being developed by consumers, and they’re still going to want to absorb content as they did through quarantine,” she said. “Consumers want answers. It’ll be an entryway into the salon.”