Beauty Trends - 2021

02 Jun 2021

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Dear Reader,

The global beauty industry (encompassing skin care, color cosmetics, hair care, fragrances, and personal care) has been shaken by the COVID-19 crisis. With months of lockdown, retail businesses closed and international travel ban, consumer’s purchase and usage behaviour has witnessed a dramatic change leading to fall in sales across many beauty segments.

Beauty sales declined as much as 30% in the first half of the year, according to a McKinsey report and even major brands took a blow. With more than a year under pandemic, brands are now working towards better ways to deal with the humongous shift in consumer values and expectations.

In this effort, brands are adopting new technologies at a faster speed to redefine personalisation. Some companies such as L’Oréal offers AI powered at-home devices, which can measure user conditions, like the emergence of dark spots or surrounding environmental concerns, on a daily basis. L’Oréal’s Perso device accounts for this data to dispense custom-formulated makeup every day. Another company Atolla uses AI capabilities to customize facial serums for consumers by using data collected through quizzes and tests measuring oil, moisture, and pH levels.

As per a CB Insights report, Johnson & Johnson, has invested in new engineered preservatives that could be used in items like haircare or body care products. The company invested in Curie Co, a startup that makes biomaterials to replace preservatives in everyday beauty and personal care products, through its JLABS incubator.

Another apparent trend is BigTechs offering retail channel for beauty products. Amazon launched a private label beauty brand called Belei in 2019 and recently invested in India-based D2C beauty site MyGlamm.  China-based tech giant Alibaba offers livestreaming and AR features which it has used to attract luxury beauty brands to its e-commerce platform.

Virtual try-on tech leverages augmented reality to allow shoppers to test how different beauty products will look without actual trial. Remarkably, virtual try-on can also help brands personalize the beauty shopping experience, enhancing product discovery and making tailored recommendations about foundation shades, skincare products, and more.

In December 2020, Google launched an AR-powered cosmetics try on tool in Google Search, partnering with brands like L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, MAC Cosmetics, and more to let users try on searched-for makeup products using front-facing mobile phone cameras.

Going forward, we expect to see beauty brands and tech giants alike turn to virtual try-on to gather shopper data and make more personalized product recommendations.

Credits : Akhil Handa Aparna Anand

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Automobile Commerce

Dear Reader, 
The auto industry has been facing the heat to move digital more than ever as the pandemic has brought upon new challenges and deepened the need to shift toward digital solutions. Auto dealers have been slow to adopt digital car-buying solutions, but with lockdowns closing dealership doors, the pandemic accelerated the shift to omni-channel auto retail. 
Online car buying has taken off in a big way during the pandemic. According to Publicis Sapient, many digitally enabled OEMs are seeing increased, higher quality leads that are 30 percent more likely to buy and a two to four-fold surge in website traffic compared with pre-COVID-19. These online tools are, in some instances, responsible for more than 20 percent of new leads during the second quarter of 2020. 
More recently, a number of digitally focused disruptors such as Carvana, Carmax and Tesla have entered the market, offering unique, omni-channel experiences like flexible return policies, virtual auctions, home deliveries, online negotiation and virtual trade-in valuations. These digital leaders recognized a shift in customer expectations and focused on creating seamless user experiences across the entire shopping journey. 
Online used car seller Vroom noticed a considerable growth in demand as a result of the pandemic, with people turning to digital methods for purchasing cars. Similar to its competitor Carvana, Vroom offers no-haggle pricing and a no-questions-asked return policy. Another Used car marketplace Shift Technologies went public via SPAC in October 2020. Shift allows users to buy, sell and finance cars online. The company offers a "buy it now" option that allows a buyer to purchase a vehicle online without a test drive. Similarly, Cazoo, a UK based company, sells refurbished cars online, delivers them to customers' homes within 48 hours, and offers a seven-day free returns policy. 
Then there are digital platforms that help the dealerships move their businesses online. Take for example, Modal which makes software for car dealerships to move the entire buying process online. Another company, Digital Motors builds a car-buying platform for auto retailers, dealerships, brands and manufacturers. 
The new car ownership model of subscription offers ease and convenience to customers like never before. Switzerland-based Carvolution offers car subscriptions where Customers pay a monthly price for a vehicle and are free to switch cars as they like. 
We believe that, the winners in this industry will be defined by how quickly they adapt to technological innovations. The dealers and OEMs who adjust can thrive, while those reluctant to change will fall further behind. 
Credits : Akhil Handa,Aparna Anand

Clearing up Space Debris

Dear Reader, 
Various entities are putting more and more satellites into Earth’s orbit every year making it extremely crowded with defunct satellites and debris. Scientists around the world are worried about accidental collisions affecting new space missions. Governments and start-ups are now working on numerous ways to fix this humungous mess. 
NASA has a special ORBITAL DEBRIS PROGRAM OFFICE according to which more than 23,000 orbital debris larger than 10 cm are known to exist. The estimated population of particles between 1 and 10 cm in diameter is approximately 500,000. The number of particles larger than 1 mm exceeds 100 million. As of January 1, 2020, the quantity of material orbiting the Earth exceeded 8,000 metric tons. 
NASA recently gave out a handbook on how to avoid crashes for commercial satellite providers, and this month signed an agreement with SpaceX to ensure that both prioritize safety during launches and orbital manoeuvres.  
Astroscale, is a Japanese startup which wants to remove hazardous clutter from an already congested space environment. It has achieved a critical breakthrough with the successful launch of its ELSA-D debris removal spacecraft last week.  
Russia’s GK Launch Services sent ELSA-D into space on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The system works by attempting to attach itself to dead satellites and push them towards the earth for burning up in the atmosphere, using a magnetic docking technology. 
Apart from Astroscale, ClearSpace SA, a Switzerland-based startup founded in 2018, is aiming to launch the world’s first active debris removal mission in collaboration with ESA by 2025. The mission’s objective will be to remove a fragment of the Vega rocket launched in 2013. It is a bulky piece, about a hundred kilos and a similar size to many satellites in orbit, which is why it has been selected.  
The concept is relatively simple—a vehicle will be launched with several mechanical arms that will trap the piece in orbit. Once captured, a descent manoeuvre will be initiated with which the spacecraft and the piece of junk will disintegrate due to the atmosphere's friction. 
In India, young Bengaluru-based space startup, Digantara Research and Technologies, is working towards setting up an orbit rubble tracking and monitoring services.  
Another Japanese company - Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University have joined forces to develop what they hope will be the world's first satellites made out of wood by 2023. This partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth. 
These strategies will be critical since, by 2029, there will be an estimated 57,000 satellites in orbit. Fortunately, this time around, we have the knowledge and tools to resolve the situation before the accumulation of space junk becomes unsustainable. 
Credits : Akhil Handa,Aparna Anand

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