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Markets & trends

Beyond the crisis: COVID-19’s effect on consumer behaviour?

Compulsory lockdowns and reduction of social interactions, which are now affecting half of the planet’s population is plunged will have an immediate impact on the world economy, with a strong impact on production as on consumption. Indeed, epidemiology aside, the effects of Covid-19 spreading will have wide implications, not just on how economies function, but also on how consumers behave.

The implementation of social distancing measures, including the encouragement to working from home, closure of bars, restaurants and most shops, have an immediate impact on consumption. As far as beauty products are concerned, the consumption of certain categories will certainly decline in the short term.

Led by hand wash / sanitizer, body cleansing is surely a hero category...

Led by hand wash / sanitizer, body cleansing is surely a hero category during the epidemic outbreak. The high level of use is due to continue as consumers will continue to focus on hygiene. (Photo: © Zigres /

In China, where people first experimented compulsory lockdowns, Kantar Worldpanel observed a drop in hair washing frequency and #nohairwash being a popular hash tag in social media. [1]

We can foresee that in a short period, the related categories, such as hair shampoo, conditioner, will see a drop in purchasing. But in the medium to long term, with the relief of epidemic situation and people returning to work the hair care category will soon start to pick up,” said the market research firm.

In China, Kantar also noted a huge short term impact on make-up products, with a strong decrease in the frequency of use. However, as far as these products are concerned, a return to pre-epidemic habits might be more difficult.

However, the increasing popularity of video conferencing, video dating, selfies and livestreaming on social networks mean many consumers - in particular the youngest ones – are still wearing makeup but they have adapted. In China and other Asian countries, some sophisticated females even invented "face mask makeup styles" focusing on eye makeup.

In the short term, Kantar also notes a collapse in the use of fragrances during the lockdown period, since their use is strongly linked to social occasions.

Beyond lockdowns…

Nobody knows how long and how stringent lockdown measures will last in Europe and the Americas, it is pretty sure however that social distancing and hygiene habits (including frequent hand washing and the wearing of masks) will last.

Led by hand wash / sanitizer, body cleansing is surely a hero category during the epidemic outbreak. The high level of use is due to continue as consumers will continue to focus on hygiene. And with the increasing frequency of washing hands, there will be an increased need for hand cream.

The increased focus on cleanliness may also impact the way consumers consider ingredient safety.

According to Mintel, the pandemic will have implications on the evolution of clean beauty. Prior to Covid-19, consumers were increasingly reluctant regarding ingredients such as preservatives and artificial ingredients in their beauty products due to perceived health risks. In the future, “consumers will be more willing to accept these ingredients as long as brands provide evidence of efficacy and safety, both from a health and environmental perspective. [2]

As the arrival of the novel coronavirus will further push the notion that “natural isn’t always better” , it could also have an impact on emerging concerns such as the cutaneous and hair microbiome.

As consumers become more aware about viruses and germs living on surfaces, BPC products packaged in ways that eliminate the need to touch one’s face will stand out. Spray and stick formats in both cosmetics and facial skincare have been increasing in popularity, and with the arrival of COVID-19, “touchless” beauty products will see increased demand,” found Mintel.

However, sustainability issues, as well as concerns related to shorter supply chains, and local productions, should also gain popularity, especially in Europe and North America.

According to Mintel, this will encourage beauty makers to formulate without water. By offering products in a powder form, for instance, brands will appeal to consumers’ safety and environmental concerns. “Not only do waterless formulas reduce the need for preservatives, they also minimize waste,” said the trends agency.

Finally, while the lockdown period is the occasion for new age categories and demographics to test both DIY and online shopping, the impact on traditional retail channels could be severe ...

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