I just returned from Dallas last week after three very full days with the indie beauty team. The first two days were spent at Beauty X learning all about the retail landscape from beauty buyers, retailers, beauty editors, and of course, leading indie beauty brands. Over the coming weeks we’ll share what we learned, starting with how to understand and negotiate retail contracts so you don’t lose your profitability or your reputation when you land a big distribution contract.
Before we get into more specific topics, we wanted to give you a highlight of some of the trends we saw at Indie Beauty Expo.
Trend One: Indie Beauty is a Movement, not a Moment
Beauty buyers and retailers shared over and over how important indie beauty brands are to their future growth. Neiman Marcus, Whole Foods, FreePeople, The Detox Market, Amazon, Jet and Walmart.com all discussed their plans for showcasing indie brands and adding shelf space in their beauty offerings specifically on indie beauty, with a special focus on clean beauty. Amazon is rolling out new programs for indie brands.
Amazon is at it again. Months after launching a successful (and necessary) natural haircare marketplace, along with a platform that sells all the travel-size beauty products your vacation-loving heart could ever want, the online mega-retailer will hit us with another curated store. This June, we’ll be able to peruse a new Amazon indie beauty shop, so we can all be that friend who shopped under-the-radar brands “before they were big.”
This news comes courtesy of Beauty Independent, who reported the unveiling from the Beauty x Retail Summit in Dallas on May 7. When Justin Boettcher, senior strategic business development leader at Amazon, took the stage, he said, “Indie beauty is definitely a big focus for us.” [Popsugar Beauty, May 8, 2018]
While hundreds of indie brands are already staples in handbags, powder rooms, shaving kits, and baby rooms, there’s no shortage of opportunity for up and coming brands with retail outlets from department stores to spas to online marketplaces.
Trend Two: Add Wellness to the Indie Beauty Landscape
Beauty begins with overall wellness and the indie beauty brands are incorporating clean vitamins, ayurvedic herbs, collagen, and other ingestible ingredients into their beauty offerings. Neiman Marcus with their new Natural Wellness + Clean Beauty focus is just one dozens of initiatives by national retailers, spas, and specialty stores all promoting the tie between inner wellness and outer beauty — with a focus on clean, green, natural skincare.
Trend Three: Indie Beauty Loves Instagram
Instagram offers indie beauty brands a chance to punch above their weight and increase awareness through both organic and paid media. As beauty brands, so much of the brand identity is visual and based on appearances. This means that a brand that has a carefully curated a beautiful Instagram profile will earn greater views, more press, and likely more inbound leads from retailers and consumers. We were told repeatedly that many retail buyers look to a brand’s Instagram profile to get a feel for the brand and product, and also the type and levels of interaction with consumers. As buyers look to Instagram, so must brands create and maintain beautiful profiles.
Trend Four: Hero Ingredients
A key differentiator that helps brands stand out may often be a hero ingredient. These are typically on-trend ingredients, perhaps new to the market, and they can offer a great chance to stand out from similar brands in the same space. We saw several indie beauty brands which had narrowed in on one key ingredient on which to build their brand, and they made sure to educate audiences on their unique benefits. Here are a few of the ingredients we saw positioned as ‘heroes’ and beauty trends in their own right:
- Himalayan Salt
- Sonoran Desert Clay
- Prickly Pear
Trend Five: Clean Beauty
Clean beauty was the major focus of many of the national retailers and other speakers we heard from, and people are becoming increasingly conscientious about ingredients in cosmetics. This trend can take a variety of forms, but mainly refers to a preference for natural and organic products.
Some of the many hot topics we heard about include items that are, for better or worse, ‘preservative free’. We also heard about very strict ingredient standards from major retailers like WholeFoods and Free People, etc., requiring careful formulations and potentially re-formulating existing products when brands attempt to enter those markets.
The pressure of the EWG (environmental working group) is also playing a part, with the EWG’s ratings of ingredients and products gaining more influence over consumers. The struggle to adhere to their rigorous guidelines is all part of the growing Clean Beauty trend.
Trend Six: Sustainable Supply Chain
Clean beauty goes hand in hand with green beauty, and consumers and retailers are paying greater attention than ever to brands’ supply chain and their sustainability. Brands and their audiences are alerted to the devastating effects of most palm oil harvest, to the mostly-unsustainable but popular argan oil, and to any other ingredient whose press has turned sour for environmental issues. This area is particularly changeable, but it’s important that your commitment to a sustainable supply chain is more than skin deep if you want to be part of the growing sustainable supply chain trend.
This means looking to your supplier of ingredients–are they sourcing items responsibly? Are they committed to sustainability? What credentials are you as a brand pursuing and can your supplier meet those standards? We saw many brands tackling this issue head on and with pride, even if it requires a greater investment.
Trend Seven: Affirmations and Causes
We were delighted to see among beauty trends an increasing dedication to external causes, like donating a percentage of proceeds to charities or a specific cause. Many brands are donating to environmental protection groups, while some are donating to charities aimed at empowering and educating women around the globe.
Many brands have made commitments to affirmations and positive, encouraging messages as lynch pins of their brand or packaging. We saw many flyers, bottle labels, and general packaging displaying empowering affirmations, usually aimed towards women and boosting self-confidence.
Trend Eight: Packaging
Packaging trends are extremely sensitive to general market and design trends, so for a quick breakdown of those common beauty trends in packaging, see the list below.
- Sustainable packaging that is both already recycled and able to be recycled again
- Minimalistic label design with just 2 colors and an apothecary/botanist feel
- Bright color bursts that might form a rainbow with all the items in a line; lots of blues, pinks and purples
- Innovative and clever bottle and box design, creating unique silhouettes
Trend Nine: Money Enough to Bridge your Success
Cash flow remains critical in a business, no matter your size. Retailers of all sizes noted how major an issue it is if a brand is late in production or cannot get the delivery shipped in time. Perhaps you’re being stretched thin to meet your new contract, so work hard to line up the capital you need prior to or immediately after signing a contract with a retailer. This is about forecasting your needs and balancing your budget, advances, or perhaps loans to fulfill your orders and keep the growth line going upwards.
Trend Ten: Your Authentic Story
A story that feels inauthentic will never sell, so stick to your guns and tell your authentic version of why you are where you are, leading an indie beauty brand. We heard several accounts of what inspired brands, and this is becoming an important part of every indie brand’s success. Don’t be embarrassed to tell the whole story about a strange skin condition, or what it took to get your brand off the ground. People visibly respond to authentic stories, and hearing how much the brand founder believed in their products encouraged everyone else to as well.
Trend Eleven: Self-Love
A major beauty trend covered by both local and national retailers is the ‘Self Love’ movement. This can encompass everything from taking time to treat yourself to enhancing intimate pleasure with toys. It can also include improving feminine hygiene with area-specific cleansing products or bikini-line hair removal. Free People’s representative noted that sex toys and personal lubricants in particular was their fastest-growing category and an area that is consistently sold out. This is definitely a growing trend in skin and self care, and one that retailers do not see fading away.
Clearly many beauty trends are bubbling up to the surface in the skincare market, as beauty and wellness spending increases too. We do not recommend creating core products simply because they are on-trend at the moment, but hopefully this list provides some inspiration and a better grasp on the marketplace. Feel free to comment with other beauty trends you’ve been noticing!