Consumers around the world are demanding transparency and authenticity in every facet of their lives, and beauty products are no exception. But what does “transparent beauty” really mean? Is it a call for clean cosmetics? Is it a demand for insight into how our beauty companies source their innovations and run their business? Or something else entirely?
This topic is dissected in the 2018 Capstone Research Presentations for the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Master of Professional Studies program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management (CFMM), which were presented June 13 in New York City.
To reach their conclusions, the 2018 CFMM graduate students examined data, conducted extensive global research, designed and fielded the 2018 FIT Transparency Perception Assessment Survey, and interviewed industry executives, focusing on two key areas: (1) Clean Beauty—transparency as it pertains to brands and products; and (2) Glassbox Organizations—corporations thriving in a transparent world.
The following are highlights of their findings, predictions, and business imperatives.
2018 FIT Transparency Perception Assessment Survey
The proprietary survey discovered that consumers crave communication, accountability, and values from both brands and beauty industry employers. Lack of transparency is impeding the consumer path to purchase as well as the employee pursuit of purpose.
- 72% of consumers want a brand to explain what the ingredients do.
- 42% of respondents feel that they do not get enough information from brands on ingredient safety.
- More than 60% of consumers want brands to identify sources for ingredients.
- 90% of respondents believe natural ingredients are better for them; however, only 10% of respondents use products made only with natural ingredients.
- 74% of consumers agree to share their data if they are getting something in return.
- 82% of the working population chooses their next job because the company’s culture and mission align with their values.
- The beauty industry is 72% more likely to rank company culture as the top reason for employment over the general population.
- 55% of participants within the beauty industry said they do not have enough clarity or information about career progression. This is two times the rate of the general population.
The emergence and growth of the clean beauty movement is a symptom of consumers’ growing mistrust in the beauty industry, and is likely only the tip of the iceberg. As consumers aim to gain control of their lives by making more informed decisions, beauty brands are at risk of losing customers due to a lack of transparency. What used to be a linear purchase decision journey has transformed into an ever-evolving maze, and brands need to adapt. The time has come to replace the proverbial “mirror” with clear glass. By embracing technological innovations, prioritizing relatability, and putting control into the hands of consumers, brands have the opportunity to evolve beauty industry practices, rebuild trust, and reinvent the way consumers view the beauty industry.
The following four elements represent a transparency gap that exists between brands and consumers. The graduate research culminated in the creation of the Clear Beauty Radical Transparency Model. By addressing the four elements of knowledge, authenticity, relatability, and collaboration, brands can bridge the gap.
- Knowledge: There is too much data and not enough information. The lack of clear information is impeding the path to purchase. Consumers are turning to naturals because they think green is clean. Companies need to: 1) Empower consumers through education by making owned media platforms an encyclopedia and share short, “snackable” content. 2) Leverage Google Translate and Google Lens technology to create the clearBEAUTY app, which will allow consumers to translate ingredient lists and to comparison shop in real time.
- Authenticity: Knowing what is in a product and what it does is not enough. Consumers want to authenticate where it comes from and what it claims to do. Companies need to: 1) Ensure authenticity and protect consumers by adding clear dates to all products: batch date, production date, and expiration date. 2) Leverage blockchain and crypto-anchor technology to validate the product journey from source to skin, while also combating the industry’s gray market and counterfeit problem.
- Relatability: Consumers want brands that are reflections of themselves. The new consumer collective trusts one another and wants to have a dialogue with brands. Companies need to: 1) Listen to consumers and leverage conversational commerce to guide product development and build advocacy. 2) Leverage the growth of the consumer genetic testing market to provide hyper-personalized product recommendations and foster “communities of you.”
- Collaboration: Niche or heritage, mass or prestige, retailer or distributor, partner or competitor, the industry must come together to answer the consumer demand for transparency.
In order to achieve success now and in the future, companies must create a structure to respond to these growing demands. This means laying a foundation that allows for responsible and transparent corporate governance. In a world where information is impossible to hide and constant change is the norm, companies—like countries—are being held to a new level of scrutiny. It is not enough to talk the talk: action is required. If not, employees and consumers will migrate.
Organizations must prioritize the following three measures to not only to secure their own future, but the future of society. Obviously, organizations cannot succeed in a failing society and, therefore, must take responsibility for the welfare of citizens where governments have fallen short. The graduate students recommend that brands and corporations provide internal and external perspectives on identity, security, and opportunity. To that end, they have developed a model, called the “Insumer Loop,” which empowers the “insumer”—the convergence of the individual as consumer and employee.
- Identity: It is of the utmost importance that brands, and corporations establish and communicate the values for which they stand. The research further revealed that to grow their community, companies must: 1) Implement ongoing recruitment processes that leverage all employees, and 2) build an employee experience using modern human resource tools.
- Security: Companies that prove they have employee and consumer safety and well-being in mind—and are able to communicate this transparently—will continue rise to the top, flushing out entities that do not. To gain trust, companies must ensure accountability by: 1) providing 360-degree feedback at all levels; 2) creating fairness and championing their best promoters; and 3) offering incentives by regularly reassessing salaries and clearly communicating progress.
- Opportunity: Workplaces and brands that acknowledge individual opinions and empower people to create impact will benefit from continued loyalty, while those that refuse will be phased out of the consideration set. To cultivate loyalty, brands must: 1) Embrace mobility at all levels to satisfy internal curiosity, and 2) Create equality by reducing biases.