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[interview] The Future of Beauty at CVS

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"CVS is a health and beauty retailer and those two have never been more inherently linked–and a big part of health and wellness has been self-care throughout the pandemic, which we do think will continue," says Andrea Harrison, vice president of beauty and personal care at CVS Health.

When CVS announced that it had reached 100% Beauty Mark compliance, Global Cosmetic Industry reached out to Andrea Harrison, vice president of beauty and personal care at CVS Health, to learn more about the program and the future of beauty at the pharmacy retail giant.

How is CVS addressing beauty-as-self-care in its marketing, product mix, etc.?

Harrison: As one of the largest health and beauty retailers in the country, we understand that beauty is part of self-care and overall well-being. Even in beauty, health has remained a consistent focus for us, increasingly so the past several years–and our core values have proven to be particularly resonant with customers over the past year.

We recently reached our goal of full transparency for beauty imagery produced by and for CVS Pharmacy, the culmination of our mental health-driven CVS Beauty Mark commitment, made in 2018 to educate customers about the difference between authentic and digitally altered photos.

At the same time, we announced the next phase of Beauty Mark, centered on the mental health impact women are facing due to increased screen time and the effects of turning the cameras on themselves.

83% of our respondents [agree] they feel better about themselves when they do a beauty routine

The CVS Beauty Mark mission was driven by data and, as part of that next evolution, we partnered with media psychologist, Dr. Pamela Rutledge, to conduct an online survey through The Harris Poll among women ages 18-35, aiming to uncover what transparency in beauty means for women now that the pandemic has changed how we work, attend school and socialize.

We found that the simple act of investing in oneself through self-care activities can help counteract the negative impact–with 83% of our respondents agreeing they feel better about themselves when they do a beauty routine, and 79% saying that doing a regular beauty routine during the pandemic gives them a sense of control.

We’ve lived and watched self-care and couldn’t be happier about our opportunity in the space because of our role in health and beauty. The customer sees self-care as everything from bath bombs to skin care–all of keep us thinking about beauty from the inside out.

How did the pandemic alter or accelerate trends related to how its shoppers shop and what they expect from the retailer?

Harrison: The past year has heightened the use of video calls and social media consumption, which we found that, with our Beauty Mark survey, has had a significant impact on women’s health and anxiety, particularly when added to the external pressures stemming from the pandemic.

CVS is a health and beauty retailer and those two have never been more inherently linked–and a big part of health and wellness has been self-care throughout the pandemic, which we do think will continue.

The beauty customer has rapidly evolving expectations of what they want to experience in store and meeting those customer expectations is at the very heart of our BeautyIRL store formats, now in more than 130 CVS locations.

Customers want three things: brands, experience and service.

Beauty is an important part of our front store sales growth strategy, and a primary way for us to attract younger millennial and Gen Z customers–and our BeautyIRL format has been an example of our success in attracting those key demographics.

The expanded and redesigned beauty departments feature two times more beauty space and are a shop-in-shop in and of themselves, with features including a focus on social and indie brands, an expanded Mini Must-Have collection, and licensed beauty services including express hair and (during non-COVID times) makeup.

Before the pandemic, our BeautyIRL stores offered testers and disposable applicators at our hygiene stations. However, all testing and hygiene supplies were removed and disposed of in March 2020 as the health of our customers is our top priority.

As we look ahead to the future, we see sampling becoming a more integral part of the in-store experience. We are exploring a number of alternatives for testers in-store to drive the customer experience and engagement with CVS products, including, but not limited to, digital technology and sampling.

How is CVS preparing for the next generation of beauty lovers, from inclusivity to product/category mix to omnichannel strategies?

Harrison: In tandem with our Beauty Mark announcement, we announced that Nyma Tang, a long-standing partner and CVS Beauty Mark supporter, will become our very first Beauty Inclusivity Consultant, a reflection of our ongoing commitment to transparency and equity in the beauty aisles. In her new role, Nyma will help customers see themselves not only reflected in the imagery they see, but in the products they find on our shelves.

As far as product mix and strategies are concerned, in today’s rapidly evolving beauty retail landscape, customers want three things: brands, experience and service.

We are constantly evolving our portfolio of products to reflect our customers’ desire for more clinically-backed, healthy and trend-driven beauty and personal care products through personalized experiences across channels–we’re always looking to redefine what shopping for beauty means in the mass market.

Beauty remains top priority because it’s part of our holistic strategy and helps us to define health in all its ways–mental, emotional, physical, social, etc.

In beauty, health has remained a consistent focus for us, increasingly so the past several years–and our core values have proven to be particularly resonant with customers this year. Beauty remains top priority because it’s part of our holistic strategy and helps us to define health in all its ways–mental, emotional, physical, social, etc.

We continue to evolve our portfolio of products to reflect our customers’ desire for more clinically backed, healthy and trend-driven beauty and personal care products through personalized experiences across channels–we’re always looking to redefine what shopping for beauty means in the mass market.

Our ongoing mission is to make popular beauty brands and trends more accessible to our customers than ever before. At CVS, we think about how to find ways to inspire customers–but we look at that through the lens of innovation, as well as value and accessibility, which sets us apart.

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