Mintel Highlights the Beauty in Social Media Engagement

While Britain’s beauty and personal care industries increasingly look to take advantage of the opportunities offered by an increasingly online—and vocal—audience, understanding their behavior while there is crucial to future success. Indeed, with Brits increasingly incorporating the Internet into their everyday lives, recent research from Mintel reveals that almost four in 10 Brits (37%, equating to 15 million consumers) have interacted with beauty and personal care brands online.

The Internet has revolutionized the way that people communicate with one another and social networking sites have facilitated a far greater reach for word of mouth. Every day in the U.K., 59% of Brits log into their Facebook accounts and 13% sign into Twitter. Mintel's latest research reveals Brits increasingly use the Internet to research beauty products before purchase with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter informing purchase decisions on beauty products for 34% of would-be buyers.

In a new report examining the role of the Internet and online media in the beauty and personal care sector, Mintel finds just over two thirds (67%) of Brits who engage with beauty brands have visited the website of a beauty or personal care brand. Almost 10 million people visit beauty and personal care brand websites with just under nine million resorting to Google when they want to find out more about these products and brands.

Alexandra Richmond, senior social media and lifestyles analyst at Mintel, says, “People use social media to share what they think with many people—not just their friends and family. In fact, sharing their thoughts on beauty products with friends, family or colleagues is a key reason that people talk about beauty and personal care brands both online and offline. This illustrates the strength of word of mouth, and the Internet plays a key role in enabling people to influence other people’s purchases whilst at the same time providing brands with valuable feedback.”

Irrespective of the amount of time that people spend online, Facebook is the preferred vehicle to express thoughts or opinions on beauty brands when online. Almost three quarters (74%) of people who have used the Internet to contact a brand or discuss one have used Facebook to do so. Facebook users are more likely to become a fan or “like” a brand on Facebook than they are to post a status update or engage directly on the brand’s Facebook wall. Almost two thirds (65%) of those who have contacted a brand via Facebook have become a fan or “liked” the brand compared to just one in four (24%) who have posted a status update on Facebook referencing a beauty or personal care brand.

And it appears Britain’s “voucher culture” is also playing a part in online behavior. With the U.K. economy in recession, consumers are trying to make their budgets stretch as far as possible. As a result, 33% of U.K. Internet users who interacted with beauty brands in the 12 months to January 2012 did so to take advantage of special offers and 33% said they wanted to get free offers and samples. Just over four in 10 (42%) people will interact with a brand online for discounts or information on sales or money-saving tips and this is as motivating for Twitter followers (52%) as it is for Facebook fans (50%).

There are many degrees of intimacy in friendships and associations and it appears that the role of social networking sites is encouraging a greater degree of intimacy between consumer and brand—and also stretching the definition of friendship. Just over one in three people (34%) engage with or share their thoughts on beauty and personal care brands that they already use. But while friendship with friends may be based on trust and mutual understanding, one in three (33%) people only friend a brand or share their thoughts on it in order to save money or get free samples.

“The ‘friendship’ between consumer and brand is not based on positive reciprocity, but on an assumption that they will be rewarded by the brand for being friends with it, liking it or sharing their thoughts and opinions on it,” Richmond comments.

Women are not only more involved in the beauty arena, they are also more likely than men to prove their loyalty online. Nearly three in 10 women who have interacted with or shared their shouts with a beauty or personal care brand track news about brands and products online, compared to fewer than one in four men. They are also more adventurous, with 20% keen to try out new products, compared to just 13% of men.

More encouragingly for brands, and particularly those with aspirational status, tribal behavior also motivates their online visitors. Just over a third of those who interacted with them did so because they already own their label, 22% wanted their friends to know that they like the brand and 14% wanted to be associated with it.

In Britain today, an estimated 6.6 million adults (16%) are enthusiasts of beauty and personal care products. Around 12.2 million rarely experiment (sticking to what they know) and more than half (53%) fall somewhere in the middle. Although almost a third (32%) of the enthusiasts keep their negative thoughts and feelings to themselves, they do talk with their fingers and show the greatest propensity to show their dissatisfaction by unfriending or unliking a brand on Facebook. Some 25% of enthusiasts have unfriended or unliked a brand on FB when they wanted to express a negative feeling about a beauty or personal care brand.

“The Mintel Inspire trend ‘Collective Intelligence’ highlights the way in which the brand-consumer relationship has evolved from monologue to dialogue to roundtable ideation. A growing number of beauty brands have used crowdsourced images as a central point of their advertising campaigns. Furthermore, continuous access to the Internet means that people can share their instant reactions and emotions to the things that they see, hear and experience. Looking forward, this is likely to place more pressure on brands to ensure a good experience all of the time or to respond swiftly in instances where the brand has failed to meet customer expectations,” Richmond concludes.

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