3 opportunities for beauty brands in the UAE

When you think about the beauty and personal care industry, what picture comes to mind? I associate it with many things. From stealing my mom’s lipstick when I was little or, more recently, being in absolute awe of Kenzo’s brilliant ad campaign.

The multi-billion-dollar sector has been showing steady growth over the past few years and there’s great potential in the United Arab Emirates, one of the fastest-growing markets for beauty products in the world. Euromonitor estimates that women here spend about US$250 per capita on cosmetics and personal care each year. When you compare that to the rest of the world, the UAE sits in the top ten on beauty purchases.

It’s this appeal of the UAE beauty market (and a few neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia) that makes it an attractive investment choice for global beauty companies. As with any sector, the UAE and Saudi beauty consumer is a tough nut to crack. How do they think? What beauty products stand out for them? What influences their purchase decisions?

Before even stepping foot in your store, customers already know what they want to buy

The beauty consumer mind-set here is one that I understand on both a personal and a professional level. Based on work that I’ve done with several clients recently, there are three key opportunities that have stood out for me for any brand that’s considering moving into this region.

1. Inspiration starts at home, behind the computer screen

Consumers today are more informed than they’ve ever been. They’re exploring the usability of products or brands online (via tutorials and videos) and following bloggers or vloggers on social media for inspiration and knowledge. This is especially true in this region and makes for a very powerful and informed consumer. Before even stepping foot in your store, customers have already covered much of the groundwork and know what they want to buy. It’s therefore important for brands to be part of this online conversation, using the space to help consumers in the research process. Sephora does this well, by partnering with beauty influencers to create content that lives on their owned platforms.

2. Embracing diverse marketing channels

For any business agility is key, and the internet has given rise to new and sophisticated business models. One category that’s making a real impact in the UAE is online deal providers (like Groupon and Cobone). These companies are really changing the game for retailers and consumers, as well as for the deal providers themselves. Brands are able to reach out to a wider audience and, at the same time, consumers have access to products and experiences which they otherwise may not have considered. What’s of particular interest… we found that these online deals have a direct correlation with footfall in store. Beauty consumers are more willing to experiment and try new products and services. It’s important for any brand to embrace the old and the new to create a truly omnichannel experience for these evolved shoppers.

3. Technology to enhance consumer experiences

With such an informed customer, with the power to do research wherever they are, how can you enhance the consumer experience? This is where the beauty industry could take a page from the travel and automotive industries which effectively use consumer data to customise individual customer experiences. This is a cross-industry learning for the beauty industry – studying beauty consumers and their online search patterns can be used to customise the advertisements and offers they receive, as well as enhance the consumer journeys in-store. A real opportunity exists to engage with consumers and develop a better relationship with them. For example, based on the purchase history of a specific consumer, why not suggest products to buy when they’re next in-store? This is just one of many ways to personalise shoppers’ in-store experience.

Despite the technological advancements, the in-store experience won’t be replaced, especially for beauty consumers in the UAE. Predicting what the future holds is difficult. However, brands that put their energies into creating unique and unified online and in-store experiences will definitely hit the sweet spot.

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