Velvet Labs: From Face-To-Face To Facebook — Our Experience With Virtual Beauty Events

A virtual beauty session? How does that even work??

A few months ago, it would have been inconceivable to think about beauty consultations virtually. We’re SO over COVID now, but one of the great things about it has been the way all sectors, including beauty, have pivoted. So now, you can get concoct your own perfume, choose your own Jo Malone scent without a sniff or spray, or get a masterclass in cutting your own hair, all from your own desktop.

I didn’t quite go as far as cutting my locks (I have long hair, in fairly good nick, and want to keep it that way!) But as a hard-core beauty fiend, I did tap into a number of virtual brand events.

The choice was comprehensive – so big tick there. I chose:

· Beauty School with YSL

· Christmas Gifting with Clarins

· Virtual Conversation with bareMinerals

· Murad’s Christmas Beauty Kits

I haven’t done any online beauty really and my expectations were low – there’s nothing quite like the Harvey Nicks or Selfridges beauty halls. In the absence of those though, these turned out to be just about acceptable as far as virtual fixes go.

There were some disappointments – each of the streams began in the same way – a woman staring into camera, smiling and waiting for viewers to join. I’d expect an initial period of awks – we’re all having them still, on every Teams/Hangouts/Zoom call. But these are public-facing gigs, so a bit of effort to provide decent backdrops or sets for the host was a missed opportunity, both in terms of branding as well as giving participants the feeling that we were attending something unique. (Every brand would have made more effort with their shop-floor presence, I’m sure – this was no different.)

Another black mark was the heavily promotional nature of content. It was bit like watching those late-night shopping channels my mother loves. While I get the need for a ‘salesy experience’, each of these brands would have done better to offer some form of exclusive content – maybe behind-the-scenes stories about product development, or interesting facts about the brand.

A word on the hosts: Being stuck behind a screen unable to touch or smell the products is an obvious barrier when creating an experience for viewers which is why the host is so important. It’s not enough to be confident and comfortable on camera, as hosts and representatives of the company there must be a clear passion for the brand coupled with genuine excitement for the products. (Check out QVC for the masterclass on this.)

An honourable mention goes to Murad’s Head of Training, Tracey Wilmot (pictured), for her presentation of Murad’s top holiday giftsets. Tracy decorated her space with seasonal decorations and the products she featured throughout the stream. Her warm personality radiated through the screen as she answered questions and addressed viewers’ skin concerns seamlessly.

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Overall, though, my experience of live streaming events in the cosmetics industry is that they have a long way to go in terms of transforming what was previously a one-on-one sales exchange into a large-scale presentation.

That said, the massive room for improvement also presents a huge retail opportunity in beauty. Virtual beauty sessions are here to stay – they can be a fun and easy option and they can connect beauty fans with experts across the globe. For the brand that can crack real customer engagement online – that can transfer and transcend its face-to-face into an exclusive, practical, session with personalised advice – into an actual experience, the wins are likely to be big.