With 2020 being an unpredictable year, some companies in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space definitely faced challenges with being able to cater to their market. Specifically companies within the beauty industry. “The pandemic certainly hurt the makeup segment—according to The NPD Group, prestige makeup sales in the United States decreased 34% last year—but it had been sliding in advance of the health crisis” (Brown). Millions of people being laid off, people generally being more conservative in spending and not being able to go out has contributed to one of the biggest beauty brands out there to be forced to call it quits. So why exactly is Becca closing and other smaller brands remaining intact? And what does this mean for the future of the beauty industry?
While the brand puts partial blame on the pandemic for it’s closure, it seems that things were rocky from the start. Becca started out in Sephora, but had a short shelf life due to operational issues. “The brand was persistently battered by out-of-stocks, and Morrice-Williams (Rebbecca, Founder) living in Perth, far away from Becca’s distribution in the U.S., didn’t help matters” (Brown). Following its departure from Sephora, the brand went the drugstore route in places like Duane Reade, and its assortment ballooned to 350 products. Becca’s CEO advised they stay away from mass distribution and streamline its assortment to 120 products. Becca got a second shot at Sephora, but the brand’s reemergence in Sephora stores wasn’t an immediate hit. People weren’t familiar with it. DeBaker, CEO shared that as 2015 got underway, its brand recognition among consumers was less than .5%. This could have been due to them maybe not having a strong online presence back then or clear brand identity. Maybe they should have built that up and knew who they were as a brand before coming back to Sephora. Former Chief Merchant Margarita Arriagada at Sephora says,”Awareness for the brand was a challenge, though the products were beautiful, until the Jaclyn Hill collaboration, which was the collaboration that signaled the beginning of the social media influencer wave. The response was unprecedented, and it took the brand to the stratosphere” (Brown).
I personally think that Becca as a brand had a strong digital strategy after the Hill partnership. They leveraged Youtube early on by partnering with popular influencer, Jaclyn Hill , on her own highlighter, Champagne Pop , which ended becoming a permanent product in their line which was/is unheard of. To put its success into perspective: the original limited edition product sold out of 25,000 units within 20 minutes upon its Sephora debut. They also had many celebrity collaborations i.e. Khloe Kardashian and Chrissy Teigan to name a few. They had products that were cult favorites (which are sold out everywhere since their announcement) and used popular influencers to showcase their products. However, it seems that the consensus is that this may have been a negative. “We are seeing a shift toward micro-influencers playing a bigger role rather than the macro-influencers, and this is due to saturation in the beauty space,” says Amra Beganovich, co-founder of digital marketing agency A&E and an influencer with the handle clubfashionista. “Big influencers had become so staged and overproduced that they lost touch with their audience” (Brown).
In 2016 other issues came into play. Becca partnered with Hill again on an eyeshadow palette which was recalled for quality issues. Later on, Hill kicked off her own line disastrously with backlash from her audience due to batches of lipsticks being hairy and lumpy. Another controversy faced Becca in 2018 when the brand was criticized for swatching foundations on the arm of a light-skinned woman who was painted darker. Aside from it’s controversies, many people in the industry chalk Becca’s demise to be due to the brand not differentiating itself enough. “The brand hasn’t evolved much and struggled to stay relevant,” says Melissa Hibbert, a makeup artist and brand consultant. Patricia Valera, founder of brand development agency Beautybrandr, agrees, saying, “Becca can be a case study for what happens to a brand that doesn’t have a crystal-clear point of differentiation in this day and age. Today, even large brands don’t have the luxury to rely solely on having pretty colors. They need to have a deeper meaning” (Brown). As we have talked about in class, it is important to ask yourself the “Why” behind the brand and be on the same page when it comes to its goals. With that said, I think a lot of beauty brands are in the same boat as Becca and it will be interesting to see if they sink or swim in the years ahead.
Becca also had product and distribution issues as well. While Becca is mostly known for their highlighters, Arriagada suggests those sales overshadowed complexion products which drive brand loyalty and helps retain customers. “Although the brand stretched into the United Kingdom, its cruelty-free commitment held back expansion into China, which requires animal testing for cosmetics imports. And pandemic retail realities have affected its performance domestically” (Brown). People working from home and not being able to “glam up” as they usually would for a night out might have also contributed to the general decline in beauty sales within the last year. Stores that carry the brand (like Ulta and Sephora) have restricted testing product in store due to safety guidelines. Newcomers to the brand are also probably put off from purchasing products online when they have never seen in-person. I think there is also a general awareness to anything germ-related and some might rather not have to worry about the hassle of going in store to get makeup.
Moving forward, I think beauty brands will need to work harder to differentiate themselves among the rest since there seems to be an over-saturation in the market nowadays. This could include slimming down their product line and focusing on a more targeted audience with a specific need. They also need to make sure their brand isn’t a one trick pony almost like Becca was with their highlighter that rose their brand to fame. And if it is – how will they support that? Although Becca had big names behind their brand and a cult following, it goes to show that the marketing strategy goes hand in hand with the business operations side as well.
Brown, Rachel. “The Glow Down: What Led To The End Of Becca Cosmetics.” Beauty Independent, 26 Feb. 2021, www.beautyindependent.com/glow-what-led-end-becca-cosmetics/.
Yates, Jaqueline Laurean. “Becca Cosmetics Is Going out of Business after 20 Years.” Good Morning America, www.goodmorningamerica.com/style/story/becca-cosmetics-business-cites-pandemic-reason-76108185. Photo.