Last month, fast-fashion retailer Boohoo announced that it would be launching a new beauty range. 

With products starting from as little as £4, Boohoo Cosmetics is designed to offer consumers an alternative to high-end beauty.

But Boohoo is certainly not the only fashion retailer to capitalise on this burgeoning industry. It comes hot on the heels of other high street and online fashion brands including Primark, H&M, and New Look also launching their very own beauty products. Others, like Topshop and M&S, have been in the game for a while.

So why are more fashion brands entering the beauty market? Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest benefits.

1. A slice of the beauty pie

On the surface, it’s unsurprising that fashion brands are looking to the increasingly lucrative beauty sector. 

While fashion sales stagnated in 2016, the beauty industry enjoyed notable growth. This only looks set to continue in the next few years, with the US beauty market in particular predicted to be worth $90bn by 2020. Meanwhile, the mass market category (which is targeted at middle or low income population) is expected to grow at an annual rate of 2.6% until then.

Of course, the more crowded the market becomes, the more difficult it will be to connect with customers. However, previous examples show there is potential for real success.

Take Topshop for instance, which first launched its beauty range back in 2009. Now a familiar part of its stores, its make-up range has a loyal customer base. There are perhaps a few reasons in particular why this is the case, such as dedicating a large part of its stores to showcasing make-up – not simply shoving it by the tills. This decision highlights the collection’s standalone appeal, telling customers that it is something worth seeking out rather than buying last-minute.

Similarly, its investment in a large and diverse range of products – which happens to also take much longer to produce than fashion – has contributed to the range’s reputation for high quality.

2. The chance to be a one-stop shop

Another reason fashion brands are expanding into beauty is the opportunity to become a one-stop shop, providing loyal customers with everything they need under one umbrella brand.

Primark is a pertinent example of this, with beauty being just one of its extensive number of categories. Essentially, it contributes to the idea that there is nothing you can’t buy from Primark, including fashion, homeware, food, and now make-up – so why would you go anywhere else?

Other brands are also recognising the potential to capture customer loyalty in this way. H&M recognises that beauty can be an extension of fashion, which merely allows customers to experiment with their personal style in another way. Consequently, the retailer has heavily invested in its hair and make-up range, also extending it to fragrance and bath and body. It’s even launched sustainable and limited edition products, ensuring that customers are dazzled by an irresistible amount of choice.

3. Upselling and repurchasing

Alongside the ability to offer something other than just fashion, brands are also jumping on beauty as a way to increase customer retention.

It depends on both budget and personal choice, of course, but while people might only buy new clothes at the start of every season or during sales, customers are more likely to buy beauty or cosmetics products when they run out. In turn, this also allows retailers to retarget customers based on predictions about when they will need to re-purchase – a tactic often used by traditional beauty brands such as Lancome (see below).

Another reason is that stocking beauty or make-up products can prompt customers to spend more, even if that is not their original intention. For example, online shoppers might add small-price beauty items to their basket to reach the amount needed for free-delivery. In stores, customers might also be drawn to beauty and cosmetics items for gifting purposes or simply as spontaneous purchases.

For fast-fashion brands, where value is already a selling point, the ability to sell low-price but high quality beauty is also drawing in swathes of consumers – especially of a younger generation. With cosmetics typically being one of the first categories young people spend their money on, fast-fashion brands (that already have a connection with this demographic) have a one-up on legacy or higher-priced brands such as Mac or L’Oréal. 

Meanwhile, older consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to factors like packaging or branding, which typically inflates price but does not impact the quality of the product itself. The popularity of new brands like The Ordinary (which offers highly functional, stripped down skincare products) demonstrates this.

4. Potential for influencer involvement

A number of fashion brands have successfully partnered with influencers to capitalise on an existing and highly engaged social audience. The potential for this kind of marketing only increases in the beauty market, allowing brands to tap into a large new pool of influencers, as well as the ability to reach consumers seeking out reviews, tutorials, and general inspiration.

In this sense, influencers have given brands an entirely new way to market their products. Customers are ready and waiting to lap it up, too. According to research, 92% of consumers are said to trust an influencer more than they do an advertisement or a traditional celebrity endorsement.

Of course, fashion brands do not solely rely on this kind of content to reach a beauty-hungry audience. The category itself gives brands the opportunity to create diverse and more lifestyle-driven content of their own. 

For example, H&M's spin-off brand & Other Stories sells beauty on the back of its distinct aesthetic. Its packaging mirrors the style of its social media as well as its stores, using pretty and minimal design to promote a certain type of lifestyle as well as the products themselves.

In conclusion…

So, will Boohoo succeed in beauty, or is the market already too saturated for brands like it to succeed? 

With clear opportunity to boost sales, store footfall, and social engagement, it’s an unsurprisingly enticing prospect.

As Topshop and H&M have already demonstrated, the real key to success appears to be delivering on the promise of great value, high quality products – not just jumping on the beauty bandwagon. 

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 17 October, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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