WGSN beauty ‘big ideas’ in 2024: Care culture, phygital, protopias, people power, accessibility and creativity
The COVID-19 pandemic had certainly morphed and accelerated beauty and personal care trends over the past two years. And as the world now edged deeper out of the pandemic and into a future shaped by an ongoing climate emergency, Ukraine-Russia conflict and financial crisis, it was now critical the beauty industry understood wider ideas set to shape future consumer sentiment.
At WGSN’s online Beauty Live event today, Clare Varga, director of beauty at WGSN, outlined six ideas set that would define industry over the next two years: care-taking; fluid states; provoking protopias; people-power shifts; democra-sized; and code-breaking.
“Big ideas, for me, is the bridge between future consumer drivers and product creation. It really brings everything to life and helps people start to curate what products need to look like,” Varga told attendees of the online event.
Importantly, she said all six ideas were underpinned by a heightened sense of interdependence, a deeper yearning for community and a mainstream rejection of ‘normal’.
1. Care-taking – better care of me and others
The first big idea set to shape beauty over the next two years, she said, was a sharper focus on care as consumers prioritised wellbeing over work. “An increased awareness of our interdependence will cause a stronger culture of care to emerge in 2024. People will seek products, services and environments that help take better care of themselves and others.”
For industry, this meant opportunities in the creation of more portable products that could be integrated into balanced daily routines orientated towards rest and wellness – two “prime purchase drivers” in beauty today, she said.
US indie brand Yubi Beauty, for example, offered daily wellness tips and fellow US brand Kate McLeod addressed the desire for practical and time-saving routines with its face stone – a solid face moisturiser that melted on contact with the skin.
Psychotherapeutics was also an area brimming with potential in this space, particularly via products that addressed stress, insomnia, and poor mood, Varga said. “The very core element of care-taking is really about self-care and maintaining your health and wellness.”
2. Fluid states – from direct-to-consumer to ‘direct-to-avatar’
The second big idea set to influence the beauty world, she said, was the fluid use of online and offline platforms and spaces. “By 2024, consumers and brands will inhabit increasingly fluid realities – moving seamlessly between digital and physical. The metaverse will evolve into a thriving meta-economy, providing opportunities for awe-inspiring work, play and discovery, and synthetic media will reinvent what consumers consider real.”
For industry, this meant truly adapting to a new mindset that treated digital and physical spaces as equal. “Direct-to-avatar will be the new direct-to-consumer,” she said.
NARS and Dior Beauty, for example, had both partnered with APAC avatar specialist Zepeto to work on presenting phygital products in a virtual setting. Singapore-headquartered Dyson had also created a metaverse experience for its beauty range of hairdryers and straighteners, enabling consumers to ‘test out’ devices online.
Innovation in this phygital space, Varga said, not only created entertainment and an opportunity for product trial but also “new points of interaction with consumers”.
3. Provoking protopias – active change, indigenous inspiration
The third big idea important for beauty in 2024, she said, would be the consumer movement towards protopias – a progressive state that worked to making today better than yesterday. “The climate emergency is pushing consumers to demand businesses and governments actively promote change. The beauty industry will be expected to take image and sustained action to address these issues.”
For brands and retailers, this meant taking on a “regenerative mindset” with nature-centric designs and new systems that undid historical damage, she said, focusing on the entire supply chain from packaging, ingredients and consumer-use. And turning to indigenous communities – now recognised as “pioneers in circular systems” – would be important within this, she said.
Canadian indigenous skin care brand Skwalwen Botanicals was a strong example of this, honouring cultural plant knowledge to develop its products. Similarly, German-headquartered hair care brand Salwa Petersen developed products based on Chadian beauty rituals passed down through generations to its founder and worked solely with green electricity, among other circular actions.
“As consumers continue to address the impact of the climate crisis, the beauty industry will follow suit,” Varga said.
4. People-Power shifts – finding ‘unity in diversity’
The fourth big beauty idea set to influence the next two years was a people-power shift, she said. “In 2024, people will find unity in diversity. They will seek products, systems and spaces that are designed to be shared by all. Inclusivity will be non-negotiable, under-represented voices will move into positions of power and co-creation will be expected.”
For industry, this meant working harder to create “aggregated marketplaces” that celebrated “heritage communities”, she said.
UK London-based popup All My Beauty was one good example, offering a multi-brand space showcasing a range of ethical brands suitable to all ages and genders, as was Olapex with the redesign of its Number O product into a spray format following consumer feedback.
“As consumers search for community, beauty brands must take the lead by supporting diverse perspectives and dismantling beauty biases,” Varga said.
5. Democra-sized – serving a ‘fuller spectrum’ of consumers
The fifth big idea that would shape the future of beauty was the rejection of ‘normal’ in favour of personalised and inclusive designs that catered to all. “Consumers will say no to normal as they reject beauty narratives that promote ideals,” she said, and these consumers would also welcome “essentials over excess” taking a ‘just enough’ approach.
For industry to succeed within this space, brands and retailers had to make personalisation “accessible and affordable for all” and prioritise the likes of multifunctional products to help “declutter” consumer lifestyles.
Unilever’s move to remove the wording ‘normal’ from its products and marketing was a strong action that aligned well with this big idea and many other brands were also promoting untouched marketing photos and developing multifunctional product offerings.
“Now is the time to start developing products and services that serve a fuller spectrum of outlooks, sizes, needs and cultures,” Varga said.
6. Code-Breaking – ‘intentional positivity’ in beauty
The sixth and final big idea set to shape the beauty industry by 2024, she said, was creations that overturned traditional beauty codes. “The design economy will be energised by an outpouring of post-pandemic creativity. Existing codes of aesthetics and behaviour will be traded in for a do-it-your-way mindset.”
For industry, this movement meant a renewed focus on “upbeat” and “fun” designs, done so in a meaningful way, likely through collaboration with fellow industry players, she said. It was about “bringing intentional positivity to everyday experiences”, she said.
YSL Beauty was a good example of a prestige brand tapping into this with its recent marketing efforts that embodied a “new generation”.
“Younger consumers will seek brands that align with their expressive, authentic and unapologetic beauty values,” Varga said.
WGSN’s latest ‘big ideas’ report led on from its 2023 report that cited progress, frugality and wellbeing just some of the important movements to watch next year.
Reversing trend-watching to the present year, take a look at our CosmeticsDesign 15 Global Beauty Trends to Watch video outlining what our editors believe is key for industry in 2022.