Like most people, we were not able to predict what was going to happen this year. From a business standpoint, it's hard to pinpoint exactly how everything was triggered. Basically, we had to adjust our budget in response to what was happening and in order to fall in alignment with the rest of the industry, which was roughly 80 percent down for the second quarter of 2020. So, we made those adjustments, and then we just had to sit and wait.
Digital has definitely — or is definitely — having a moment. Especially in the beauty industry, there is a digital revolution happening, and that is very clear. We were fortunate in that we have grown a lot as a brand, in the last year specifically, but overall, there's much more online activity since the pandemic began.
Especially in the beauty industry, there is a digital revolution happening.
Our website was starting to grow before the pandemic, but we really saw a huge uptick during the pandemic; our overall web traffic is roughly five times what we thought it would be, though I don't know if that's going to last. We did also see a growth with Sephora's online sales, but they did have their VIB sale so the statistics may be slightly skewed. Either way, clearly, people were and are still shopping for beauty during the pandemic in a very strong way.
Because of this digital growth, we were able to reappropriate our field team — roughly eight to 10 people — into customer service and social-media support. That means answering tickets, direct messages, returns, exchanges, etc., and it was great because we did not have to furlough or lay anybody off. Essentially, we were able to look at the problem and shuffle around what was needed so as to not have to let anyone go.
I believe that even though these are very challenging times, we will see lots of new creativity unveiled with innovative business ideas in the coming years.
As a business owner today, I am grateful that we are able to continue our business online. Many other businesses do not have that same opportunity, and I am reminded weekly as we all watch the unemployment numbers grow. I also remember that my business idea was born during the last recession, and I believe that even though these are very challenging times, we will see lots of new creativity unveiled with innovative business ideas in the coming years.
Though the past three months have proven that we are also a digital brand, at Ilia, we have primarily been known for a physical presence in brick-and-mortar stores. In general, I think the effects of COVID-19 on the beauty industry will be felt more in-store. Sephora, for example, is putting so much effort into ensuring that the stores are safe, and I believe that testers are not meant to be used right now. So, they're trying to find other creative and safer ways to be able to share the shades, show the shades, and get people color-matched without touching and without having people touch any of the testers that are in- store.
I think it's challenging. We're all just going to have to learn as we go here in order to fully see what works, and I think there will be new ways of showing products that are not yet on the market. I believe a lot of people are working hard to figure out exactly how to do that.
Maybe stores will move more toward the direction of a showroom situation, but that's just me thinking high in the sky — nobody's talked to me about doing that. But that could be, in my eyes, a possibility down the road, where you can check out really easily with somebody right in front of you, as opposed to having to wait in line. I think there will be a lot of things that will have to be re-thought regarding how you engage with somebody when they're physically in- store, and also how you work toward a sale. It's a whole new train of thought.
We did launch two new products during the pandemic — the DayLite Highlighting Powder and NightLite Bronzing Powder — both of which launched a little late due to labs and certain things being delayed. In general, we have pushed back a couple of new product launch dates, but not too far from when they were originally slated, and that's more in relation to the fact that labs and manufacturers have been closed.
There is such a huge chain of people involved in order to get a single product to the market. So many things shut down around the world, and they weren't all shut down at the same time, so we had to figure out how to work around that. For example, it depends where the lab is based; we have some labs in Italy, which were closed for a period of time. You know, if one little piece is missing because somebody is shut down, then it holds up the entire project. So, that has been the main reason for delayed launches. Those are things that are completely out of our control, so we just have to figure how to hope for the best but also plan for the worst.
We just have to figure how to hope for the best but also plan for the worst.
Overall, though, our main mission is to protect and revive your skin, and I think those two words really resonated with people during the pandemic. Our core values are transparency and authenticity, and these two things are what I think people are really looking for today — both through the pandemic and through what I see as a [civil rights] movement that will continue. I think that resonates. People want to see your insides, and that's one of the reasons I started this brand — in order to really show what we do and be open about that. I think those beliefs fall in line with what people want, so there is an alignment happening there now.
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