Digital beauty and the at-home economy — what this means for Zambia

Sara Drawwater
8 July 2020
Delving into abrupt changes in the beauty industry and what beauty businesses in Zambia can do to successfully ride the waves of change.

Digital beauty and the at-home economy — what this means for Zambia

Across the world, everything, including skin care, hair care, self care and cosmetics is going hyper digital. Trends are pointing towards conscious capitalism, microbiome skin care, as well as sophisticated, personalised, transparent, natural, clean and digital beauty. This means that the chemical rich, one size fits all beauty industry may (thankfully) never be the same again.

This article delves into the global events leading up to abrupt changes in the beauty industry as well as what beauty businesses and brands in Zambia can do to successfully ride the waves of change.

Four evolving global beauty trends

The rise and rise of YouTube, Instagram, brand ambassadors, influencers and the smaller, digitally native, often greener, cleaner and kinder beauty brands were already disrupting the beauty industry.

Then COVID-19 happened, bringing with it lockdown, social distancing and mask wearing, together with a correlating 55% online shopping surge across the globe within the week March 9th - March 16th.

The above data is based on global consumers in the US, Canada, the Middle East and Europe (

The global pandemic has positive and negative implications. There is more awareness of how much healthier mother earth is when the world is in lockdown with no jumbo jets and rush hours. At the same time there are fears of a calamitous global economic crisis alongside disrupted supply chains that leave a landlocked import-dependent country like Zambia rather vulnerable.

So what does all this mean for the Zambian beauty business? As always lack of localised data means it can be difficult to relate largely Western trends even to the continent of Africa, let alone one country in Africa.

So here are my opinions based on my research. Note that I am currently living in the UK so my experience is not localised. I am reliant on my interpretation of feedback from my colleagues, friends and family to give me insight on what life is like on the ground. That being said, these are trends, ideas and concepts from which you can extrapolate what is relevant to your business.

1. Stay home, stay safe habits and the emerging at-home economy

I think people will come out of lockdown cautiously, some choosing to continue minimising human contact to those friends and family that really matter. My theory is backed up by Zambia’s latest Government recommendations.

“As COVID-19 evolves, evidence shows that we have COVID-19 being transmitted throughout the country of Zambia. So, it is unnecessary to put up checkpoints. What we are advocating for is personal hygiene, social distancing, masking up, etc. to stop person-to-person transmission of COVID-19,” Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Abel Kabalo.

Thanks to some tweets by Ku-Atenga Media I have some up to date facts. In the last 11 days there have been 324 recorded cases of COVID-19 alongside 18 deaths. 14 of those deaths were brought in dead. The Government is calling for all citizens to act responsibly to self and society to mitigate the surge.

The general global trend is a new at-home economy. “The coronavirus pandemic is fueling the growth of the stay-at-home economy. How consumers learn, work, shop and play is poised to change forever.” (World Economic Forum).

With people more likely to choose to stay at home, selling online and communicating through tools like social media, Whatsapp and email become even more key.

More specifically, beauty brands need to learn to educate, inform and excite their customers digitally. Inspiring high quality photography, detailed ingredient lists, complete product descriptions and information on how to use beauty products at home without the help of a professional — these all become essential for the survival of your business. Video content and FAQs will be the way that beauty brands can stands out.

Responsible beauty businesses will follow health and safety guidance such as 1–2 meters between clientele, which means less people in a shop or salon, which means less availability of appointments, which in turn means an increased need for online shopping and home beauty programs.

“COVID-19 has emerged as the ultimate retail disruptor, with the potential to accelerate e-commerce adoption, expand click and collect formats and catalyze frictionless retail and direct-to-consumer operations worldwide.” (GCI Magazine)

2. The impact of a masked population

Masks by Fay Designs

As the Zambian Government calls for people to mask up, a British study by Cambridge and Greenwich Universities shows that widespread mask-wearing could prevent COVID-19 second waves. (Reuters) Another German study has shown that face masks slow the spread of Coronavirus by 40%. (The Times)

“The need to wear masks outdoors boosted the sellouts of eye make-up categories. Compared to pre-isolation, sell outs of eyebrow products grew by 42%, while eyeshadows and mascaras rose 27%. This meant lip products saw a decline as sell outs dropped 6%.” (

Shoppers want smudge proof foundation that withstands PPE and wow eye makeup to counter our masked lips!

Skincare to combat ‘maskne’ is needed — a new term showing up on Google Trends used to describe breakouts around the lips and on the chin and cheek area as a result of mask wearing.

Based on these trends, is it time for your beauty business to adapt and stock up on different products than you had originally planned?

3. The rise of the ‘skinimalist’ approach to beauty

During lockdown, the world saw the return of nature to many cities, such as the cleaner waters of Venice and the long forgotten views of the Himalayan mountains in Northern India (due to cleaner air). There has been a reduction in nitrogen dioxide, carbon emissions and general pollution. The world is more aware of how ‘normal’ human activity negatively impacts the environment.

At the same time, the impact of the pandemic on the global economy is just beginning to unravel with overly regular announcements of mass global redundancies and thoughts on how long Western Governments can prop up businesses with staff furlough schemes, bounce back loans and deferred tax programs. We certainly don’t need reminding that there are no such programs in Zambia.

I believe these two factors, the wider awareness of human impact on the environment and the imminent economic downturn will fuel the rise of the ‘skinimalist’ beauty movement —

— the simplification of arduous and complex beauty routines, towards a more minimalist, natural and affordable approach that also reduces consumption and environmental impact. (Harpers Bazzar) We have already seen the rise of the natural hair movement in Zambia and I wonder if the skincare and cosmetics routines may follow?

In August 2019, Mintel research showed that 28% of UK women had reduced the number of products in their skincare routine, with millennials aged 20 to 29 being most likely to have simplified their routines. These year-old trends are likely to be fuelled by more recent events.

Essential Skincare products, made in Zambia

In the wake of these events, the Zambian shopper may follow the trends of shopping even smarter by moving towards simpler beauty routines and multi-use beauty products.

At the same time, the movement towards supporting local and using cleaner more natural products, away from the chemically loaded traditional beauty ranges may well lead us to smaller, cleaner and local brands like Essential Skincare — a high quality organic skincare range that does not harm us or the environment, and delivers maximum benefits to our skin through the careful blend of pure, natural and beautiful African plant extracts.

4. The rise of the digitally native direct-to-consumer beauty brand

There is no getting away from the acceleration of online, digitally native, click and collect, frictionless retail and direct-to-consumer (D2C). These trends are not far behind us in Zambia, as 98% of respondents from our recent survey told us they want to do more online shopping right here in Zambia. Let’s focus on two of these concepts, digitally native and D2C.

Digitally native brands are born online, offering “innovative products without relying on the traditional in-store experience.” (Tribe Dynamics) This is of course, very relevant right now in the post lockdown, home-centric culture that we’re living in.

Juvia’s Place CEO, Chichi Eburu

Note that many beauty brands that launch with a D2C model go on to offer brick-and-mortar availability, develop retail partnerships with leading stores and are also made available in some third-party online stores. However, all D2C brands tend to continue to drive high sales volume through their own websites.

“Digitally native brands are reshaping nearly every sector by leveraging a direct-to-consumer (D2C) model, fostering a direct relationship with consumers from the launch — sometimes even building sizable online followings before going to market.”(Luxe Digital)

Some digitally native direct-to-consumer brands are Colour Pop, Juvia’s Place and Drunk Elephant. The success of these brands and the D2C model illustrates both the importance and the potential of the digital route to market.

Evolve with us — embrace e-commerce

Our aim is to satisfy the needs of the local Zambian market. In our recent survey, over 1,000 Zambians told us the following:

  • 98% of respondents want to do more online shopping
  • 79% want more products available to buy online
  • 65% want more shops selling online
  • 52% want the ability to buy more supermarket goods and essential items online e.g. groceries, fruit and veg, personal care, etc

Will your beauty business heed the call of the people and work with us to improve the range of beauty products available to buy online?

“Retail restrictions in place during the pandemic have fast-tracked the shift to digital distribution…

…The distribution of beauty and fashion products is being heavily impacted by COVID-19 given physical retail dependence, over-reliance on wholesale and underdev­eloped e-commerce capabilities…

…COVID-19 has emerged as the ultimate retail disruptor, with the potential to accelerate e-commerce adoption, expand click and collect formats and catalyze frictionless retail and direct-to-consumer operations worldwide.” (GCI Magazine)

The world is changing. As our Government moves away from track and trace towards minimising person-to-person transmission, it’s becoming clear that we can’t stop in our tracks like lockdown demanded, nor can we ignore this potentially deadly virus. Until we know more about it, the advice is ‘proceed with caution’.

So, although Zambia is behind the international Ecommerce curve, businesses have the opportunity to see what is coming and invest in an online presence that is worthy of the modern digital consumer — one that enables customers to buy online with ease.

How to set up an online shop for your customers

When it comes to setting up an online shop in Zambia, these are your options,

  1. Invest in your own bespoke website — if all goes well this will give you exactly what you need for your business but it will require significant budget and high levels of skill
  2. Use Ecommerce tools like WooCommerce and Shopify — this will give you an off the shelf online shop that will be significantly cheaper but you are likely to face challenges related to localising currencies, payments and delivery options.
  3. Use social media and Whatsapp — we have seen the rise of this model since COVID-19 became a thing. But the need to switch between viewing products on social media, ordering through Whatsapp and paying through another platform is not a user friendly flow for your customers, not is it an efficient way for you to sell and keep track of your orders. Frankly, it’s a headache!
  4. Use a marketplace like which has been specifically developed to tackle the unique needs of the Zambian market. When you choose to sell through you will be making your products available online in a way that is simple and affordable for you. At the same time you will be supporting the continued development of a marketplace for Zambians by Zambians. We are constantly developing and all clients get new features rolled out to them at no extra cost. Developments in the pipeline include:
  • A user login so you can have more control over your inventory and can change things like prices, descriptions and pictures
  • International payments so we can sell Zambian made products internationally
  • White labelled websites so you can have your own independent online shop on your own domain name powered by the technology on

Our pricing

  • K4,176 including VAT for 12 months — covers set up, content maintenance and promotion (e.g. no additional costs for new pictures, price updates, etc)
  • 9% commission per sale — covers transaction fees and a small margin for us

What you will get

  • Accept online payments — Your store will be able to process MTN Mobile Money, Mastercard and VISA card payments. Airtel money, Zampay and International card payments coming soon.
  • Gain integrated distribution — Customers choose to collect in-store or have items delivered through one of our delivery partners
  • Sell 24/7 — Empower your customers to view your stock, compare products and buy online from their phone or laptop
  • Seller success school — Your success is our success — learn how to transition into an Ecommerce business and keep serving your customers without missing a beat
  • Manage your online shop — Keep in control of your inventory by easily managing stock, prices and product information. Coming soon.
  • Future proof your online shop — Get automatic tech upgrades at no additional cost, so you won’t end up with an obsolete website and online shop

Our Frequently Asked Questions about selling online through dive into more detail — see here.

The winning retailers of the future

Who will be the winning retailers of the future? Terry Hunter, Managing Director of Astound Commerce, says “My belief is that the winning retailers will be those who have pivoted swiftly and cost-effectively to re-align with Covid-19 induced behavioural shifts. Assuming some of these behavioural shifts become an ongoing part of consumer DNA post-Covid-19, it’s important to seize on them right now, to be well positioned for ‘the new normal’ to come…The biggest lesson learnt has to be this: in a crisis, digital is retail’s lifeline.”

As a result of the data from our recent survey, we are actively looking for beauty products to stock on — skin care, hair care, cosmetics, perfumes and essential everyday items like soaps, toothpaste and lotions. We can work with established brands through to small home based businesses.

Call +260 978 394856 to start selling your products online today.

We’ll guide you through the next steps. Work with us to change our retail environment for the better, giving businesses multiple routes to market and customers a safer more efficient way to shop.