The Estée Lauder Companies, which recently hired consulting firm Accenture to develop strategies for its brands to help customers with disabilities use and shop for makeup, is also prioritising the online experience. “We started there because we knew that it was one area we could action quickly. There’s also an increased dependency for shopping online, and we wanted to start making an impact as soon as we could,” says Monica Rastogi, ELC’s head of inclusion, diversity and equity.
L’Oréal and Unilever are also in the final stages of making their brands’ websites more accessible. Over the next two months, Unilever’s websites in the US, UK and Brazil will be adaptively designed and include assistive digital tools for customers with disabilities. L’Oréal says it’s exploring ways to make all their different online touchpoints easier to engage with, such as introducing voice speech as an option instead of text. “Everyone is going online to get information, to shop, to watch tutorials and more, so we want to make sure that people who have a visual impairment can still access our products,” says Rastogi.
Online has been the key growth driver for the beauty industry amid Covid-19 store closures. An accessible online experience not only benefits customers with disabilities, but other demographics, such as those in the aging community who are visually impaired, both Rastogi and Johnston-Clarke agree. Changes are being made to ELC-owned brands such as Mac Cosmetics to include an improved colour contrast ratio, alt text that can help provide context, as well as live chat and AR features that make it easier to shop from home. Social media posts will also include an image description and auto-generated captioning on videos going forward.
One of the industry’s biggest challenges has been the way innovation and success is measured. “All of a sudden, success metrics have changed. Ours is very much driven holistically with a view that we should make sure that no one is forgotten about,” says Unilever’s Santos Farhat. Rexona isn’t tracking the success of its inclusive deodorant through financial metrics but with an open feedback loop that will help to refine and develop other products. “Not being inclusive is exclusive, and it’s a KPI across all projects,” says Kath Swallow, global brand vice president at Rexona.
What’s still missing
Some critics question whether big beauty companies are now giving increased attention to people with disabilities because of their increasing visibility on social platforms. Many use platforms such as YouTube and TikTok to address misconceptions and connect with like-minded individuals. Edwards has over 1.6 million followers on TikTok, a channel she launched during the pandemic, and 289,000 subscribers on YouTube.