Diagonal Reports shows the number of online groups and communities of interest dedicated to discussing beauty care and products has exploded. These online consumer sites are discursive—that is, their purpose is to share information and to self help. Participants talk about their beauty and appearance problems and solutions, exchange information on products and discuss how to get value for money.
These groups differ fundamentally from the e-commerce sites or digital shops, which are totally functional, existing only to sell products, and they also are quite unlike individual blogs. Although these communities are not transactional, they contribute to shaping beauty market transactions.
The major attraction of these communities is their trustworthiness. Participants trust them because they are people “just like me” speaking from experience. These online sites are used to obtain explanations and to generally benefit from what are now in effect repositories of information.
The face-to-face and word-of-mouth have moved online. These online communities of interest are setting a new beauty agenda and are stakeholders in the beauty discourse alongside the incumbents—the product formulator, the marketer and that retailer. These groups are playing a role in helping to create new cultural formations.
The beauty industry, despite the number of sites and the volume of talk generated, knows remarkably little about what these groups are saying, the beauty opinions being formed and their influence. But insight is necessary to understand how this platform is changing the established discourse.
Online beauty talk has been underdocumented and underanalyzed because it consists of unstructured data and complex data (both text and images). The vocabulary and terminology used and the emotions involved make interpreting online beauty talk a minefield for Big Data.
Since 2009, Diagonal Reports has been tracking these digital beauty communities, investigating their beauty conversations and discussions. Its new report, An Analysis of Online Beauty Interest Communities, maps this sector and examines these groups' impact on the beauty consumer.