Viviane Paxinos is the E-commerce, Marketing & Media Leader and European GM for UNiDAYS, the world’s leading Student Affinity Network. With previous roles as Advertising and Partnerships VP at Discovery Inc, and Branded Entertainment and Content Director at the BBC, Viviane has a track record in delivering global media and growth strategies for brands.
Joelle Hillman: It’s been a year like no other for every sector this year and beauty is no exception. At Awin we have seen beauty sales up 18% year on year as the pandemic boosts the desire to take time for self-care and of course shop online for the necessary products! How has 2020 been for UNiDAYS in terms of health and beauty performance versus other sectors?
Viviane Paxinos: In terms of category winners, tech, beauty & lifestyle were clear winners this year. Beauty at UNiDAYS has seen consistent year on year growth throughout 2020, with April 2020 - the first full month of lockdown for the UK - seeing by far the highest YoY uplift of +94% (vs +44% total uplift throughout the year). June and July also saw above average uplifts of +64% & +64%, this aligns with the UK moving out of lockdown and into more relaxed restrictions.
JH: The pandemic has driven new trends, at speed, and at scale! At Awin we interestingly saw luxury beauty outperform every day beauty in the height of the summer, perhaps a repeat of the lipstick effect we saw in the last recession. Has the pandemic driven any unexpected trends for UNiDAYS in the health and beauty sector?
VP: Our partner did a great job to react to the pandemic, Look Fantastic at the beginning of lockdown started stocking products such as Garnier box dyes, DIY manicure kits and 'Boots' staples. These products did really well in early lockdown, alongside skincare which has continued to outperform make up this year in general.
JH: You are a brand with an online and offline presence. How have you had to adapt to support your student consumers throughout 2020?
VP: From a beauty perspective, we started test sampling - targeting students who have engaged with us with the opportunity to receive a beauty sample at home. It’s still early days, but given the restrictions at beauty counters, this is a great way to connect with students.
JH: Continuing on the theme of positive trends as a result of COVID-19, we have seen direct to consumer activity soar. Have you seen a rise in D2C brands collaborating with UNiDAYS as a result of this accelerated growth trend?
VP: Yes, in fact we also brought in a complementary partner for collaboration - for example for My Protein partnered with another of our partners, Les Mills, over this period to offer a free 30-day online trial - together they lead to a strong increase.
JH: What’s been the most useful asset to UNiDAYS performance in the beauty sector during the last year?
VP: Our students and our partners; we work with beauty brands that resonate with our members, that are invested in a student program and add value to our members. We also invested in content, providing students with beauty tips! As a result, we are top of mind for students when looking to make their beauty choices.
JH: How have you and the team adapted to full remote working, and of course working remotely with your Awin team, unfortunately without office visits?
VP: We are all reaching zoom fatigue! The team is very focused on output, as opposed to time in front of the screen. We give our teams flexibility, and remind them of the importance of taking a break and look after their own health. Aside from that, we have regular check-ins to ensure they are supported. The Awin team have been great in terms of checking in and organising webinars and discussions to stay connected.
JH: Has the new way of working, and indeed new trends across health and beauty as a growth sector in 2020, opened UNiDAYS’ doors to any new opportunities or partnerships to explore?
VP: Yes, as mentioned above we are looking at exploring sampling and more content opportunities for the beauty sector - beauty is a high touch sector, and it’s important to connect with your customers. During Freshers Week, a key period for students, we created digital welcome packs for our new members, these went down so well and that’s something we will continue to explore for next year.
JH: Do you have any personal beauty tips to share, either for the webcam or for when we are back out of tiered restrictions?
VP: I always put my makeup on for the camera! if I’m in a hurry, I use a tinted moisturizer to give me a glow, a creamy blusher and that usually helps.
JH: Q4 is already here. It’s a huge month for beauty, both self-care and gifting, not to mention Black Friday, Cyber Monday and most recently Singles Day. What event are you most excited about? Are you adapting Christmas plans knowing that parties are less likely this year, and therefore perhaps less of a need for sparkle?
VP: Yes, we have focused more on things to do at home, how to invest in cosy wardrobes, best beauty buys for gifting and self-care has been a massive category for us.
JH: What’s your favourite beauty item this season? A few… I’ve been using masks a few days a week - especially the Rodial eye masks. And because it’s winter and we are indoors more - I've been using face oils more often. I love the trilogy rosehip oil - it is an instant lift me up!