At 24.3 million strong, African-American women are a highly influential consumer segment.  They are growing entrepreneurs, impacting business and marketing in U.S. mainstream.  With higher levels of entrepreneurship and educational attainment, these consumers are driving the ad industry to be more inclusive and diverse.  That change includes empowering African-American culture and identity.  So where do cosmetic brands fall in the spectrum of this movement?

Historically, cosmetics have rarely been tailored to match the shade and tone of women of color, until now.  African-American women are embracing brands that offer beauty products made to complement their appearance, not alter it.  Therefore, these three consumer trends on African-American women below are vital for cosmetic brands to acknowledge before building their next marketing strategy:

Spend More at Cosmetic Shops

African-American women spend an annual $7.5 billion on cosmetic products and will continue to be a growth opportunity for brands in the U.S. and around the world.  Seventeen percent of them shop online for their personal care products, while also over-indexing non-Hispanic White women in trying these items at the store before purchasing.  African-American women buy more beauty products than non-Hispanic White women as well, notably in ethnic health and beauty aids, personal soap and bath needs, and women’s fragrances.

Prefer Value-Centric Brands

At the intersection of race, gender and culture, African-American women are extremely savvy at recognizing negative, inappropriate or unsupportive marketing toward their identity, community or the causes they care about.  As a result, they have increased their purchases from natural hair brands, and decreased spending on relaxers and weaves.  Moreover, with a growing number of cosmetics that cater to their skin shade and tone, African-American women see no use in supporting brands that are excluding them, consciously or unconsciously, or just simply not taking a significant enough interest.  MAC Cosmetics, for example, offers 18 different foundations, one of which is available in 48 shades.  Brands that may knowingly or unknowingly whitewash an African-American women’s physique or appearance within their creatives are guaranteed to undergo irreparable backlash.

Social Media Power Players

So how exactly are African-American women impacting mainstream consumer preferences and brand affinities?  For one, they are powerful social media influencers.  These consumers can draw positive or negative attention to your brand and product.  Dove aired a commercial in which an African-American woman was altered into a White woman after using the brand’s product, suffering immediate and irreparable backlash.  As a result, this subsegment can drastically increase or decrease attitudes, purchase and recommendation intentions for your brand.  Presently, African-Americans comprise more users on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram than non-Hispanic White consumers.

These trends are a good reminder for brands on the importance of multicultural marketing.  Obtaining deep insights can drive innovation and business strategy, ensuring authentic consumer connection and future growth.

Sources: Nielsen, Women’s Wear Daily, Atlanta Black Star, Fast Company, Pew Research

African American Buying Power and Trends