It seems as if almost every day we hear another one of our staple retailers is going out of business. Toys R Us, Shoon, Feather + Black—the list goes on. It’s all too easy for them to blame online and the strength of Amazon and other online-only retail specialists, such as Asos. My belief is that they need to start looking within, instead of pointing blame.
Retailers have the one special thing that online doesn’t, and that is the brick and mortar, the real-life space where they can immerse their customers, delight them in the brands, get them involved. This is the one element the onlines don’t have, and no doubt why the likes of Amazon and Google are developing real-world customer activations such as the Amazon Treasure Truck and Google Home Mini Donut Store.
Brick-and-mortar stores need to not only keep up, but seize the chance to excel. PR and marketing work hard to raise brand awareness and drive sales, but to maximize potential and stay ahead of the curve brands need to invest more in engaging the end customer. The beauty industry is on a growth trajectory and it’s down to brands and retailers combined to make it happen.
A store owner recently described Toys R Us to me as “Amazon’s shop window,” explaining the notion that customers go there to see the toys, compare prices on their smart phones, and then order them for home delivery at a reduced price from Amazon. But hold on, what if Toys R Us offered more than a big warehouse filled with shelves of products? They are a toy business, and yet no one is playing in their store. If they had a racetrack to test bikes on, hosted arts a crafts classes for kids, even installed a soft play area and started courses for parents to take their kids to, suddenly it would become a destination that people really wanted to visit and their tendency to spend would increase. You can’t offer this type of brand immersion online.
So what for beauty? Beauty stores have the obvious benefits of being able to do makeovers and demonstrations and have customers test products. For diversification, stores tend to bring in new brands and create stories on POS but, it’s just not enough. They need to look at what more they can do to excite and delight new customers in order to drive footfall and a tribal following for their brand. There are a few leading the charge with this, making moves in new and creative ways.
Sephora has installed slides in place of escalators in some of their European stores to make the experience of being in-store more engaging and something people want to share on their social media feeds.
e.l.f. cosmetics has become one of the USA’s fastest-growing beauty companies, and it’s no surprise. They are and have always been a digital-first company, going so far as to actually consult with their beauty-obsessed customers and hosting totally immersive Beautyscape events for them in North America and Europe. In their standalone stores, people are encouraged to do their makeup, and e.l.f. even provides optimal lighting to help customers capture great photos of themselves to share.
So it’s really time for beauty brands to do things differently—to not just compete with online, but to do better. Don’t blame others—think deeper about yourselves. What makes your brand different and how can you deliver it? Personalization, product blending, label printing, fragrance making, impeccable service—everything that makes customers want to come back for more. And retailers need to allow brands to demonstrate their own personalities.
Let’s build a stronger retail beauty space, a place where men and women want to come to enjoy, learn, and indulge in beauty. And keep coming back.
The views expressed in opinion pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BeautyMatter.
Photography: Soragrit Wongsa via Unsplash