Expert's Opinion

Beauty’s Big Problem

By Kate Benson, Martens & Heads! | November 22, 2010

Beauty is broken—from prestige to mass—and everything must change to rebuild the customer relationship, says Kate Benson.

Today’s savvy beauty consumer is not loyal to one store or one brand, so the retail experience is critical. Since you can get pretty much anything online there has to be a viable reason to go to the store in the first place. Fortunately, the retail experience provides two things that the internet cannot —human interaction / feedback and the chance to touch, feel and play with the products.
Fast moving specialty stores like Sephora and Ulta capitalize on these experiential opportunities while traditional (and thereby slower) department stores are falling behind.The tide is changing for some, however. Macy’s, for instance, is rolling out a capsule concept called “Impulse,” which is modeled after self-service stores like Sephora. They are targeting trendy, youth-focused brands to partner with, and it is becoming quite successful.
Commerce is only one part of most brands digital strategy. In today’s fast-paced world instant gratification is something we all desire. Consumers are addicted to their mobile devices, which provide a completely new way for brands to stay connected with their customers. Even traditional retailers are finally realizing that it’s their relationship to the customer that is critical.

Facebook, Twitter and independent blog sites are giving consumers a way to be part of a brand story and dialogue. Brand exposure here is not always about revenue or sales, but about giving customers a place where they can freely chat about what they love and how they feel about the brand.
Such a holistic experience needs to be better replicated in the brick and mortar channel, and the way to do that is through service. It is essential for prestige retail avenues to find ways to offer a service versus a sale.

Everyone laughs about the danger of being “spritzed” as you walk through a beauty floor in a department store – but it’s still happening! The retailers who figure out how to communicate with their customers on a personal level will be the new leaders. All others will be followers.
Within mass channel, merchandising rules are being broken. Some companies are trying to cross merchandise products according to consumers needs, instead of product categories. P&G has recently restructured while keeping this in mind, and now has a HE division and a SHE division. Addressing customer’s total needs—providing total solutions, as well as great products—is the future of beauty. The brands and retailers who understand how to evolve with the customer will be successful in the long run.

About the Author
Kate Benson is founding managing partner of Martens & Heads!, New York, NY. Kate focuses on senior-level placements in retail, fashion and beauty management, sales, marketing, and human resources for global iconic brands and entrepreneurial startups.More info: