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Challenges in Selling Beauty in a Mobile Screen Culture

Posted: February 12, 2014

Diagonal Reports is highlighting more changes and challenges it sees in beauty retailing as mobile device screens continue to remake the beauty selling culture. While an earlier message focused on the positives of these changes, the second looks how mobile screens are making connection more challenging.

Some key challenges for skin care brands in creating the right selling culture include maintaining a brand’s unique selling proposition (USP) on screen. In this market, differentiation has been a key marketing strategy. The beauty market has been a carefully constructed world that has rested on "separateness," or brand differentiation, to justify pricing levels (profit margin, status, etc.). Screens dissolve the separateness that differentiates brands and segments. Screen technology increases the numbers of beauty buyers while simultaneously reducing brand differentiation.

Another challenging aspect is lack of screen segregation. Physical separateness has been a bedrock of brand differentiation. Until now premium beauty has been able to occupy a totally separate retail and marketing universe to the rest of the sector. At the point of sales, premium brands do not mingle with the non-premium, remaining separate even from each other. The multiplicity of beauty counters and stands, especially in the selective channel exclusively dedicated to high-end brands, further enforces this separateness. In a similar manner brands are strictly segregated at marketing level. Prestige brands are not featured in magazines that advertise lower priced brands. The glossy magazines and beauty editors have been very effective gatekeepers in controlling access. They have benefited from maintaining brand separateness. However, now, beauty counters merge on screen, and new gatekeepers and influencers hold power.

Another past integral element of any luxury buying experience has been the high level of customer service. It was exquisite customer service that differentiated premium beauty from the rest of the market with its self service sales model. Customer service in premium beauty has been intimately connected to physical presence with the sales assistant behind the counter and the actual product which could be touched. This physical presence was yet another guarantee (a layer of packaging, as it were) which protected the reassuringly expensive contents and justified the price. Now that is changing, as virtual sales platforms demand new client-seller relationships.