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Non-traditional Strategies on the Road to Retail

Contact Author Lisa Adams, The Beauty Matchmakers
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Influencer partnerships, social media engagement, and strategies beyond traditional brick and mortar retail can lead to success in today's beauty landscape.

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If you’ve been in beauty industry long enough, you remember a time when the beauty section at your local drugstore was one aisle, and when the only place to purchase luxury brands was in a department store. Not so in 2017.

Today, the beauty retail landscape is more robust than ever, with the lines between prestige and masstige blurring, and bumper crops of new beauty products appearing almost daily. And while all this growth is fantastic for consumers, it makes getting the right attention for your brand a bit more challenging.

So, what is it that buyers are most looking for in social media engagement? Just that—engagement.

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In the face of so much competition, how is a beauty company or brand to secure retail representation and capture the attention that matters—the buyers? As always, a great brand story and stellar packaging still counts.

But wise brands will also consider potentially non-traditional strategies on their road to retail, all designed to work in today’s shifting retail landscape. 

It’s a Communication Driven World

Regardless of how buttoned up your branding is, how sexy your story, or how great your packaging—if you haven’t linked your traditional PR and social media PR programs, you are already behind the eight-ball.

These days, planning for your days/weeks/months’ worth of Facebook updates, Instagram pictures, Twitter #hashtags, and Pinterest pinspriations is par for the course—even for small Indie brands.

With the majority of beauty consumers researching, reading product reviews, and gathering product intelligence on-line, integrating a traditional PR approach—desk sides, magazine advertisements, and editorial—with a targeted social media campaign is required if you ever hope to reach the right influencers—consumers and buyers alike.

These days, the runway of opportunity is bursting with alternative distribution options that can result in every bit as much success as a freestanding store.

Because make no mistake—buyers do their homework. They are perusing websites and watching social media efforts of not just well-known brands, but any brand that approaches them and hopes to get representation on their selling floor. 

So, what is it that buyers are most looking for in social media engagement? Just that—engagement. They want to see that people like your products and are talking about you (or your updates); they want to see your communication threads and what is happening between fans and your content.

Buyers know that for any brand to achieve real success in the beauty industry, they have to listen to their consumers. With the advent of online communication, now retailers have an inside edge to see just how engaging you are with your consumers…and importantly, if you are listening to what they have to say, good, bad, or otherwise. 

Blog Your Brand to Retail

Today’s beauty consumer is influencing the rules of retail distribution in ways never before seen. Now, when a buyer is considering moving a new product onto its shelves, that buyer is going to be looking for reasons to believe your brand engages with consumers in a way that will directly translate into sales. In addition to social media, another great way to garner this kind of proof is through blogging. 

Bloggers and other online influencers (such as vloggers—video bloggers) are in many ways the super consumer of today. Not only are they considered beauty authorities, bloggers are also themselves beauty consumers who passionately love the industry, and for the most part, can’t get enough of talking about, using, trying, sampling, and basically loving every beauty product that comes their way. This makes them doubly useful to your brand. 

In-store pop-up shops or collaborations are also a great way to start gaining market awareness with consumers.

Not only will the blogger (hopefully) act as loyal advocates for your product(s), when they write for you, they effectively become the mouthpiece of your brand. And because they are in constant contact with consumers (who are sharing their product/brand experiences regularly on social media), what they say about your brand and how they influence their followers about your brand matters every bit as much as what you say on your website.

To make your blog content really count, be sure your blogger speaks authentically and in your brand’s voice. That way when consumers flex between a blog and your website, messaging is consistent—another plus for buyers. 

Think Beyond Brick and Mortar

In the past, most new brands focused almost exclusively on garnering purchase orders with brick and mortar retailers, but these days, the runway of opportunity is bursting with alternative distribution options that can result in every bit as much success as a freestanding store—even one of the leading players. 

For example: beauty boxes. Beauty subscription boxes such as Birchbox, TestTube, FabFitFun, Ipsy and others are not only hugely popular with consumers, they are a fantastic way to get your products in the hands of thousands of potential brand loyalists who will then start taking to your social media pages to engage with your campaigns, like your updates, comment on your photos, share your information and so on.

When your brand is ready to take the next step and seek out retail representation, embracing a few tried-and-true strategies together with some out of the box thinking is a smart way to get noticed in today’s uber-competitive marketplace.

In-store pop-up shops or collaborations are also a great way to start gaining market awareness with consumers in a way that shares the risk, and also provides new or indie brands with access to a large consumer base they might not otherwise have and—to make an impression on retail buyers.

Another great option for brands to consider when building their retail footprint with buyers are event flash sales on sites such as HauteLook, RueLaLa and Gilt. These sites, which host edited sales events for limited timeframes also have the benefit of exposing your brand to a very large consumer base, as well as piggybacking off the market positioning of the partner with whom you host the sale.

HauteLook, for instance, is a Nordstrom company, and known for the same high-quality products and customer service but with more appealing pricing structures. By engaging any of these out-of-the-box distribution scenarios, you not only help build brand awareness, you also begin to gather strategic sales metrics that if successful, can be a useful tool during buyer meetings. 

Keep Your Eye on Emerging Retail Models

For any brand looking to enter into retail, there have been a few interesting developments recently that may inform how buyers are approaching the distribution of new brands, including:

  • Saks Fifth Avenue created an in-store apothecary experience in select doors to house a curated selection of boutique and niche beauty products.
  • Macy’s acquired Bluemercury in order to bring the store within a store experience into Macy’s, and hopefully double-up on consumer engagement.
  • Ulta has announced a Manhattan store, as well as plans to open 1,400 to 1,700 new stores in the US within the next few years.
  • Nordstrom revamped its beauty floor to focus on mini must-have experiences such as a beauty concierge and beauty stylists. Also, a play bar will launching in a New York location.
  • Cos Bar will open a flagship Southern California location, and has indicated plans to remodel existing stores, and open 36 new stores over the next five years.
  • Free People will introduce beauty into select locations with a wellness area. 

When your brand is ready to take the next step and seek out retail representation, embracing a few tried-and-true strategies together with some out of the box thinking is a smart way to get noticed in today’s uber-competitive marketplace.

By leveraging the brand tools you already do have—story, photography, packaging—together with a few well thought-out risks (subscription box participation, beauty blogger promotions) you position your brand to stand out and shine to not only buyers, but consumers, as well.

 

Mother, entrepreneur and experienced beauty retail leader, Lisa Adams is the creative director and CEO of The Beauty Matchmakers—a forward thinking retail strategy agency that secures esteemed beauty retail meetings and distribution. Alongside developing and selling her own beauty e-commerce site, Lisa has partnered with many of today’s leading beauty brands including Nestlé, J. Paul Skincare, Kathy Ireland, Claus Porto, Blinc Beauty, Dr. Paul Nassif, L’Oreal, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, Christopher Drummond Beauty, Visage Beaute, Decleor USA, Carita Paris, LaRocca Skincare, TAO Clean and various others.

In addition to providing retail distribution strategy, Lisa also counsels brands on sales distribution, forecasting P&L, account management, creating motivational coaching methods, developing training programs, creating in-market sales tools, managing field sales teams, and corporate training. The experience she has acquired, combined with her insider knowledge, targeted instincts, passion, and pristine industry reputation create a successful brand love connection for all her clients.

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