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Breaking Barriers: Retail’s Natural (R)evolution

By: Sara Mason
Posted: February 27, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

Aveda’s spa retail environment strives to create added value at multiple stages of the customer journey.

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“Some experts believe that consumer demand for natural and organic beauty products may be the single most important issue to impact the beauty industry in its history,” added Diane Hintz, publisher, Organic Beauty magazine. “This demand will translate into a continuing growth opportunity for retailers and online stores.”

She points to the recent additions of natural and organic personal-care departments within major department stores such as Nordstrom and Macy’s, and superstores such as Target and Wal-Mart, as evidence.

It makes sense, now that natural and organic shoppers can be found everywhere you go. Burt’s Bees’ strategy as an organization is to make personal care products available everywhere, particularly where people shop regularly. The brand secured distribution with Macy’s, and is expanding its distribution in Wal-Mart stores—in addition to its current sales at CVS, Walgreens, Target, and local and national grocery chains. The strategy in expanding its consumer base being: If they can’t try it, they can’t buy it. “We discovered that finding natural personal care was a big barrier to trial,” said Alexander. “As much as we hope to educate the consumer through advertising or grassroots mobile tours, the point of purchase is the moment of truth, when a decision is made.”

To that end, Aveda will be quadrupling its consumer sampling efforts this year. The brand has a very high trial-to-purchase ratio; 22% of people who try an Aveda sample will buy the actual product—a very high percentage for the beauty industry, where the average is approximately 3–5%, according to Rey. Aveda will also continue to ensure that the in-store experience is unique, mission-aligned and highly experiential. “Retail offers the possibility for engaging a new consumer to experience the brand,” added Rey. “The in-store experience needs to educate the consumer and give a strong visibility to the brand.”

Aveda also strives to create added value at multiple stages of the customer journey throughout the spa retail environment—making a memorable in-store experience. “Aveda is experiencing much of the same challenges as most consumers and businesses; however, we are a service-focused business and part of a strong corporation that has strategically cut spending so as not to have any impact on the consumer,” said Rey. Tough decisions were made early on in the current economic crisis to maintain that customer experience.

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