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New Ways to Buy at the Beauty Counter and Beyond

By: Abby Penning
Posted: March 24, 2014, from the April 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

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It also brings consumers something they can’t really find anywhere else. When asked what uniquely draw consumers to Beth’s Beauty Bus, Ross responds, “By far, it’s the simplicity and convenience. We have cut the overwhelming confusion of making a skin care purchase. The selection of products are a curated selection that have a track record for producing results. Being trustworthy gains customers. Clients are reassured that each product on Beth’s Beauty Bus is ‘treatment room’ proven. And by that I mean, my treatment room. There is no guessing on what products to purchase.”

And word is getting out. “We are receiving calls to work with certain brands that wish to do events with Beth’s Beauty Bus. It is the first beauty bus in the U.S., and that makes her user friendly,” Ross notes. As to working and retailing beauty brands, she comments, “I need to qualify the brand first, to see if it is an appropriate fit for clients and also my commitment to quality.”< But that’s also not the only challenge. “If you are thinking about starting up a mobile retail operation, it may look easy, but it is a major undertaking,” Ross enthuses. “You will also need to get familiar with how to use 25 bungee cords simultaneously while changing lanes on the 405 freeway during rush hour!”

Popping Up

While the ability and variety in which to use technology is changing the beauty and retailing landscapes, and the desire from consumers to make intimate, trustworthy connection remains, it is likely a combination of those that will help beauty brand be successful. An example of a technology- and digital-forward company that took a step into connecting in the physical space was seen recently in nail care-focused brand Julep’s pop-up shop in New York in December 2013.

Jane Park, founder and CEO of Julep, says, “We were really excited to do our first pop-up in New York City in December, and it was a huge success. We were really excited about bringing our Maven subscription program to life. What we do through [the Maven] program is we launch new beauty products every month, and we’re able to do that because we’re communicating directly with our consumers online. But we also wanted to be able to talk more directly and meet some of the faces behind the online personas, some the women who have been ‘mavens,’ as well as bring the experience of meeting Julep—seeing what all of our product innovations have been over the year, to bring that to life physically. We also wanted to give people the chance to sign up for our Maven program in a physical space.”

Park says she was inspired by how symbiotic the relationship between digital and physical can be for a brand-consumer connection. “I think what was really interesting to me about this whole experiment was how really interwoven the online and physical experience is today,” she says. “For example, Facebook was a huge way that we let people know that the pop-up existed, so we used social media and geo-local targeting. There are so many digital and online channels you can use to communicate with people. The primary thing we were excited about was introducing them to our Julep Maven community, which also happens online and is a direct relationship with an online subscription program where we’ll mail physical innovative products out. But it was using a physical store to introduce this online subscription.”

Julep worked to attract consumers to the pop-up shop in a variety of ways, digital and physical. “We did everything from traditional print marketing to geo-targeting online and on local devices, and then we were able to meet with people. And that, to us as a brand and as a retail company, is the essence of everything—to meet somebody face to face and see how they are reacting to our experience and to what we’re putting out in to the world. We literally were able to get current feedback on some of the innovation we are planning. Through that, we were able to get an early read on some products that we were interested in putting in front of people, so we could take part in that experience as well. And then we could just have them sign up with us for the online subscription right there.”

That interaction is invaluable, according to Park. “We also had a lot of women signing up to be part of our Idea Lab, which is how we launch new products,” Park shares. “We put out some of the ideas that are in our pipeline and get feedback. So having been in this physical space where they sign up for an online relationship where we’ll communicate with them online to develop products that are, ultimately, distributed physically.”

“I think the line between us and our customers is also incredibly blurry,” Park continues. “We invite our customers into our product development process really early. The ability to talk with people and get their genuine input is really the better way to do product development.”

That personal connection that was created through Julep’s work online through its website and social media presences was able to be more solidified via the pop-up shop. “We actually had the people who handle our Maven subscription program come out [to the pop-up]. We were doing lots of research in the conversations we were having, as there is nothing that can substitute for talking face to face with your consumers. So we’ll probably be doing this again—there were such great things we learned, and it was just such an exciting experience. We had people who had been Mavens for two years coming in with their daughters, and everyone was so genuine and excited. It was an incredibly inspiring experience for us too,” Park concludes.

However beauty brands are seeking to bring their retailing to the next level, it’s clear the game is changing. Now is the time to look for exciting new opportunities, test out ideas and innovate this area of your brand in incredible, affecting ways.