Created by Sonia Summers in 2014, Beauty Barrage delivers outsourced beauty sales associates specializing in a variety of brands in the industry — from indie to clinical to established or emerging. Summers said every Beauty Barrage brand customer is experiencing an increase in sales this year. Summers shared her Beauty Barrage story with WWD, and explained how — through its brand ambassadors functioning as “the eyes and ears of a store” — the company can support brands on the ground.
WWD: What inspired you to create Beauty Barrage?
Sonia Summers: I created Beauty Barrage out of necessity as a direct result of the success of our sister company, Beauty Strategy Group. BSG is the brand-incubator division of our business whereby we help brands with marketing, branding, digital, social strategies and distribution. BSG has been so successful at placing brands at retail that many of our partners asked us for help in setting up a sales team to support the brand in-store.
Upon researching it, I discovered there was not a single company out there that offered a strategic, cost-effective and turn-key solution for creating and managing a field sales team. With consumers now having the choice to buy products anywhere, even from their couches, retail sales will only become more challenging for brands. It is imperative — now more than ever — to execute on a strategic plan in-store, in order to effectively showcase a brand. After seeing this perfect storm develop, I decided to launch Beauty Barrage.
WWD: What are some main ways in which Beauty Barrage helps its clients?
S.S.: It is an incomparable resource for larger brands that need to cut their operating expenses, especially when it comes to headcount, overhead and T&E. In most cases, Beauty Barrage has outperformed the brand’s internal sales teams. We are also a perfect partner for emerging brands that cannot afford to hire their own sales force.
WWD: How much can a brand save by choosing to outsource its in-store sales force via Beauty Barrage?
S.S.: With margins being squeezed at retail, it is very important to minimize operating expenses. Our team has saved companies up to 55 percent by allowing brands to outsource their sales team — whether in part, or entirely — and without sacrificing sales revenue. We also adapt to whatever the corporate structure is. Our understanding and flexibility to fit into an existing infrastructure allows the brand to be much more strategic and methodical in its business objectives.
WWD: What solutions does Beauty Barrage provide for brands and retailers?
S.S.: We work hand-in-hand with the brands in order to provide a strategic plan for their go-forward sales, education and events calendar. We don’t just hire anyone to provide coverage in store. They are rigorously trained on the brand, the category in general, and how to navigate at each specific retailer.
We follow a consultative sell where we focus on problems and a solution. It is never a pushy or persuasive sale. We even encourage and incentivize our team to provide the most meaningful and interactive trainings in-store with retail staff — this is where we see a “halo effect” in our sales.
We also track sales and effectiveness via status reports after every shift and sales reporting each week for all our brand partners, and periodically meet with the retailers to make sure we are all on the same page.
WWD: You just recently launched a new mobile app. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
S.S.: We have a proprietary software program and accompanying mobile app. Over the last 15 months, we have developed software that includes a brand portal and mobile app to help service our brands.
Our app has allowed us to be even more strategic. The functionality includes real-time schedules that brands (and brand ambassadors) can view and download at any time and GPS/geo-fence tracking (our field team must be in the store to clock in and out. If they leave the store for any reason during their shift we are notified.)
Customizable brand surveys are also a part of the mix — all brand ambassadors must complete one post-visit. It is imperative to collect the right data from inventory, to sales performance, to education and all of this is incorporated into the mobile app.
Finally, the app allows brand ambassadors to capture and upload images of the merchandising, event set-ups, etc. Our clients also have the ability to see their scheduled monthly visits, detailed shift information and can export all survey responses and images for review — all in real-time.
WWD: How are social media and video capabilities integrated into your approach?
S.S.: Our management team works with the brands to understand their social media strategies. We share hashtags with our brand ambassadors, and many of them become micro-influencers for the brands we represent. We post and create content, educating consumers on the brand and where to buy it. We even post in-store, inviting consumers to come check out the brand and get a demo.
We are averaging two development updates a month with our app. Our next launch will include the ability for the brand ambassadors to introduce themselves to the brand partner and give a one-minute sales demo video on the brand. Through the portal, the brand can see all the corresponding job detail information, including a photo of the brand ambassador — and soon, the video link to the sales demo.
WWD: Does Beauty Barrage work closely with its sister company, BSG?
S.S.: It is very common for a brand to contact us specifically for services related to one company or the other. However, once they realize that we can offer a turn-key solution utilizing both companies, it’s a win-win for everyone. Once we help the brand increase sales revenue in-store, then brand expansion is the next logical step, and that is where BSG comes in. Who better to work on a distribution strategy than the company who understands the brand, knows how to position it for success and already has the sales data to back it up?
For More WWD Business News, See: