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David Olsen on Cos Bar’s Brick-and-Mortar Approach

Olsen, ceo of Cos Bar, spoke about the importance of having a detailed retail environment, leveraging the customer digitally and using data in the workplace.

About five years ago, when he was the global vice president of the Net-a-porter Group, David Olsen declared brick and mortar dead. He has since reconsidered.

Speaking at a forum, Olsen, chief executive officer of Cos Bar, shared some insights into the firm’s brick-and-mortar strategy, which includes remodeling some locations to improve the in-store experience, taking an omnichannel approach and using data in the workplace.

“To me, one of the most telling stats is that only 10 to 20 percent of all beauty purchases are made online today,” Olsen said. “It’s a shockingly low number and of those 10 to 20, 80 percent of those are replenishment purchases. That says a lot about the power of beauty in the physical store.”

Olsen pointed to Cos Bar’s 12-year-old Carmel location as one example of the positive effects the company has seen by remodeling some of its stores. The Carmel location was previously 800 square feet — Cos Bar’s smallest store — and underwent renovations in December that included adding a couple hundred square feet, which translated to more brand offerings. The result, Olsen said, was a 40 percent growth in comparative sales.

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He also shared the company’s focus on omnichannel — his motto at work is ABTO, aka always be thinking about omni. “It’s really about getting people from the physical world to think digital and digital people to think physical,” he said. “The omnichannel is by far our most valuable customer. Their purchase frequency is three times our regular customer.”

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Cos Bar uses data to inform merchandising decisions like window displays, employee evaluation and labor allocation. “We’ve woven the entire thing into the culture of our business and it’s been a huge success,” Olsen said, adding that half of the bonus for the people in-store is based on RetailNext metrics.

He also mentioned Stella Connect, which Cos Bar uses to reward in-store specialists. The process is simple: After the customer makes a purchase, she gets an e-mail that allows her to rank the in-store specialist, much like Uber.

“Then it gives you the opportunity to have corporate buy [the specialist] coffee, a lunch or a spa day, and when they gather up a certain amount, we give it to them,” Olsen explained. “This gives the specialist the recognition they deserve. People need recognition and praise. It also creates a strong bond with the customer. It reminds them about their visit with the specialist. It creates a little bit more of a personal connection and it gives us in corporate good insights into day-to-day interactions that we’re having.”