The beauty consumer’s unrivaled access to information has led to a rise of a more conscious and educated beauty consumer. No one understands the importance of exceeding consumer experience more than Beauty Barrage. The sales management agency has been at the forefront of advanced clienteling in beauty retail since it’s conception, partnering with brands including L’Oreal, Coty, and PerriconeMD, and identifying a brand’s unique needs in the field.
Through engaging consumers as partners in education, beauty brands and retailers, led by Beauty Barrage, are being invigorated.
According to the company, education is critical. And training in-store beauty advisors is only one touchpoint for education. Today’s leading beauty brands are elevating the shopping experience with in-store events as well as partnering with medical and skin professionals to extend expertise to consumers.
Here, Sonia Summers, founder and chief executive officer of Beauty Barrage, discusses driving the beauty industry to get smarter and engaging an educated consumer.
WWD Studios: How has the average beauty customer evolved?
Sonia Summers: The customer today is informed. They have read about or watched videos on the products and ingredients they are interested in – many are part of a brand’s community and want to know more detail as to how it is going to benefit their specific skin condition concern, or how it will work for the makeup look they are trying to create.
They want to try things on and experience the products and the brand. They also read a lot of ratings and reviews aside from getting recommendations from friends or family. They expect us to be even more knowledgeable and helpful without being pushy and intrusive. They look to us as the experts and want us to present the options and the benefits so they can make a decision with all of the information available to them.
They expect us to be even more knowledgeable as them. If there is a time where we don’t know the answer to a question, they expect us to be honest and say, “I am not sure about that but I know where we can find the answer.”
WWD Studios: How do you manage smart consumers who are disrupting the beauty industry?
S.S.: A customer that is ‘in the know’ on the brand or a certain ingredient is a dream come true! This customer typically knows exactly what they want and ask the questions to make sure they are on the right path. The thrill for our brand ambassadors is when they are able to “solve” an issue, become connected with the customer, and find a partnership in the journey of selecting products.
WWD Studios: How is the Beauty Barrage team educating brands to stay ahead of the smart beauty customer?
S.S.: Our vice president of learning & education Heather Forcari leads our team by sharing questions we would ask as a customer or questions we’ve received in the past from our beauty advisors with the brand upfront so they can answer them almost before they are asked.
Our proprietary APP includes a post-shift survey that our field team fills out after every single job. This survey is where they have the opportunity to ask the questions that our education team can tackle and get back to them with the right information.
Our education team also trains our staff monthly, sometimes even three times a month, incorporating anything from brand education, skin foundational, makeup application theory, sales development, and even social media.
Being aware of what is happening in the beauty industry and how the customer is continuing to shift is critical. Setting up your field team for success is even more important.
WWD Studios: How does educating a brand’s team elevate the brand and provide benefit to the customer?
S.S.: When they decide to venture into a store, the customer has already done a lot to get there. They’ve taken the time to leave their home, get to the store, park and walk into the store. Those things alone, in today’s shop online world, are a big deal. We’ve got to be ready for the consumer and be prepared to give them a richer experience in-store than they can get from clicking and shipping it to themselves online.
By providing education to the brand’s team, they can greet this customer, provide a customized experience to them and really narrow in on what they are looking for or want to experience. And, last but certainly not least, they can actually provide the experience of trying things on, shade matching, giving application tips and guidance. We have all seen the reports and continue to read about how ‘human touch’ is sought after in-store and also how customer service can sometimes even trump the actual product. In the end, the customer responds to expert and credible advice.
WWD Studios: What experiences and tools are brands using to reach the smarter beauty customer?
S.S.: Savvy brands are doing lots of things in-store to engage these smarter beauty customers. There are the more expensive pop-up shops where a customer can experience a brand live in a unique way which focuses on an aspect of the brand’s point of difference, but there are also more economical structures like an ‘Event in a Box,’ including testers, table cloths, signage and ‘get the look’ or ‘skincare protocol’ cards.
Brands are also partnering with medical or skin professionals to share knowledge with these beauty smart customers.
WWD Studios: Why do brands need to be more engaged than ever?
S.S.: Competition is fierce. If your customer has read about your brand or seen a review, it’s up to you to bring that experience in-store in a seamless way. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of brands out there. If you are not engaging with the customers, sharing what is unique and different about your brand, it is way too easy to be overlooked.
WWD Studios: What role does education play in in-store engagement?
S.S.: Education in-store is huge! Brand Ambassadors are tasked with training retail staff, demoing a line’s new and existing products for customers to experience, and providing sales support that requires the educational base to communicate with customers in a very credible way.
WWD Studios: With the rise of clean beauty, what are the new challenges in educating the customer?
S.S.: I don’t think this is as much of a challenge as an exciting opportunity to educate on a new area that is still being defined. Again, it’s about working with the customer – what is it that they are trying to avoid in their skincare and makeup and then helping them find a brand that addresses that need. It’s about sharing the benefits that “clean” can equate to effective and easy to use just like more conventionally formulated products.