Consumers taking beauty education into their own hands has benefited the industry at large, leading to greater transparency, and sustainability as well as a more engaged consumer who wants to understand what they are putting on and in their bodies.
But forging an authentic connection between a beauty brand and a consumer desire to be informed is challenging. This is where Beauty Barrage can help.
Created in 2015 by beauty industry veteran Sonia Summers, Beauty Barrage, the full sales in-store management company that provides educated field team beauty advisors, has become the most trusted customer engagement solution for many brands and retailers as they navigate ongoing changes in consumer behaviors while facing increasingly discerning shoppers.
With over 300 trained beauty professionals servicing over 3,000 doors in the U.S. and Canada, Beauty Barrage helps brands minimize investment while maximizing sales by harnessing the power of bringing brand knowledge to the consumer – whether they are in-store or on social media. The full-time beauty advisors connect with consumers on a personal level, answering the questions that matter to them most and leading them to make the right purchase for them.
Here, Sonia Summers, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Beauty Barrage, discusses the demand of today’s retail landscape, fostering stronger consumer connections, building an in-store strategy, and why it is imperative to implement a robust field team.
Fairchild Studio: How would you describe the beauty industry landscape today?
Sonia Summers: Continuously evolving. I don’t recall a time when there were so many diverse customer behaviors among multiple generations. It is very interesting, and probably why there really is room for all these amazing brands at retail. The one common denominator between generations is the “human touch”.
This year has been consistently profitable for our brand partners. We have applied our tried-and-true principles in-store and are thrilled to see a strong ROI. Although the state of the economy and retail is in a mixed state, I think retail is poised to end the year in a very strong position.
Consumers may be anxious about inflation, but they have not stopped their spending. Brands are taking care to build value promotions to appeal to those deal-driven consumers, some are actually lowering prices and retailers are also ensuring to make their stores inviting to their customers.
Fairchild Studio: What have been the most notable changes in consumer behaviors?
Sonia Summers: The most notable changes have been that consumers became more educated on beauty – this makes sense as they had more time on their hands to consume information.
One of the surprising changes was the fact that people were not afraid to come into stores. They were seeking out human connections and looking forward to discovering new beauty products.
Fairchild Studio: What do these changes mean for brands and the way they connect with consumers in-store?
Sonia Summers: It makes no sense to spend so much on digital to tell your story then not have the same attention in-store. It is hard enough to get into retail but what is even harder is staying in retail.
Customers want to be engaged, especially after going through a pandemic.
To be effective, you need a team to bring your brand to life in-store that is providing education for associates, mining the merchandising, demoing products and answering questions for consumers.
Fairchild Studio: How does Beauty Barrage utilize consumer behavior and market intel to implement a strategy for brands to implement in-store?
Sonia Summers: We are very methodical. I started my career as a marketer so for me everything is about the end-user and understanding them.
For Beauty Barrage, we have two end-users: the retail associates and the consumers. Since we do collect data in-store after each shift, we do go back and analyze what practices are working/not working and pivot accordingly. We also use market data and reporting to optimize our footprint and productivity. Our brand partners love this information and the dialogue afterward that leads to refining strategies, etc.
Beauty Barrage has built the proprietary technology to manage our business processes and we collect data in a few ways to mitigate the challenges that come with constant change. To start, our app controls all time and attendance complete with geo-fencing around each retail work site while our proprietary application has a client portal that houses a dynamic calendar for each brand partner. This includes the monthly schedule of booking, store location, brand ambassador/educator, brand and start time and end.
One of our greatest assets though is our customized post-shift survey that must be filled out by all beauty educators and ambassadors. These surveys are all customized for each brand partner and they include in-store images. Many of our brand partners use this opportunity to ask marketing questions or as a product fact-finding mission, inventory reports, etc. Our surveys are live as soon as our employees clock out. We even aggregate the data on a dashboard that shows a week over week or month over month, etc. using pie charts, bar graphs and free responses.
Fairchild Studio: In your own words, what makes Beauty Barrage a unique partner?
Sonia Summers: Beauty Barrage was never something I thought I would start. In the beginning, it came from a need from my clients that I was consulting for. I knew they needed the in-store support but the expense of a field team that at the time was well over $1M. Today it’s even more, not to mention the cost of overhead. That never made any sense to me.
The field team strategy wasn’t just expensive, but it was layered and over-inflated. The heads of sales spent their days tracking employees and signing off timecards. They couldn’t even be strategic. It was beyond archaic.
I created a strategic resource that offers trained retail and education professionals that represent your brand in-store. These people are all employees – no freelancers, ever! The benefit of staffing full-time employees is that the brand partner cannot be held liable.
California has the AB5 law and they are very stringent. This is one of the reasons why we hire W2 employees versus freelancers. Another reason is that we are accountable for our team, we schedule, we train, we coach, and we deliver results. With freelancers, you must do all the work plus pray that they will actually show up for the shift.
Another reason to work with Beauty Barrage is that you only pay for the hours that we are in store or educating. No need to pay full time employees plus benefits, etc.
Importantly, we also have strategic account management that optimizes and plans the execution of all activations. We work very closely with our brand partners to yield success. And retailers also hire us or often refer us to their vendors.
We are obsessed with success – That’s a core value and what drives our business.
Fairchild Studio: What should brands be considering as they wrap up the year and strategize for Q1?
Sonia Summers: Brands need to start planning how they will support their businesses in-store. If you can create a budget for consistent support that is amazing and your best bet but, if you only have a limited budget, then what I would recommend is to do would be in-store blitz surrounding your new product launches. This will help build sales. You can’t expect success at retail brick and mortar if you don’t have a plan to connect with consumers and retail associates in-store.