Ever thought to equate an iPod and a beauty gift-with-purchase? Retailer Howard Kreitzman has.

This story first appeared in the May 15, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Kreitzman, who is vice president of cosmetics and fragrances for Bloomingdale’s, believes the ubiquitous gadget has set customers’ expectations for a personalized experience higher than ever before — something the beauty world can creatively address through personalized gwp’s, well-trained beauty advisers and fun in-store events.

“In modern times, there is no product that defines personalization as much as the iPod does,” said Kreitzman, noting the proof is in the sales figures. “The Apple store seems to be the one retailer who is immune to everything that’s going on. Apple released its quarterly sales [April 22], and they are up 15 percent. If down 10 is the new flat, plus 15 must be the new up 50.”

What draws the consumers? “I believe it’s the personalization choices that seem infinite,” said Kreitzman. “You can spend anywhere between $18 and $400 on headphones. There are cases in every possible shape. You can personalize the music library, what it looks like, how you carry it and how you can listen to it.”

And how is that applicable to beauty? “For the last few years, we’ve seen little growth from gwp’s,” said Kreitzman. “They are now working very well. They are most successful if the consumer feels that she is getting both a great value and a choice. Packing [gwp’s] with value and figuring out how to personalize them is key. It’s a challenge that I throw out to our partners: Give us more value that is easily identified by the consumer in a way that will encourage trial and future purchase.”

Calling out value in beauty sets has historically been less loud than apparel categories’ trumpeting of their values, Kreitzman added. “We have to both improve the value of our offers and make much more noise about them,” he said. “The good news is I’m seeing the market begin to respond to this. Some brands are creating smaller sizes of key fragrance items and pricing them at very affordable price points. Had I not lived through Christmas 2008, I’d probably still be a snob, saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to sell those price points.’ You know what? We want to sell those price points.”

And give customers a reason for that impulse buy, Kreitzman said, praising MAC Cosmetics’ Hello Kitty project. “We had great success with this seasonal color story and all its ancillaries,” he said. “The win on this was really simple: It was fun, traffic stopping and made anyone who saw it smile.”

And the efforts didn’t stop with the products, said Kreitzman. “They did an outstanding job of creating events and excitement at the store level. Although the magnitudes of the events varied by store size, the level of discovery and excitement by the consumer was consistent. The message is that we need a more consistent flow of fun and clever products backed by events, excitement and animation — we really need to entertain our customers.”

And give them something innovative: “The mascara business is as tough as any part of the color business — except in those limited brands that are offering something new,” he said, pointing to vibrating mascaras from Estée Lauder and Lancôme as examples. “These products have done particularly well, and they’ve done it at premium price points. Consumers are willing to pay more for that new action, that interesting thing.”

Kreitzman also praised Guerlain’s Rouge G, a lipstick in a weighty silver compact that includes a pop-up mirror. “The lip business has been as tough as the rest of the color business, but a woman takes [Rouge G] out of her handbag and that’s a 20-minute conversation right there. It’s been a hit.”

Consumers also are responding to innovations in skin care, he said. Products that trumpet a high-tech component — such as Lancôme’s Génifique, Lauder’s Time Zone and Clinique’s Instant Relief Mineral Powder — have been hits, said Kreitzman. “The promise of a newly found solution to a long-term problem always offers hope,” he said. “Even in a tough economy, innovation sells.”