Lyn Kirby has seen the evolution of the beauty industry from her perch, which included transforming Ulta Beauty into a powerhouse and now taking the helm of the up-and-coming Beauty Brands.
She pointed to paradigm shifts affecting beauty making it “fluid, fast-moving and fantastic,” as the borders dividing beauty channels have forever blurred.
Just as the development of retailers such as Sephora and Ulta changed the beauty retail landscape, the residual of the recession, the impact of Millennials and the interest in e-commerce for beauty purchases will impact what she calls a multichannel approach.
Recapping recent beauty history, Kirby pointed to how big brands and department stores lost their influence with the emergence of Sephora and Ulta.
“Shoppers began to see the shopping experience itself was far more important than the logo on their lipsticks,” Kirby said.
The upstarts appealed to consumers with close-to-home locations, low-pressure environments with a candy store play land for beauty and “no gatekeepers,” to stop them from experiencing more than 15,000 items under one roof.
As the digital age emerged, beauty was slow to adapt “doubting the feasibility” of selling a brand online where touch and feel and try before you buy had been the only model ever known. “Ultimately, however, retailers and brands had to embrace the importance of e-commerce,” she said or risk losing to the dedicated beauty sites.
The recession proved the beauty industry was not immune to a downturn and it did leave an imprint on the beauty shopping model, Kirby said. “Seeking value as never before, the consumer moved away from the mall, trading down to discount options as well as the convenience of shopping close to home. When the recession was over, the new behaviors stayed.”
Kirby pinpointed several seismic shifts in the retail world that prove brick and mortar has a role. These include online brands like Birchbox expanding into bricks and mortar, department stores widening their footprints into outlet centers and brick and mortar mimicking the online experience with tools such as beacons to offer coupons for relevant merchandise. To survive, brick and mortar must create a cosmopolitan beauty appearance with more entertainment and technology such as reality mirrors, mobile wallets and “no card” loyalty programs in stores closer to home. “Brick and mortar must offer something so distinctive it makes customers want to shop both [online and in store] channels,” she said.
Kirby predicted the distinction between brick and mortar and online sales as far as reporting results and measuring marketing dollars will disappear. “The sooner, the better,” she said.