THE INTERACTIVE ANGLE
Byline: Faye Brookman
NEW YORK — Mass market beauty departments may finally get the additional service they need to compete against department stores — but it isn’t in human form. The extra help is an interactive video kiosk called The Beauty Shoppe.
Created by Muffin-Head Productions Inc. of New York, The Beauty Shoppe is currently being tested in 48 drugstores operated by Genovese, Longs, Thrift — including its Kerr stores — Eckerd, Duane Reade and Ulta3. An early April 1997 rollout is planned to more drugstore and discount chains.
The first installations hit selling floors last week.
Lack of information is a key issue in the mass market. As products get more sophisticated, retailers are straining to keep up with the information flow in a market where low service levels have long been a point of contention. Without the luxury of hiring costly, full-time cosmeticians in all stores, retailers are turning to other selling tools.
Chain executives hope the new Beauty Shoppe will augment existing service for those stores offering it, while providing an educational resource for those without cosmeticians.
Situated near or in the cosmetics department, the kiosk features interactive, touch-screen activated videos on subjects ranging from beauty tips to nail care.
The technology used is CD-i, which allows viewing full motion video and the opportunity to easily repeat a section or jump to a new portion of the program. Most in-store videos don’t afford that luxury.
The categories currently featured include makeup, skin care, fragrance, hair care and nails. Manufacturer advertisements are shown in the space adjacent to the nonpartisan makeup advice. The sponsors for the test are Revlon, Beiersdorf’s Nivea, Sally Hansen from Del Laboratories, Clairol, Helene Curtis, Dana Perfumes and Cosmar.
Since the kiosks went into operation in the first week of November, Muffin-Head president and managing director Haim Ariav said, they are already drawing repeat browsers.
“The response has been beyond what we expected based on the number of hits [the times a consumer activates the computer] in the first week,” said Ariav. The Beauty Shoppe is able to track the number of times customers use it and what topics they inquire about, as well demographic information such as age.
“What’s surprised us is the [length of time] people are staying on — as much as four or five minutes,” he said.
“The graphics and videos are top quality and attract shoppers,” said Bob VonderHaar, vice president of merchandising for Ulta3. “We have customers who prefer watching videos to talking to someone for information.”
Although The Beauty Shoppe has the same kind of appeal as a magazine ad that appears next to a beauty editorial, Ariav said it is more powerful because it is delivered at the point-of-purchase. According to the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute, as many as 75 percent of all beauty decisions are made in the store.
“But we also think people may view it and not buy cosmetics that day. But the information they got will influence them when they do need to buy cosmetics,” he added.
Sean Kenlon, vice president of corporate development for Muffin-Head, said the tool should also encourage multiple purchases. “POS figures won’t be the only measure of success,” he said.
Although Ariav would not give exact figures, he said the cost of a spot, which runs for three months, is equivalent to a page of advertising in a major beauty magazine. Pages in national magazines cost as much as $65,000.
Suppliers either provide their own message, or Muffin-Head can produce a spot. There is no charge to beauty retailers for housing The Beauty Shoppe.
The company is also working to use the in-store kiosk as a place to hold manufacturer events such as a Revlon Day, during which all messages would promote Revlon, via a specially created Revlon disc.
Training, added Matthew Benjamin, director of marketing, can also be done on The Beauty Shoppe.
“Instead of taking beauty advisers out of the store for training, they can do it right [there],” he said.
In-store computers have been employed at the mass level in the past with mixed results. Videotapes that play continuously are often shut off, according to retailers. Cover Girl’s now-discontinued Clarion computers malfunctioned and did not have a great deal of repeat use.
The Beauty Shoppe has features to eliminate those problems, according to Kenlon. “The Beauty Shoppe is easy to use and it doesn’t get repetitious.”
Ariav is no stranger to beauty promotion. He has worked on several projects for Lancaster Group Worldwide, including a promotion for Mood Makeup. As previously reported, the line achieved a one-month sales quota in three days.
Ariav also had a background in fashion and beauty as a fashion photographer prior to starting Muffin-Head three years ago.
The company sees opportunities for numerous suppliers to tap into The Beauty Shoppe. Categories can be further divided. Revlon, for example, could have its spot near lipstick advice while Maybelline would sponsor eye tips.
“Many manufacturers might want to do their own kiosk, but they find it easier to come to us because we have the expertise,” said Ariav. “And retailers like the fact the information is non-biased.”
The mass market has been undergoing a sales explosion of nail colors fed by pastels in the summer and metallics for fall. Hoping to keep the momentum going, Orly International, based in Chatsworth, Calif., unveiled its spring colors this week.
According to Orly president Myriam Clifford, the interest in color shows no signs of abating. Blue will once again be strong in 1997, she predicted. “That’s because of the demand for blue jeans,” she said.
Orly’s Blues Attitude will be its take on blue shades for 1997. Orly also showed Flying Colors, a collection of six sun-washed shades such as faded orange or buttery pink.
Orly, which brought the French manicure to the U.S. market, is also changing the rules with French Revolution, a collection of colors for consumers to create a new French manicure look.
Instead of pink and white tips, for example, Orly showed a gold base with a silver tip.
Although Orly has been best known for its treatment products, the company has jumped more heavily into color over the last two years.
“We used to have only one or two collections a year,” said Sherri Greene, brand manager for Orly. “We’re getting greater distribution based on our color firsts, such as being the first in the mass market with pastels and metals.”