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7 Takeaways from Beauty Connect West’s Disruption in Retail Panel

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Landing founder and CEO Sarah Chung joined Romain Gaillard, founder and CEO of The Detox Market, and Oliver Garfield, CEO of CosBar, at Beauty Connect West’s Disruption in Retail Panel. A unique glimpse into a retailer’s perspective on the future of the beauty industry, the panel offered key insights on how brands and retailers can support growth. 

You Can’t Replace The In-Person Experience: While much of beauty shopping has gone online, the panelists agreed that there is no sign that brick-and-mortar retail will take a backseat. Physical retail allows customers to smell, touch, and feel a product prior to purchase. Garfield also stressed that in store, you can see and experience everything at once, while also feeling like you’re experiencing something more curated than what you get online. 

Sales Associates Decide What Sells: All of the panelists agreed that when it comes to in-store sales, associates decide what is going to sell and what isn’t. People who work in beauty retail are obsessed with products. If the staff is excited about a brand, they will share it with their customers. This is something, they stressed, that simply cannot be replicated online–the human connection. Associates provide a level of customer service that you won’t experience anywhere else.

Discounting Culture Is Corrosive to Brand/Retailer Relationships: When asked what he wished his brand partners did differently, Gaillard admitted that he wished brands were more forceful with their retail partners when it comes to discounting. Historically not a high discount business, beauty has become more and more prone to markdowns. He said brands are less willing to take returns and more likely to allow their retail partners to discount their products, leading to losses for their other retail partners. 

Events Are Becoming More Inclusive: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers and brands have been forced to shift their store events strategy. Gaillard sees these changes remaining: it will continue to be less about packing people in a room and more about smaller gatherings with online activations that people can interact with from afar. Thanks to the online component, events are becoming more inclusive and can have an even broader reach, even though the number of  in-store attendees may be smaller. 

Online & Retail Should Be Complementary Not Cannibalistic: The panelists agreed that online and in-person channels can learn from each other, but may never completely replace one another. The in-store experience makes it more likely that customers will not return products because they have had the opportunity to sample–online sampling programs can only partially replicate this experience. Gaillard noted that retailers have been trying for years to bring the expertise of the sales associates online, but that goal remains elusive. Garfield suggested that it may be healthy for the two channels to maintain totally different value propositions so that each maintains its strengths. 

Live-Stream Shopping May Not Be the Future:  Growing wildly in China, live-streaming shopping events have so far not taken hold in the U.S. market. Gaillard noted that there seems to be a fundamental gap in American buying culture and that live-streaming may not be as successful in beauty as it is often tied to very deep discounts that beauty retailers like The Detox Market and CosBar simply cannot support.

Sales Associates Should Be Empowered: Beauty retailers have notoriously high employee turnover rates and some have reported that it’s harder than ever to find qualified staff. Garfield said that large beauty retailers need to fundamentally shift the way they think about retail positions so that they are more rewarding career opportunities. Chung agreed, noting that with the proliferation of new brands, it’s important that brands and retailers realize that they need to help associates feel invested. Simply sharing sales sheets and expecting staff to memorize and regurgitate them is not enough. Landing’s Training Tool was designed to help brand founders speak directly to sales associates to create a more personal connection.  

Interested in learning more about how our Training Tool can help you turn retail sales associates into brand advocates? Get in touch with our team for a demo of our tool. 

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