The retail market has drastically changed over the past decade. Online shopping has permanently altered consumers’ purchasing behaviors. With reduced shipping times and rock-bottom pricing, buying online with the mere click of a button has more appeal than ever. Add to that the practice of maintaining online wish lists, the flood of emails offering discount codes and social-media posts promoting flash sales at every turn—brick-and-mortar retailers are more challenged than ever before.
Even though online retailers tempt customers on every platform with perfectly styled imagery, influencer collaborations, free shipping and free returns intended to translate the shopping experience into a transaction—these transactions, though instant, do not please all of our senses. Beauty consumers still crave a unique and personalized experience, especially in an age of depersonalized computer shopping.
As the creative director and brand manager of Bodyography, it is my main focus to create products that fulfill the needs of consumers, follow trends and, most importantly, come up with the support necessary to encourage distributors to sell product and engage the consumers in stores. Using a combination of tactics, you can drive sales back into brick-and-mortar locations. Let’s talk about how!
EDUCATION COMES FIRST
Invest in educating your sales force—and carry brands that provide educational support. Having a staff of educated professionals inspires customers to try new brands and techniques, resulting in sales and growth. The best brand partners will offer education and encourage ongoing educational support with the launch of new products and the passing of trends, be it a class or seminar for professional consumers or training for the trainers. The retail distributors who offer the most dynamic educational calendars are always the most successful. It is best to team up with brand partners and create a calendar with quarterly classes that appeals to the professionals in that field as well as to consumers. For the best results, offer the class at a base rate that is redeemable for product to boost attendance.
This time spent educating not only results in knowledge of each brand’s features and benefits but also builds a relationship between the brand and the people working hard to sell for that brand. This creates an important bond between manufacturer and distributor. In salons and beauty supply stores, the brands that sell the most are the ones that the sales staff or stylists use, love and represent. Customers will naturally have many questions, so it is imperative that your staff is properly trained in each item’s individual selling points.
One way to generate interest in your staff and customers is by doing “demo days” each quarter. For Bodyography, this involves sending a team member to spend a few hours in different store locations to do mini makeovers. These demo days focus on seasonal trends and launches. They are planned out months in advance to create a buzz and give customers something to look forward to. They allow clients to try before they buy—something they cannot do online—and give the sales staff a firsthand glimpse into how to sell the brand, straight from the source. Distributors and store managers can chose from a variety of demo day descriptions that we change yearly. You’ll see success using this tactic because consumers will love the special one-on-one time with a brand specialist who can guide their purchasing decisions, catered to their needs.
Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to announce sales, launches and educational events—and it’s a direct line of contact to your customer. As a salon or supplier, it can be what makes or breaks you! Creating powerful content is necessary; but what you really need to do is draw in a physical audience. Buzz days or one-day-only flash sales are a great way to do this. Choose a random day each week to offer deals across all brands, which will promote sales and will force you to shift merchandise around to make room for new, exciting products. The internet it littered with so many sales that customers rarely buy anything at full price anymore. Using flash sales helps to promote up-and-coming brands and cross-promote across different categories.
Along this same vein, creating a loyalty program is another way to encourage purchases and create repeat customers; for every dollar spent, customers can receive points and redeem them for merchandise when they accrue enough.
Your store’s layout is important, and staying current is necessary to compete with big-box retailers like Ulta and Sephora. Carrying a lot of merchandise doesn’t mean that there needs to be clutter. Keep the space organized and fresh so consumers are not overwhelmed and are able to browse freely. Makeup will only sell if it looks beautiful on display, and will only be tested and applied if products are clean. Keep testers full and offer a selection of disposables so that customers can play around. This is why they are in the store to begin with—to touch, smell and feel items before they buy them.
Signage and marketing materials play a big role in any brand’s success within a store carrying competing lines. Most manufacturers have marketing material available, from signage and window or wall decals to promo materials. Customers should have a sense of what brands you carry even before entering the store.
Shifting merchandise and staying on top of trends is the key to keeping your store in line with competitors, so make sure to carry a mixture of niche brands as well as popular staples, which will bring in a diverse demographic. Bring in new launches often to create buzz and excitement in the store. Placing new items on a countertop and cycling them every two to three weeks is a great way to promote impulse purchases. Just like a grocery store, stock your staples in the back of the store so that consumers will walk through and notice other items as they make their way to the necessities.
SHOW THEM WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Distributor shows are a great way to introduce brands to customers. They provide everything that has been covered above, offering education and deals all in the same day! Give additional discounts, offer gifts with purchase, send in a member of your team and, if possible, offer a class to showcase seasonal trends and announce new product launches. I have seen our brand grow immensely from being on display at shows, as attendees are able to visualize what the brand would look like in their salon or store. It also gives storeowners the chance to speak with brand representatives and try a product before they buy it for their customers. This is an investment, but an essential part of successful growth for any brand within the professional beauty industry. Participating in distributor shows allows me the opportunity to speak directly with storeowners and hear their opinions, which is where I get many ideas for new products, improvements and displays.
In a world filled with online purchasing, there is still a huge need and desire for brick-and-mortar shopping. Your in-store customers are a vital source for finding out what is hot and trending, so use them to guide you in the right direction as far as selecting new brands and products to carry. You want customers to feel confident in their purchasing decisions, and stay loyal to those brands in the long run. There are many pieces to the puzzle of success in beauty sales. As long as you integrate solid training and education, have a well-presented storefront with a thoughtful layout, offer a broad mix of products and have communication flowing from the manufacturers to guide the customers in your store, success should be fairly simple!
“The retail distributors who offer the most dynamic educational calendars are always the most successful.”