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Beauty Rules…what retailers can learn from the beauty industry

By Bronnie Edwards

Last week I attended Millennial 2020 a conference that welcomed the best “world-leading consumer brands and retailers to shape and realise the future of commerce”. Of these brands in the fashion and beauty section, more than 80% were from the beauty sector and it is clear that amidst a challenging retail climate, beauty sales are still on the rise. In the UK, prestige beauty in particular saw a 6% increase in the past 6 months. Successful players in this sphere are highly adaptive and are successfully appealing to a millennial audience. What can we learn from these businesses?

Customer first

Thanks to bloggers/vloggers and virtual assistants, millennial beauty customers are now incredibly savvy. Brand loyalty is out and replaced by product knowledge. These customers want to know everything about their product and full transparency on ingredients and manufacturing process is key. Deciem’s founder Brandon Truaxe spoke about the success of their ‘unbranded’ skincare range ‘The Ordinary’ which targets this new generation of savvy consumers and puts them in total control of their decisions and purchases. The Ordinary carries its brand ethos of total transparency through product labels, store design, and across digital channels that has led to a cult following of the well-priced products.

Personalisation

Just as customers know everything about their products, successful retailers now make it their mission to know everything about their customers. Whether this is through the priceless 20 minutes of facetime in a salon – which WAH Nails (Soho, London) founder Sharmadein Reid says is integral to its brand’s following; or Birchbox’s capture of thousands of online consumers data and preferences allowing for psychographic segmentation and targeted marketing. Data is king for beauty retailers and they are using this to their advantage.

Online/offline

As well as collecting data, successful retailers are also taking note of the behaviour of their customers. Savannah Sachs from Birchbox described how in their new physical stores they display by product/result and not by brand because this mirrors the online shopping experience; something millennials are totally at home with. This also means that they purposefully differentiate themselves from department store beauty halls and acknowledge the fact their customers are not brand led.

Technology needs to improve the retail experience

In-store tech should either solve problems or add to the experience. WAH nails spoke about their use of VR and Whatsapp because it appeals to the target consumer who is at home with social media, Instagram and gaming. Slick payment options, colour match services and comparison technology all improve the overall experience but a sense of fun with tech adds an added layer of priceless brand attachment that cannot be recreated purely online.

Fashion brands entering the beauty sphere

Now traditional fashion and retail brands are trying to get a piece of the beauty pie. H&M recently opened its first beauty only store in Covent Garden, Estee Edit have launched a standalone store and traditional fashion houses are amplifying their beauty offering and developing new concepts. Chanel, Charlotte Tilbury and Victoria Beckham have all increased their beauty offering to extend their customer base by appealing to millennial consumers who could not usually afford to ‘wear Chanel’. As the industry continues to grow, expect to see more collaboration, innovation and market entrants. The beauty market is open to all.


Bronnie Edwards works in the Central London Retail team which provides retail strategy and advice to large landlord estates across Central London including Carnaby Estate, Rathbone Square, Regent Street St James and St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden.

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