Building loyalty in today’s digital market
NEW YORK — The Emerson Group last month hosted its 10th Annual Retail Industry Day in a packed room, with hundreds of merchants eager to discover how to better position their products for tomorrow’s ever-evolving consumer.
They weren’t disappointed.
“It’s a really dynamic time in our industry right now,” said Emerson Group EVP marketing Matt Poli, who reflected on the decade the Emerson Group has been delivering provocative content as part of this event. “We have to understand how the consumer is changing. The way we like to define it is ‘connection capital.’ The return on ‘connection capital’ is truly understanding how to build loyalty in today’s digital environment at a profit.”
Leading the all-star lineup of the event was Marcus Lemonis, the retail “fixer” who hosts “The Profit” on CNBC. “I don’t believe that our success in business is based on some empirical data that we learned in business school,” he said. “I really believe that the connection between people [and] how to manage with inspiration — without intimidation — is really the key.”
That focus on people is how successful entrepreneurs break through the clutter. It’s almost like catching lightning in a bottle. Which is exactly what the next speaker, Colleen DeCourcy, chief creative officer at Wieden+Kennedy and consistent lightning bottler, addressed.
Capturing lightning in a bottle begins with demonstrating relevance, DeCourcy said, and ends in delivering on what the consumers want. “People want to feel like they’re winning again,” she said. “We are finding that when you go out into the world and actually make experiences for people … that great creativity, that lightning in a bottle, it scales itself.”
Speaking of scale, Emerson’s next speaker, Musab Balbale innovates for the largest retailer in the role of VP and general manager at Walmart e-commerce, specifically helping to forge Walmart’s digital strategy. To win in digital, retailers need to refocus their perspective, he said. “Money was the currency of the ’80s and ’90s when Walmart really took off,” he said. “Time, more than anything, is the currency we’re all working on today. Walmart feels that our emerging ‘place’ is to make time more efficient, especially for busy families.”
Digital is not only changing the game for retailers, it’s retooling the relationship between brand and consumer. “It’s fundamentally changing the way people are interacting with brands,” Evan Neufield, VP intelligence at L2, who followed Balbale, told attendees. “What consumers want is what Amazon gives them,” he said. “Every person who goes to an Amazon page sees a different page based on what they’ve bought in the past, [or] based on their search behavior,” he said. “When we looked at more than 100 brands across several retail categories, we saw that only 13% of brands are actually personalizing their homepage.”
Delivering the final keynote address, Michael Dart, a private equity partner at global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney and co-author of “The New Rules of Retail,” served up a playbook marketers can use to appeal to Generation Z as they come of age. Gen Z shoppers are environmentally concerned, view technology as tools — not games — are fiscally conservative and are continually connected. “The 21st century is going to be defined by convenience, and Amazon right now is clearly ahead in that game,” he said. “For retailers, there will be two paths. On one they’re going to become great centers of entertainment. On the other is active involvement. The concept I see thriving is more of a farmer’s market concept — small-scale stores where people like to hang out.”
Male consumers exhibit passion for facial hair grooming, maintenance
New York Giants’ guard Justin Pugh is a big guy — six foot, four inches and 300 pounds — with a big beard. He even has a playbook for his facial hair care.
“Depending on what event I’m going to, I can adjust [the setting of my device]. If I’m getting ready for a game and it’s getting colder out, I want to get it a little bristly,” said the NFL player and Conair spokesman of his go-to product from the revamped Conair Man collection called the iStubble Flexhead Trimmer.
Pugh’s comments reflect how he treats shaving as a ritual, and it underscores why brands are putting so much emphasis on carving out a bigger share of the $4 billion spent on the mass market shave category — including electric shavers. “Guys are finicky and don’t want to keep switching,” he said.
The game plan is different for women. “My girlfriend, on the other hand, will go out and try different products,” he said. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between marketing to men and women in the shave category. For men, it has become a ritual, for most women it is a chore that keeps them on the hunt for what’s next. Some industry experts believe the two worlds should merge to become gender neutral. But for now men’s and women’s categories have their own domains.
Men continue to show passion for their facial hair. According to Kevin Morton, marketing manager at Conair Man, 70% of men have some form of facial hair to maintain. He added longer beards are trending up.
Lisa Price, brand manager of the men’s division at Universal Beauty Products, agreed. “Beards continue to be a hot trend because men are finally taking care of them. An out-of-control beard isn’t attractive on anyone, but a well-moisturized, tamed and styled beard makes the grade,” she said.
The artistry of maintaining beards and other facial hair has nudged up sales of such products as traditional safety razors, shave oils and even electric shaving tools. Electric shavers, in fact, cracked into the black in multi-outlets, according to IRI data for the 52-week period ended Sept. 10. That’s good news because the category brings in high-dollar rings and better gross margins than wet-shave options in many cases. Philips Electric is the leading brand, followed by Wahl, Remington, Procter & Gamble and Panasonic. But Conair executives expect to make headway in the category this year with a revved-up offering with its I-Stubble Ultimate Trimmer, Personal Grooming Kit and Ear/Nose Trimmer.
A battle continues among the behemoths in the wet shave razor and blade business — one punctuated by legal actions versus the race for innovation that used to dominate the category’s news. In the past, the leaders had a constant churn of innovation, often in the form of more blades. Now some of the fight comes in regard to patent infringement. Most recently, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette division sued Edgewell, the maker of Schick razors, for the second time in 13 months, seeking to stop its sale of razor blade cartridges designed to fit Gillette’s Fusion handles. In a complaint, Gillette said Schick willfully infringed its 2015 patent for a removable-shaving cartridge assembly by designing Hydro Connect 5 and Hydro Connect 5 Sensitive cartridges to fit Fusion razor handles.
Earlier this year, Schick entered into the online subscription business with a blade that fit on the Gillette handle, but cost less. Gillette had already sliced its razor prices an average of 12% to attempt to stem the flow of market share to online options.
Nonetheless, Dollar Shave Club and other online outlets, have made a dent in retail volume, especially of blades where both cartridge and disposable sales are down, according to IRI. Physical stores are fighting back with Target and Rite Aid among those building men’s departments within their stores with a laser focus on shaving.
According to IRI data, P&G dominates cartridge sales, although its dollar volume dropped 15% in the 52-week period ended Sept. 10. Edgewell is second and also saw an 18% decline. In disposables, P&G also leads, although volume was down 5%. Bic is No. 2, but registered 10% declines. In razors, market leader P&G registered flat sales, while No. 2 Edgewell nabbed 3.6% gains. Notably, Harry’s — now sold at Target — saw sales soar more than 900%.
In the midst of the squabbles among the giants, some disruptor brands have emerged. Universal Beauty Products’ Van Der Hagen is a case in point, with its cartridge sales soaring 64%, according to IRI data.
The company also has a hit with its throwback single-blade entry. “Consumers are smart, savvy and looking for the best way to shave, even if it means going the extra mile. Shaving with a single blade requires more time and practice, but men are responding positively to its back-to-basics authenticity and vintage style,” said Universal Beauty Products’ Price. Today’s men are incorporating their sense of identity into their morning routine, and choosing to pick up a safety razor is proof.”
Clio, a line of battery-operated shavers and bikini trimmers, also has shaken up the market with its trendy designs that update the look of traditionally mundane products. According to Nielsen data, Clio is the No. 1 supplier of women’s grooming appliances.
Speed Razor, a head-and-body shaver is gaining traction for its breakthrough design. The product, available in a men’s and women’s version, was a standout at ECRM’s Personal Care, Grooming, Oral and Travel/Trial EPPS meeting in July, and now the company is looking to make the move from direct and online sales to offline. “It is the next generation in shaving,” said Kevin Schmidt the creator of Speed Razor.
Another product gathering attention at the show was a unique item — Legacy Shave — which is a shave brush that fits on any can of gel or cream. Legacy also is looking for mass-market distribution.
Bee Bald also is making its mark in the category. The complete line of men’s grooming, shave-and-skin care has brought specialty store quality to the mass market. Dennis Fischer, president of Bee Bald, said millennials have helped drive his company’s sales.
“As a group, they are independent minded and not as susceptible to marketing methods established for previous generations. Our unconventional style and approach make them a perfect fit for our marketing and social media campaigns,” he added. This year has been a year of strong growth, he said. “Our sales and distribution continue to grow by triple digits, and thanks to our partnership with Daymond John — from ABC TV’s “Shark Tank” — and his company The Shark Group, we’ve exploded on social media.”
In the case of Speed Razor and Bee Bald, marketing messages are unisex, and some industry experts think the shave category could benefit from that approach. In a published report from London-based brand and design consultancy Two by Two, the authors Louise Barfield and Imogen Matthews suggested that for men’s grooming, including shave, it could be time to lose labels and make products gender neutral to hit potential. After all, what woman hasn’t grabbed a man’s razor or vice versa at least once? Maybe that could make women’s shaving as much of a ritual as men’s.
Natural beauty in sync with healthier lifestyle trend
In just the past few months, Walmart announced plans for a naturally positioned color cosmetics line called Found. CVS has pumped in more than 2,000 natural, organic and naturally inspired items, such as Organic Doctor and Burt’s Bees cosmetics into 3,000 doors. And earlier this year, Target substantially built out its natural assortment and dubbed natural skin care as a business contributing double-digit percentage sales lifts.
Sales of natural beauty products expanded 9.2% from 2016 over the year before, according to recently published statistics from Kline. Natural beauty now accounts for 12% of the total cosmetics and toiletries market in the United States.
Fueling that rapid ascension is a checklist of factors, according to Kline, ranging from consumers paying more attention to the ingredients they put on their bodies to overall healthier lifestyles. While formulas don’t have to — and often can’t — be 100% natural, what shoppers want are those that are “free from” many ingredients they deem toxic. Among those on the list are parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde donors.
Categories that are the fastest growing in the natural space include facial treatments, hair care products and personal cleansing, according to Kline’s Natural Personal Care 2016 report. A little slower to move the needle are deodorants and antiperspirants, makeup and fragrances. But that could change going forward, especially as more makeup brands debut with natural positionings.
An example of a promising new natural cosmetics line comes from the venerable Burt’s Bee’s franchise. The Clorox-owned brand has sold lip cosmetics for four years, but now has a full assortment of face, lip, cheek and eye. It rolled out in September to Walmart, CVS, ultabeauty.com and Whole Foods. It also will be sold on Amazon, and Target will test it early next year.
CVS is going even deeper into natural makeup — it is testing Mineral Fusion, a line sold primarily in natural grocers, in 500 of its doors. Maly Bernstein, VP of beauty and personal care at CVS, said natural products don’t cannibalize from existing beauty lines, and she’s happy to offer mass market options to natural lines that specialty retailers stock.
K-Beauty also is intertwined with natural because many of the lines are comprised of natural ingredients or better-for-you formulas. The natural and K-Beauty skin care business are riding off the growth of each other as they both have ingredients consumers are hunting for, retailers said. Unilever recently snapped up Carver Korea for about $2.7 billion, proving the powerhouse company wants in on the K-beauty boom. The newly minted CVS in Times Square includes a K-Beauty pop-up shop within the store, featuring nearly 500 Korean beauty products across skin care and beauty, including cosmetics, masks and personal care products. Earlier this year, CVS rolled out its K-Beauty HQ to 2,100 locations, featuring an assortment curated in partnership with Korean beauty expert Alicia Yoon of Peach & Lily.
Regulating natural brands
The absence of regulatory standards in the United States impacts the natural beauty landscape. But John Matise, co-founder and CEO of Éclair Naturals, is among those seeking to change the status quo.
Offering a full range of body care products that are non-GMO, cruelty-free, vegan, soy-free and organic, Éclair Naturals is a key industry supporter of the Personal Care Product Safety Act, introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. Matise has visited Washington, D.C., twice to lobby for the bill, along with a mixture of major beauty companies and smaller entrepreneurial brands.
According to Matise, although the personal care products industry continues to grow rapidly, the current FDA regulations have not been updated in nearly 80 years. Fourteen hundred ingredients in Europe and about 600 in Canada are regulated in personal care. Currently, the United States only regulates 11, he said.
“My hope is that the newly introduced act will serve not only as a safeguard for consumers, but as a catalyst for positive change in the personal care product industry. This piece of legislation sets forth a new and urgently needed standard of transparency and trustworthiness for businesses; and, once it is passed, I believe any company manufacturing products made with harmful ingredients would immediately search for alternatives just knowing that they are under review,” Matise wrote to the Senate in support of the Personal Care Products Act.
The quest for natural is expected to continue to mushroom. Euromonitor International identified ethical and healthy living as two of its megatrends shaping personal care, and focused on probiotic-based beauty as an area to watch.