Leveraging service to enhance shopping experience


Frustrated watching specialty stores, online merchants and department stores siphon off a market they once controlled more than 50% of, mass marketers are firing back.

(To view the full Category Review, click here.)

To regain their dominance of the $16 billion U.S. beauty market, chains such as Walgreens, Target, CVS and Walmart are burnishing their images. Among the moves they are taking are:

  • Adding service back into the equation;
  • Transforming shopping from a chore to an experience;
  • Catering to the changing demographics of American shoppers;
  • Compressing the rate at which innovation is unfurled in mass to be on par with prestige;
  • Stocking exclusive or first-to- market products; and
  • Beefing up categories, such as devices that competitors don’t always stock.

Mass is making strides

But what is important to note is that even though drug and discount store merchants said they feel the pressure, the beauty business is pulling its fair share at the front end.

For the 52-week period ended Oct. 2 and tracked by IRI in multiunit doors, five out of six of the major cosmetics categories reported exhibited sales gains. Only nail was down, and a few brands, such as Sally Hansen and Sinful, have solutions in the pipeline they hold will cure that downward trend.

A few eye-opening numbers include the 20% jump in cosmetics accessories that encompasses items like lash adhesives, lash curlers and makeup applicators; the 13% jump in eye-product volume and the 9%-plus plump in lip products.

Some of these gains could be tied to more in-store sampling, demonstrations and makeovers.

Enhancing the experience with service

The return to service is evident at almost every major mass store. “The trend is to put beauty experts back in the store,” said Joann Marks, founder and CEO of Cosmetic Promotion. She explained that service makes shopping an experience, an important distinguishing factor in a world where beauty can be acquired at the click of a mouse. “Millennials are used to having everything immediately with Amazon and other options. And prices are about the same no matter where. So you have to make the experience what brings them into the store.”

Walgreens never veered from a service model, but the chain is ramping it up further under its Beauty Differentiation effort. Plans to upgrade 1,800 stores by the end of 2016 are in place. A new role called Beauty Consultant is being implemented with high-intensity training designed to replicate a department or specialty-store experience, according to Lauren Brindley, group VP and general manager for beauty and personal care at Walgreens.

CVS also is brushing up on trained in-store experts. Taking a deep dive into the function of beauty advisers, the chain realized that time was being spent on important tasks, such as shelf housekeeping. That took away from time that could be spent with shoppers. As part of its amplified Beauty Service program that’s in action in about 900 stores, the chain revamped the role from beauty advisers to beauty consultants. They are free to spend more time with customers, sharing their passion for cosmetics, according to Alex Perez-Tenessa, CVS Health’s VP/merchandise manager for beauty and personal care. The consultants undergo extensive training.

Target also is sticking with its service approach through Beauty Concierges. Launched three years ago, the program continues to provide Target with ammunition against competitors. A recent visit to a New Jersey Target found the concierge offering just the right mixture of advice, while also leaving the shopper to self-exploration. The concierges roam the department, but stay close to No7, a line that sometimes benefits from extra consultation.

Marks of Cosmetic Promotion explained that it is worth it for retailers and suppliers to invest in offering support in stores. In-store demonstrations can make a big impact on sales since 70% of purchases are unplanned, Marks said.

Her services are especially helpful as chains add more intricate products, such as masks. “We just did training for H-E-B for a sheet mask from Korea,” Marks said. Other beauty techniques that benefit from in-store demonstrations are contouring, highlighting and strobing,” she added. “People can watch YouTube all they want, but it is still challenging and people are confused. There’s nothing like really learning.”

Next up will be a big event with a major chain to help educate consumers on the skin care benefits of derm lines Vichy and La Roche-Posay. Meanwhile, regional supermarket powerhouse Wegmans is piloting full-service beauty bars in a handful of stores. The Wegmans Beauty Bars feature full-time cosmetologists and full-time estheticians.

Another category that booms after in-store experiences is artificial nails. Marks has worked with Kiss Products’ imPRESS nails.

And all agreed that the addition of brow products and brow demonstrations helped put mass market stores on the map in the category. According to IRI, eyebrow makeup sales soared almost 35% for the 52-week period ended Oct. 2. Before there were products for mass, brands such as Anastasia sold in premium locales, including Macy’s, and were the mainstay of the category.

Chains added that they hope to tap more in-store technology in the future to assist beauty experts, such as augmented reality, iPads, in-store video tutorials and even virtual reality assistants.

Marketing to what today’s consumer wants

Experts in stores also help chains build sales of another element they are revving up — sales to multicultural shoppers. To that end, suppliers also are doing more to make lines fit America’s new complexion. Sally Hansen’s new nail collection, called Color Therapy, for example, has shades for all skin tones, according to Jeremy Lowenstein, VP of global marketing for Sally Hansen. “We are in a multiethnic world,” said Lowenstein. To help navigate the right shade selection for skin tone, he singled out Coty’s mobile app, ManiMatch. “All Color Therapy shades will be included in the app in November,” he added, noting that will be something that will augment service in stores.

Whether it is adding lines that appeal to all women of color or revamping merchandising of hair and skin care to be more inclusive, chains are scurrying to figure out how to best serve a changing shopper base. By doing so, they feel they can get a leg up on specialty store competitors.

For many merchants, the tastes of America change so quickly that they rely on outside experts. “The most important element to compete with such specialty stores is to stay on top of the beauty trend items, and develop a new logistic system with a vendor that has this information,” suggested Eddie Jhin, president of Jinny Beauty Supply. He also advised shipping using a direct-to-store concept on these trendy beauty items from time to time duringthe year.” Whether it is trends among multicultural consumers or the general market, buyers stressed to brands that they need innovation at a faster pace. Items inspired by Korean beauty, such as masks, the latest tools to duplicate runway beauty looks and tools to create on-trend hair styles need to be at mass as quickly as at prestige.

One discount store merchant said Milani’s Amore Matte Liquid Lipstick brought class innovation to mass. And an up-and-coming line the merchant gave high marks to is DK Cosmetics, which has brought Korean beauty innovation, such as masks, to mass. The brand is sold in the upmarket, such as Bloomingdales and mass chains, including Walmart and Target.

Quick to market is key to competitive edge

If the innovation doesn’t come from national brands, retailers are taking it into their own hands — working out private labels or product exclusives. Although both brands are sold in select doors elsewhere, Walgreens’ program to install No7 and Soap and Glory help lure customers to its stores. Walgreens also has exclusives, such as Circa, to build loyalty.

CVS has hit upon great success with MUA Makeup Academy and other CVS-only lines in its stores. The chain is using exclusive brands to stake out a health position in beauty care and help set itself apart from its competitors, via brands such as the dermatologist-tested Skin+Pharmacy, Enlite and premium derm-brand Jouviance. “We want to give our customers better, healthier choices across multiple categories that they can’t find anywhere else in the market,” Perez-Tenessa explained. “In many categories, such as body lotions or oral care, we have been first-to-market full sets of these items in our stores.”

First-to-market is a mantra at Walmart. The chain was first out with the Katy Perry Cover Girl collaboration, as well as the Kylie Jenner Sinful nail launch earlier this year.

And Target inked a major and interesting partnership this year with Harry’s. Target, no stranger to exclusives in all categories, launched Harry’s shaving line in a huge way this year.

John Butcher, Target’s SVP of beauty and personal care, said the German-engineered razor blades and shaving products collection is just the beginning of the chain’s plan to get deeper under men’s skin.

All 1,800 Target doors launched Harry’s in August on a special end cap, with a giant signature Harry’s razor. In many stores, it sold out in days. Target also is looking to niche products, such as Bevel Shave System that is formulated for men with coarse hair. The line was launched in February on and in about 150 stores. Target uses its online website to monitor fledgling brands, such as Man Cave, Solo Noir, Biotherm Homme, Bulldog, Maestro’s Classic and 145 Intelligent Skincare. In stores, another newcomer is Every Man Jack.

Target and other chains also are finding power in devices. By adding everything from LED masks to fight acne to styling tools built on the quality once only found in salons. Target was among the first to carry the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask. Priced at $39.99, the mask gave mass marketers entry into a category once only reserved for higher-end doors.

Said to be the only LED device that simultaneously treats the face with both blue and red visible light in just one step, Neutrogena’s entry was supported with social media, including a demonstration by singer and actress Olivia Holt.

Each color works differently to combat two of the major factors that contribute to acne: bacteria and inflammation.

In hair styling, there also is demand for well-known names like Revlon. In particular, Helen of Troy introduced the Revlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer. It is a two-in-one styling tool that places the power of a dryer and volume of a styler in the hands of the consumer to deliver effortlessly beautiful full-bodied, frizz-free volume and brilliant shine in a single pass, including the hard-to-style back of the head. Building on the success of last year’s first-to-market Revlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Styler, Revlon Hair Tools has extended the one-step series to address a top concern for the beauty enthusiast looking to achieve salon results at home.

“Consumer research confirmed, the No. 1 styling difficulty women face today is achieving body and volume with a smooth, frizz-free finish,” said Leah Bailey, president of global beauty for Helen of Troy. “By assessing what is currently on the market, we saw an enormous opportunity to provide a solution that directly addresses this consumer need. We are thrilled to launch a product that helps women dry and style their hair effortlessly to achieve the beautiful hair results they desire to feel confident.”


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon’s entry would shake up the most?

Sundial campaign introduces new ‘Normal’ in hair care


Shea Moisture is unleashing the second phase of its call-to-action program, #BreakTheWalls.

This time, the Sundial Brands-owned skin and hair line is challenging the concept of a one-size-fits all representation of beauty.

In a short film, 30-second spots and behind-the-scenes footage, prominent beauty vloggers, including Naptural85 and StyledByAle, and women who have made headlines for defending their hair in the workplace — such as Sargeant Jasmine Jacobs, who petitioned the U.S. military to change its policy banning natural hairstyles, and Rhonda Lee, a meteorologist who was fired from an ABC affiliate for responding to a comment about her natural hair — question what the term “normal hair” means.

“With our first iteration, we showed the physical walls coming down,” said Richelieu Dennis, founder and CEO of Sundial Brands. “With ‘What’s Normal?’ we are confronting the mental walls that encourage us to force-fit ourselves and others into falsely constructed beauty and ‘good hair’ ideals. Our forward track must focus on including everyone, embracing everyone and celebrating the beauty — and normalcy — of everyone’s differences.”

SheaMoisture worked with award-winning creative agency Droga5 to develop both the “Break The Walls” and “What’s Normal?” films, which celebrate the positive changes women are experiencing in the beauty industry, and are a rallying cry to join together to continue to reshape the beauty landscape — from a dated model of “standardized ideals” to one of inclusive representation at shelf and beyond.

“One of the most exciting and humbling aspects for us during the creation of ‘What’s Normal?’ was the continued chorus of courageous, confident, defiant and self-accepting women who shared their stories, their insecurities and their triumphs with us,” said Dennis. “They were so deeply poignant that we were compelled to, again, develop the script for the film using a compilation of sound bites taken from our cast members’ interviews. So, we are still telling her story through her eyes and with her voice.”

To complement “What’s Normal?,” Shea Moisture invested in the technology to build the first hair-recognition tool of its kind — “Good Hair Day” at The “Good Hair Day” tool lets users upload a photo and answer hair questions to get “at-a-click” personalized recommendations to easily match their hair need with a specific product among the more than 150 hair items in Shea Moisture’s arsenal.

“We are constantly iterating on our approach to what are considered ‘industry’ standards and what we hold as ‘our’ standards — testing, learning and growing as we work to serve her better,” Dennis said. “Even when we’ve conducted limited-run label tests using ‘normal’ on our packaging, the results have shown an overwhelming preference for need state versus normal because of its exclusionary nature.” Retailers and even other brands have joined Sundial in its efforts to merchandise for a new general market, no longer defined only by ethnicity.

In support of What’s Normal, the Perception Institute — a consortium of social psychologists and strategists who use cutting-edge research on how our brains respond to differences in race, ethnicity and gender identify solutions that reduce bias and discrimination — has conducted a special hair study measuring the implicit biases linked to hair.

Hundreds of studies over the last two decades have confirmed that many people have implicit biases linked to race and gender that are rooted in pervasive societal stereotypes. Implicit bias affects how we perceive and treat others, sometimes in ways that have serious consequences.

To date, no one has examined implicit biases linked to hairstyles worn by black women, according to Sundial. Leveraging insights from and images provided by Shea Moisture’s hair and beauty experts, Perception Institute created the first-ever “Hair IAT” to measure whether implicit bias against black women’s natural hair exists, as well as to assess how the public feels about the beauty and professionalism of black women’s hairstyles. Findings from the study, which is based on a 4,000-person national sample, will be released in the coming months.


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon’s entry would shake up the most?

Boudica Naturals debuts clarifying shampoo, new website

BY Gina Acosta

LIVINGSTON, N.J. — There's a new European brand entering the U.S. beauty space, and this one has clean, all-natural ingredients.

Boudica Naturals hair products, produced in Hertfordshire, England, are free of harsh salts, glycol, formaldehyde, parabens, artificial colors and fragrances as well as all other undesirable ingredients. Boudica products are infused with organic avocado and grapeseed oils, rice, soy and wheat proteins, and regenerative apple stem cells.  

Boudica is launching a Clarifying Shampoo, which is certified vegan. The Clarifying Shampoo is ideal for greasy or heavy hair and is also highly effective at neutralizing the effects of chlorinated pool water.

The brand has also launched a new website at 

Boudica Naturals products are mainly available on for now.


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon’s entry would shake up the most?