Roundtable: Engaging Customers In A New Beauty Landscape
Modiface, Curology, PHLUR, Squire and Narvar speak on how beauty retailers and brands must approach customers who expect a degree of convenience, freedom and humanity
PSFK’s Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.
Beauty. Both as word and concept, carries with it an implied universality. Sure, beauty happens to be in the eye of the beholder, and all that hakuna matata jazz, but it typically connotes a sense of prevalence or widespreadness, for to call something beautiful (or not) ensures that one believes most will agree. Yet, the beauty industry, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, is increasingly becoming defined by an increasing demand for personalization.
Forecasted to grow into a $51.8 billion business by 2020—there’s that Year 2020 again—it behooves beauty brands and retailers to understand consumers’ changing expectations. And to do that they must come to terms with the theme that will come to define the beauty industry in the next few years: intimacy.
As detailed in our Beauty Debrief, though customers are increasingly seeking out more holistic approaches to personal care, apps and assistants to help free up their busy schedules, ways in which they can self-diagnosis proper treatment, and, greater stake in the product-creation process, intimacy will be at the root of all those pursuits.
How can brands and retailers, in an act of Catch-22, come to deliver on growing demands for personalization and intimacy without disrupting that personalization and intimacy? How much freedom should companies give to consumers in an increasingly personalized beauty industry? How do you mass market and mass produce such an intimate and personalized experience?
To answer some of these looming questions, we’ve turned to a handful of experts, who include:
Songe LaRon | CEO and Co-Founder of Squire – an app that facilitates the process of booking and paying for haircuts and shaves.
David Lortscher | CEO of Curology – a customized and affordable prescription skincare service tackling acne and the effects of aging.
Parham Aarabi | CEO of Modiface – a virtual makeover platform currently powering over 150 web and mobile apps.
Eric Korman | CEO and Founder of PHLUR – an online fragrance startup that hooks customers not through scent but words, pictures and even music.
Amit Sharma | CEO and Founder of Narvar – an enterprise platform that helps retailers, including those working in the beauty and personal care industry, invest in supply chain analysis and flexible post-purchase options.
(Below is the second part of a three-part editorial series).
Is a hands-off approach the best course of action in this new landscape? If so, how important will providing a sense of freedom be to consumers? Where might apps, smart assistants, chatbots, IoT technology play a part in delivering on customers’ expectations?
Eric Korman | CEO and Founder of PHLUR
“Every individual is different in how they want to engage with a brand, so what we strive to avoid is a prescriptive communication approach that limits our options. Instead, we provide customers with as many options as we can, limited only by our current resources.
While chatbots and other conversational commerce applications are only in their infancy today, they will absolutely become a vital part of the branded retail experience. Like all of our channels of communications, we are leaning toward an honest, humanistic approach with conversational commerce, and we will seek to leverage the unique capabilities of these evolving channels to deepen and enrich the type of service we can provide. We are currently developing a highly innovative chatbot experience to enhance our sampling experience, with this in mind. Like all things it will start simple and improve as we learn what works—and doesn’t—for our customers.”
Parham Aarabi | CEO of Modiface
“Beauty is about the look and feel of a product, and augmented reality enables the ‘look’ question to be realistically evaluated through AR-enabled apps, websites, and chatbots. What we are consistently finding is that enabling AR across all the points of brand-customer interaction increases engagement and sales, and as a result, beauty AR has emerged as the standard expectation that customers have when evaluating beauty products.”
David Lortscher | CEO of Curology
“Consumers are benefiting from the freedom and instant gratification that apps, smart assistants and chatbots can provide, but haven’t forgotten about the value that the ‘human’ aspect of support from a real person brings to a consumer when the situation requires.
For Curology, we have placed a high value on both emerging technology and a traditional hands-on approach with a team of dermatology providers on staff to diagnose and treat acne through a completely online platform, ultimately creating a customized prescription formula made at our in-house laboratory and delivered right to consumers’ doors.”
Amit Sharma | CEO and Founder of Narvar
“Brands can strike the right balance between a hands-off and hands-on approach by using technology and data to curate products. Today, customers have to deal with information overload. You have thousands of products to choose from, and once you’ve decided on a product, you then have to choose a brand, style, size, color, shipping method and timing, and payment. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. When customers have too many options, it’s overwhelming—and often frustrating. Brands should help customers by removing some of the effort. Curation is one way to do that. It provides customers with information to narrow down their options and refine the products they see based on their preferences. Fewer clicks means a happier customer.
Virtual assistants and chatbots can also make life easier for both brands and customers. Want help finding an eyeshadow that compliments your dress? Beauty brands like Sephora are starting to answer these questions with the help of IoT technology, virtual assistants and chatbots. There is no doubt in my mind that we’ll see these tools continue to help meet customers’ expectations and provide personalized guidance before, during and after a purchase.”
Songe LaRon | CEO and Co-Founder of Squire
“Consumers these days are all about convenience. People have grown to expect the things we want to be accessible with the tap of a button. Mobile technology has given brands an unprecedented opportunity to be consistently connected to their customers. This tech offers consumers the freedom to know they can access the services they need when they want it. For example, with our mobile app and smart assistant, our customers can find and book top-notch barbers whenever they need a haircut.”
PSFK’s Beauty Debrief reveals how brands and retailers can build better products and deliver a more personalized experience to customers. Download the full report here, or request a presentation at your office. For full access to all of PSFK’s reports, debriefs, articles and archives, become a PSFK member today.