Roundtable: Courting Mass Retail In The Age Of Personalized Beauty
Modiface, Curology, PHLUR, Squire and Narvar on how customer input and humanization can improve sales success when it comes to product personalization
03PSFK’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:
David Lortscher | CEO of Curology – a customized and affordable prescription skincare service tackling acne and the effects of aging.
Eric Korman | CEO and Founder of PHLUR – an online fragrance startup that hooks customers not through scent but words, pictures and even music.
Songe LaRon | CEO and Co-Founder of Squire – an app that facilitates the process of booking and paying for haircuts and shaves.
Parham Aarabi | CEO of Modiface – a virtual makeover platform currently powering over 150 web and mobile apps.
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 third and final part of a three-part editorial series).
And now, for the main event: how do you go about in mass producing and marketing products and services that promise personalization? Is it made any easier by allowing consumers to take part in the product creation process? How might inviting them to the production table actually stunt the process?
Eric Korman | CEO and Founder of PHLUR
“Again, this goes to setting the right definition and expectations around the word personalized. For our brand and products, that’s unlikely to mean inviting customers to the production table, or creating fragrances that are unique to the individual. But that can, and does, mean taking inspiration cues from our customers, and listening intently to what they would like to see us do to help inform our product roadmap.
At the same time there are things we can do to personalize the product experience in unique ways, such as handwriting the customer’s name on each sample set box ordered, which we’ve done since launch. We believe a lot of what’s behind the macro trend of ‘personalization’ is simply the desire for human connection, to be able to see that actual thoughtful caring human beings are involved on this side of the table. When retail started as the literal ‘Mom and Pop’ store, that element was always evident by definition. In a world of mass retail, we have to work hard to make that element shine through, enabling that incredibly important human connection on a one-to-many basis.”
Amit Sharma | CEO and Founder of Narvar
“To scale personalization, you need to build a platform that’s data driven and not siloed. Information about customer preferences, purchases and interactions will enable you to help customers discover products that they’re actually interested in, and give them the opportunity to influence the products being created.
Beauty products are inherently customized for different skin types and complexions. Companies have tried to create custom colors or formulations, but those initiatives often fail because they’re too specific and it’s hard to scale with that level of personalization—as well as increasing complexity for the customer. Instead focus on using technology to match people to products that already exist. Outside of the beauty world, Nike does this well by letting customers personalize their shoes, and Apple lets customers customize Apple Watches with dozens of unique bands.
Within the beauty industry, Madison Reed, a company that produces professional hair color products, has mastered how to use personalization in the creation process. Customers send a photo and chat with Madi, the company’s Facebook Messenger chatbot, to determine the best dye for their hair.
Buying a beauty product is an emotional purchase. It’s not just about the product, but about how the consumer perceives the brand and how it expresses their own inner beauty. Inviting customers to take part in the product-creation process is one way to establish that emotional connection—if you keep the customization within parameters that are scalable.”
Songe LaRon | CEO and Co-Founder of Squire
“Our customers always take part in the creation process because we’re constantly collecting feedback from them and then iterating based on what we learn. I believe continuous customer engagement is necessary to create products that consumers truly love.”
David Lortscher | CEO of Curology
“The very nature of personalization requires consumers to take part in the creation of the product. For us, we aren’t customizing our products because it is trendy—we are customizing because that is the premise on which our business lies. Therefore, whether customization makes our business harder or easier to run isn’t a consideration—it is a value we are committed to providing, and technology enables us to provide this value to as many people who need it as possible. Inviting the customers to participate in this process is completely necessary and it is what we are here to do.”
Parham Aarabi | CEO of Modiface
“Beauty is ultimately very personal. Two people with the exact same skin tone and undertone may prefer different foundations or lipstick shades. The ability to personalize for each user is quite important, and one of the ways we are finding success with this personalization is by letting users play, preview, and engage with products through augmented reality. The interesting benefit here is that by letting people play in the AR world, we can understand each individual through the shades they select and try.
True personalization is not just about a person’s facial features and colors, but about their tastes and preferences. And knowing what shades they try and select is a key data point in truly understanding each customer.”
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.
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Deena Varshavskaya is the founder and CEO of Wanelo (“wah-nee-lo,” from Want, Need, Love), the world’s largest mall, curated by people. Millions of shoppers use Wanelo to discover and buy from over 20 million products and over 350,000 stores, which include big brands and independent boutiques and sellers you’ve never heard of, all in one place on your phone. Deena started Wanelo after being frustrated with shopping in traditional malls. Her personal style didn’t fit a simple category, and she wanted to shop in more unique places. She decided to create a social network that would make it easy to discover amazing stores and products from anywhere online. Deena worked on Wanelo for more than two years using her personal savings to build the site and attract its first users. In 2011, she moved to San Francisco, and she launched Wanelo in 2012 after receiving 40 investor rejections before finally closing her first round of funding. Deena has been named one of the "Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs" for two years in a row by Goldman Sachs and was recognized by Forbes as one of "The Power Women Who Are Reinventing The Way You Shop Fashion Online." She has also been highlighted in Fast Company’s "Most Creative People in Business" list and is named as one of 15 “up-and-comers to keep an eye on” in Vanity Fair’s "Next Establishment" list. The National Retail Federation recently recognized Deena as an “Influencer” reshaping the retail industry. Originally from Siberia, Deena moved to the U.S. at the age of 16 and dropped out of Cornell University two classes short of graduating. She currently lives in San Francisco and can be followed on Wanelo, Twitter and Instagram at @siberianfruit. Check out her exclusive interview with PSFK & HP/HP Matter here!