How Can Beauty Product Retailers Retain and Engage Loyal Customers?
Post pandemic with e-Commerce first driving the majority of retail sales how can beauty product boost customer customers loyalty in this competitive landscape?
In this article we’re going to discuss actionable steps you can take that are being successfully deployed by retailers to deliver the kind of on-brand bespoke customer experiences that are guaranteed to not only gain new customers but keep your current customers coming back for more.
The beauty industry has been rocked by a foundational change in recent years. The internet and mobile shopping have brought new challenges and opportunities, while consumers are exercising their growing power and voice online to demand that brands prioritize sustainability, wellness, and diversity.
This rapidly-changing landscape has seen the rise of upstart brands and new business models that are breathing new life into the industry. While the $49 billion US market remains relatively flat, online sales are strong, with year over year sales increasing by 18.6% in 2019 — the second-highest growth rate after food and drink, according to eMarketer, which found that online transactions now account for 1 in 10 beauty sales. THis number has drastically increased in favor of e-Commerce sales since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This surging activity is attracting interest and investment from new players, including online giant, Amazon, which has expanded its beauty offerings to include a private label product line and an “indie” brand shop featuring finds not available through other retailers.
Amazon now rivals physical retailers Ulta and Sephora, with 1 in 5 consumers consistently saying it’s their favorite place to shop for beauty products.
Even as the giants vie for prime market share, beauty retailers without the online reach of Amazon or thousands of stores can still find plenty of room to compete and they can succeed by focusing on the customer experience.
How beauty brands interact with shoppers as they travel along the path to purchase and into an ongoing customer relationship is more important than ever: consulting firm PwC found shoppers are willing to spend up to 16% more for positive customer experience, and 73% said the customer experience influences purchase decisions, beyond product quality and price.
Not only does focusing on customer service avoid the slippery slope of discounting that can erode margins; thoughtful, proactive service and a unified customer experience help beauty brands meet rising demand for relevance and authenticity.
By aligning their customer experience offerings with the ideals shoppers prize, beauty sellers can prove their worth and stake their claim to market share in a volatile landscape.
The first obstacle that comes to mind in achieving this result is scalability. We’re not here to create more work for retailers or provide outdated solutions that require more human-resources, increase in customer support staff, or live-agents capable of delivering a concierge customer experience that is just not a reality going into 2022.
We’re talking about offering bespoke customer experiences through highly advanced conversational AI powered digital workforce that is available at the click of a button.
What Do Beauty Product Retailers Need to Focus On?
- Bespoke one-to-one consultations to develop personalized beauty regimens
- Reflecting customers’ individual tastes throughout the pre-purchase and post purchase experience
- A cyclical approach that focuses on customer loyalty and re-engagement with your brand
- Embodiment of ideals around environmental awareness and sustainability
- Transparency and control surrounding order fulfillment processes
Can these goals be achieved through automation? Absolutely!
Retailers are already implementing these customer support technologies to provide an end to end customer experience through automation. Taking the stress off of customer support teams.
It’s Not Just Makeup – It’s a Personal Skin Care Regimen
Not only should beauty product retailers present shoppers with an end-to-end array of products, but they should personalize selections to match individual tastes and needs.
While beauty sales remain strong, there’s been a decided shift in focus in recent years. Buyers no longer seek cosmetics to help them attain an elusive ideal; rather, makeup is the finishing touch in a health-enhancing regimen that helps shoppers celebrate their style preferences and unique physical traits.
Sales of products in the skin care category grew 5% year-over-year in 2019, while makeup dropped 7%, according to data from the NPD group, a trend that sellers who can position their products as part of a holistic solution are better equipped to capitalize on.
Personalization is now popular with the majority of shoppers: six in 10 customers told Adobe that timely relevance was the most important characteristic of content from retailers, and two-thirds said context-awareness was very important.
Bepsoke customer experiences are also key to winning over a customers loyalty: personalized experiences can drive satisfaction with formal customer loyalty points programs more than six times higher and inspire members to spend 3.5 times more, the Bond Loyalty Report found.
Offer Consultative Selling Experiences at Every Touch-Point
On the eCommerce site and elsewhere, beauty retailers need to offer experiences that focus on solutions, not just individual products.
In previous years this technology was just not available to all retailers. Things have changed. The digital workforce has changed and since the pandemic more than ever having the appropriate tech stack in place and a digital workforce that is scalable is imperative. These types of pre-purchase consultative selling experiences are seamless to integrate and have become a necessity for beauty retail brands to stay competitive going into 2022.
Back up such goal-based categorization with the opportunity to interact one on one and receive tailored beauty advice.
Brands have long offered in-store consultations to create personalized regimens, and shoppers are increasingly comfortable with the online version:
Microsoft found online conversational channels such as live chat, social media messaging, and SMS text messaging were collectively second only to phone support as the top method for contacting customer service.
Follow Your Customers to the Right Messaging Tools
Beauty retailers should offer messaging and chat services using the tools wherever their customers already congregate.
Two out of five shoppers who are using makeup more routinely than ever research products on mobile devices, NPD found. This data suggests that SMS messaging support is a wise move across the board; beyond that, different audiences might prefer different flavors of social media or online messaging, from the wide appeal of Facebook to the cutting-edge connections available through Snapchat and TikTok and the ever-growing instagram audience.
CX automation solutions that integrate with Facebook messenger and Instagram are a must going into 2022
Reach Customers on New Visual Engagement Channels
One in three consumers were already using video chat before the era of coronavirus, which has caused usage of the Zoom platform to increase by over 400% since the pandemic.
Brands should build on this trend to add tools that move away from typing on keyboards and toward visualizations of how new products would look on shoppers.
Augmented-reality tools that enable “trying on” new hairstyles or makeup are more accessible than ever, and shoppers are open to using them to make beauty purchase decisions.
More than 1 in 4 are willing to buy products requiring precise tints, like foundation and hair color, after digital try-on, Ipsos found, while the percentage zooms up to nearly 7 in 10 for false eyelashes.
Pairing these tools with live stylist help can give shoppers further confidence to proceed with purchase based on the combination of high-tech visuals and human insight.
Reflect Shopping Priorities With Customer-Centric Offerings
True conversations flow two ways, so not only should beauty brands use one-to-one channels as a means to deliver personalized recommendations and customer loyalty incentives; they should also use input received through those channels to adapt merchandising and even product development to suit customers’ needs.
In so doing, companies earn a reputation for prioritizing customers that can pay off with a loyal following.
Build Online Selling Experiences Around Customers’ Priorities
Beauty brands should not only feature user-generated content on the eCommerce site, but use aggregate interaction data to inform merchandising decisions, such as which skin care and beauty concerns to spotlight and which themed categories to develop.
Sections that display top sellers, trending items, and products featured in hashtag social media campaigns demonstrate that sellers are tuned in to customer preferences and preoccupations.
Crowd-Source Product Development
Brands should use shopper interactions to learn about priorities and to solicit input on what products customers wish existed.
Explicit dialogue through conversational channels can lead to new ideas, such as when cosmetics upstart Glossier developed a new cleanser based on comments on its “In the Gloss” blog.
In addition, brands can use AI-enhanced analysis of purchase and browsing behavior to reap implicit insights and identify new product potential, as when Scentbird developed a new unisex fragrance by pinpointing which custom scent components appealed to both men and women and creating a new product from the combined result.
Adopt a Cyclical Approach to Drive Recurring Sales
Servicing shoppers with a complete beauty regimen means not just driving toward a singular purchase goal, but instead establishing a sustainable daily or monthly routine and prompting customers to repurchase in cadence with their needs.
Timely and relevant reminders can build brand trust and encourage re-engagement, which in turn can help brands stay in tune with shoppers’ priorities.
To start the cycle of purchasing, feedback, and re-engagement, beauty brands should:
Proactively Re-engage Shoppers Across Touchpoints
Replenishment reminders can be the most engaging type of marketing message sellers send, email specialist Listrak found, so brands should reach out to consumers with one-to-one messaging recommending they restock the right products for their regimen.
Depending on shoppers’ preferences, sellers can use AI to automate, personalize, and send messages via SMS, through social messaging, via voice interfaces such as Amazon Alexa, and/or in email messages, backed up by a seamless reordering process that minimizes friction.
Integrate subscription options up-front.
Beauty brands should cater to shoppers’ increasing reliance on recurring delivery programs by offering flexible, streamlined reordering. Subscription services led by pioneers such as Stitch Fix and Scentbird have seen annual compound growth of 60% since 2014, McKinsey found.
Beauty sellers can offer recurring delivery signup up front on the product page, with flexible scheduling so shoppers can fine-tune their replenishment calendar.
Offer 1-to-1 rewards
Beauty loyalty programs should reflect customers’ personalized regimens, offering stepped-up rewards for relevant products or for replenishment commitments.
The ability to personalize rewards is the top-sought feature of loyalty programs, according to data from Merkle.
Tarte Cosmetics offers a range of experiences tailored to shoppers’ individual priorities and tastes, starting with live chat consultations available throughout the eCommerce site and via social media.
Results from interactive self-assessment tools carry through the rest of the experience, powering recommendations of specific tints or product formulations and creating a custom view of the catalog as shoppers browse product pages.
The Tarte rewards club is promoted throughout, offering members steep VIP discounts on top sellers and awarding points for engagement as well as purchasing.
The eCommerce site reflects Tarte’s youthful, diverse, and trend-conscious audience throughout: the brand responded to feedback in 2018 about the lack of offerings for people with darker complexions,and now highlights the availability of products in a wide range of skin tones; also demonstrating a commitment to diversity are themed collections for celebrating gay pride and how-to videos featuring a diverse lineup of both men and women.
The “Tarte Talk” category promotes the products shoppers are prioritizing on social media and the site’s built-in favorites and wish lists.
Offer Product Transparency Automated through Live Chat Concierge
Beauty buyers aren’t just looking for the right products to match their skincare needs; they’re also looking for brands that align with their broader concerns about sustainability and corporate responsibility.
Consumers increasingly prioritize brand purpose: two thirds say they’re more likely to purchase from brands that are highly transparent when it comes not only to environmental impact, but employment and corporate practices, according to an Accenture survey.
Within the beauty industry specifically, buyers are holding companies to ever-higher standards when it comes not only to sustainable ingredients and sourcing, but to packaging and delivery practices.
“Natural” and “clean” are the buzzwords du jour, with natural skincare products now representing 30% of the category and leading growth in the entire beauty sector with 18% gains year over year, NPD reported.
Be a Sustainability Educator
For brands to meet shoppers’ expectations, they must deploy new tools and content that address key purchase questions with immediate and comprehensive transparency. Among the strategies:
As interest grows in products that minimize harm to the planet, so do the number of labels companies are using to describe their earth-friendly practices — some more legitimate than others. Companies that can provide clarity and context as well as listing ingredients not only establish bona fides for their individual products, but also demonstrate that the brand as a whole is an authoritative source of reliable information.
Staking out a leadership position is especially important when it comes to winning new customers: Ipsos found that two-thirds of U.S. consumers would try new beauty brands if they were natural, and 59% would do so for brands labeled “clean.” To shine a light on sustainability practices:
Seek Third-Party Certifications to Prove Authenticity
With so many buzzwords in circulation, winning accreditation from an unbiased third-party organization can help brands differentiate from competitors.
Messaging any such badges or certifications throughout the path to purchase — from search ad to product detail page — helps ensure shoppers associate the brand with holistic sustainability.
Provide Context With Reference Material
Ingredient glossaries, how-to guides, and primers help shoppers make informed decisions and understand what differentiates the brand amidst competing claims of sustainability, purity of source materials, and corporate responsibility.
Behind-the-scenes content and in-depth sourcing information provide still more insight into how products are created and what lies behind the label verbiage.
Syndicate information for consumption 1-to-1
Listing ingredients, usage instructions, and sourcing details on the product page is just one potential iteration of sustainability content, which should be repurposed in smaller snippets for use in consultative interactions across touchpoints.
Automated chatbots as well as live agents should incorporate product details into their dialogue, while post-purchase packaging inserts should reaffirm brand credentials.
Make Order Fulfillment a Pillar of Corporate Transparency.
There’s no question that the fulfillment experience is now a crucial part of the purchase equation for shoppers.
More than 4 in 10 consumers say they research delivery costs prior to clicking “buy”, while 56% actively track every order, UPS found.
Once orders are underway, successful fulfillment experiences can boost loyalty, with 61% of consumers saying they’re more likely to purchase again after a positive pickup or delivery interaction, according to Total Retail.
It may seem that small- to mid-sized beauty brands can’t compete with the vast resources of Amazon, which now touts one- and two-day shipping to the more than 100 million members of its Prime free-shipping club.
But by positioning fulfillment options as part of a larger commitment to transparency and even environmental sustainability, beauty firms can burnish their brand reputation while proactively communicating vital information to customers.
Highlight which fulfillment options are environmentally-friendly
Beauty brands are already innovating how they package and ship goods to minimize environmental impact, with industry watchers such as Instagrammer Estee Laundry calling out excessive waste offenders.
Including delivery choices in the environmental equation makes sense as a next step, so beauty sellers should highlight options such as consolidating shipments and slower delivery timeframes.
While consumers increasingly expect even free shipments to arrive relatively quickly, 77% said they consider environmental impacts when ordering online, Total Retail reported — so “green shipping” options have potential to succeed.
Proactively Update Shoppers on Orders Through 1:1 Channels
Four in 10 customer service contacts are related to “WISMO” (“Where Is My Order?”), with the majority of those queries occurring even before orders have been assigned a carrier tracking number, according to Linc — so beauty carriers should institute pre-shipment updates and deliver them via customers’ preferred channel, whether via links sent in SMS, through Facebook Messenger, or in email.
An order management dashboard that enables customers both to track shipments, reorder past favorites with a single click, and redeem loyalty points can help support replenishment goals.
Pure Formulas, which sells beauty products and nutritional supplements with a holistic focus, demonstrates transparency throughout the online shopping experience.
Not only do product pages list ingredients on a dedicated tab, but the site features extensive value-added content, including beauty guides and recipes for DIY treatments using ingredients the site sells, such as essential oils and aromatherapy tinctures.
Shoppers can access content not only through the eCommerce site, but via live automated chat in Facebook Messenger, which provides quick links to products in categories such as “cruelty free.”
Customers can also use automated text and voice services to check on order status and access customer service FAQs, as well as receive proactive reorder suggestions based on prior activity.
Meet High Beauty Standards Through Stellar Experiences
As consumers set ever-higher standards for beauty brands when it comes to relevance, authenticity, and transparency, companies that focus on the customer experience can meet and even exceed expectations.
By creating interactions that are individualized, responsive, and transparent, beauty brands can build relationships that are more than skin deep, earning lasting customer loyalty.