In a WWD-produced webinar, “Fielding Beauty Trends,” Sonia Summers, founder and chief executive officer of Beauty Barrage, joined WWD executive editor Arthur Zaczkiewicz in discussing how beauty brands and retailers can emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever using every channel to embrace consumers, and taking clienteling online.
In a nod to a call, particularly in the beauty industry, for companies to pull up or shut up, Summers began the conversation with her own company’s statistics sharing that Beauty Barrage is 100 percent minority female-owned and operated with an employee base of 96 percent female and 80 percent minority employees.
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Like many companies, Beauty Barrage was faced with a need to pivot in the wake of COVID-19. While e-commerce has shown increased sales in recent weeks, it is still not enough to offset an overall decline in retail during the pandemic.
“Brands who don’t market and promote their service in crises are usually not the ones who win, so you want to be a brand that is actually winning during this time,” said Summers. “An interesting status is that live chat is the leading digital content method now.”
The company’s research found that 63 percent of customers are more likely to return to a web site that offers live chat. Still, according to Summers, only 35 percent of marketers are using live chat and 40 percent are looking at increases in their revenue when it comes to live chat.
“It’s an important vehicle to be able to look at, and what I think is even more critical is using your experts to do the live chat,” said Summers. “Livestreaming has also gone up. In March, there was a 526 percent sales increase from livestreaming.”
Livestreaming, Summers says, is the next opportunity for brands and retailers looking to reset and pivot to sharing consumer trends online with existing teams.
“For Beauty Barrage, the silver lining is that we’ve trained over 300 of our brand ambassadors on social media and clienteling,” said Summers. “And we were always looking at what [how] to really modernize in the field today. And that’s the difference also with our team. They’ve had a lot of social media training, they know how to do these videos, they know how to really build content, user-generated content, [and] tag the brands so that their customers and clients can learn from them.”
Put simply, even at a time when retail lives online, interacting with the customer at the center is more than a transaction, but a relationship with the brand. Important to note is that education is key for the consumer who looks to a brand’s expertise to engage with a brand and discover new products.
“It’s a problem-solution experience,” said Summers. “We have to get all of the information; we have to talk to the client. [We have to ask] what’s worked for you, what hasn’t worked for you? What’s your skin tone, what isn’t? We have to deduct and figure out what is the best option for the customer. And a smile goes a long way. Everybody knows that the human touch isn’t going away. But today while we’re in this, [live digital interaction] is the easiest way to bring it to them.”
The changing in-store experience also means a need to pivot how ambassadors or associates interact with consumers when they do come in to purchase. What is the customer’s beauty experience now?
Samples, said Summers, are the new testers.
“We want to feel as normal as possible going out there,” said Summers. “It’s really critical for you to create a new demo and be able to experience the brand. We created sanitation guidelines and demo guidelines and it’s pretty much ‘watch what I do.’ You’ve got the person in front of you, you’re showing them the products, they’ve got their samples, and then you’re [teaching]. [It’s] even better engagement than if you didn’t do it that way before. They’re going to go home, and they’re going to remember how to apply and [there’s] less chance of returns.”
From Summers’ perspective, brands can emerge stronger in the long term. “If you’re starting to pivot, make sure that you are tending to all of these different opportunities,” said Summers. “Not only is the in-store piece important, make sure that you’re going to continue to hold video streaming. Get your experts to answer that these people are gone all the education on your brand. They understand customer service work better than anybody else.”
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