For Adeline Çabale, there is no time to lose: the world of beauty must transform its approach to retail as soon as possible to meet the new consumer expectations. For this former L’Occitane executive, co-founder of the consulting agency the Retail Factory: "Brands and perfume and cosmetic retail stores are lucky there are not too challenged for the moment by pure internet players, at least in Europe. But, all of them are conscious that the world is undergoing huge changes and that the game play could be very quickly upset."
The North American market was thoroughly upset by the emergence of new brands leveraging on the internet and social networks to develop their notoriety and sales: by building their reputation thanks to the support of influencers and Hollywood stars, like Anastasia Beverly Hills, by imagining a community co-creation model, like Glossier, or by building a personality-driven multi-millionaire pure player business model, like Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian, with no physical store (or almost), or by reinventing beauty consumption habits through membership subscriptions, like Beauty Pie. Makeup was the first category impacted, but currently there are now a number of personal care or perfume brands who managed to successfully develop, for a majority of them, digital models.
If in retrospect, we can also note that online success can be just as dazzling as it is ephemeral, it cannot be denied that these players have destabilize the balance established and imposed some adjustments to the entire industry. "The most established brands are fully aware of the challenge and are looking to take the lead," highlighted Adeline Çabale. "Much of our work is to accompany them on this path."
Retail Factory organizes both training courses around the transformation of retail, and retail tours in France and abroad to help its customers "rethink their POS via an in-store experience and the expertise of sales assistants".
For Adeline Çabale, beauty retail is undergoing major changes around a number of sometimes contradictory trends. "The most important and most obvious one being the Green/Clean trend," she explained. "In the United States, this involves the development of clean beauty multi-brands like Detox Market, Credo Beauty or Beautycounter." Beyond ingredients, the eco-responsible trend extends to the packaging sector and to the entire purchasing experience area, including outlets. "Patagonia, which has long stood as a marginal forerunner, is becoming an example to follow whatever the sector."
Without being incompatible with the desire for naturalness, the other big trend of the moment is, according to the President of Retail Factory, uninhibited luxury. "People are looking for a casual and intimate relationship to luxury, as can be experienced at Chanel’s New York Atelier Beauté in Soho, with its very instagrammable architecture, its scent room to perform blind perfume tests, its digital application that eases the retail experience and where the sales assistant becomes an expert and a prescriber. The act of purchase becomes a mere formality, it is the customer’s brand experience that will become paramount".
More generally, Adeline Çabale also notes an overall rise of the frictionless trend. "This is obvious at Glossier and its showroom boutique where no stock is visible. Once the payment is made, products arrive on an automated wall, in a personalized bag, with the first name of the buyer on it, as if it were common practice." From this point of view, French and European brands and retailers still seem to be lagging far behind in terms omnichannel issues. "The click & collect is indeed operational, but retailers did not seize the opportunity to propose complementary sales; and the back and forth between online and physical locations is not always fluid." Players have really become aware of the issues but still face budget problems to complete the synchronization of their online and offline information systems. "The most advanced country in the area is undoubtedly China, where - almost - every purchase is done with a smartphone. With the United States not far behind."
Finally, in the longer term, vocal trade should really be "the trend to follow", according to Adeline Çabale. "Shopping with your voice is very intuitive and natural. Voice speakers are more and more present in American homes, there is still a lot to be done in terms of technology, but it’s certainly a future trend... and a new emerging distribution channel." And again, the brands who will know how to impose themselves best in the area should also be the ones changing the rules.