Insights

How Beauty Retailers Are Giving a Makeover to Brick & Mortar and Digital Shopping

Experiential in-store shopping environments, influencer-driven marketing and product lines, and educational content are driving the beauty market both in-store and online.

As brick and mortar retailers, particularly in the apparel category, have faltered for the past several quarters, the beauty industry has become a bright spot of retail, boasting impressive growth both in store and online. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to success online or in-store, a number of key players in beauty have boosted sales and engagement by embracing digital best practices through initiatives like loyalty programs and educational content (product information, swatches, reviews, tutorials, and more), and by partnering with beauty influencers and complementary brands.

One such beauty-focused retailer, Ulta, has doubled ecommerce revenue since 2013. The retailer has focused on developing a strong digital presence and robust loyalty program, which has a membership of more than 24 million and drives 90% of all sales. To supplement the loyalty program, Ulta has invested heavily in developing partnerships with beauty bloggers, YouTubers, Instagram influencers, as well as well-known beauty brands. For instance, earlier this year, Ulta launched a partnership collection with M.A.C. through an Instagram flash sale promoted by a beauty vlogger, and sold the collection online before stocking it in stores.

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The concept of partnering with and leveraging social influencers to boost engagement and sales on social channels is nothing new. Maybelline, a major US-based makeup subsidiary of French cosmetics conglomerate L’Oréal, has focused social media outreach efforts on delivering a high frequency cadence of educational posts, featuring tutorials and information from makeup artists and social media influencers, like supermodel Gigi Hadid. This summer, Maybelline launched an Influencer-driven product line this summer in partnership with beauty blogger Shayla Mitchell, who has more than 2.5 million Instagram followers. The campaign was extremely successful and the entire collection sold out within a few days. Maybelline’s approach to social media campaigns is unique due in part to the brand’s frequency of posting (on average the retailer shares 5 or more Instagram posts per day), as well as their well-structured collaborations with celebrities and influencers. Gone are the days of simply paying for a celebrity endorsement. Maybelline understands the importance of creating targeted and integrated campaigns.

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Many retailers have struggled to attract shoppers in-store, as brick and mortar sales steadily decline and more and more consumers turn to their computers and mobile devices for simple and convenient shopping from the comfort of their own homes.

Forever 21, a trend-focused, fast-fashion retailer, is banking on the beauty category’s explosive growth with their latest venture, Riley Rose, a beauty sub-brand with ambitious expansion plans. Although most Forever 21 stores offer a limited selection of beauty products, the retailer’s decision to create a separate destination for beauty is likely driven, at least partially, by the successes of beauty department stores like Ulta and Sephora.

riley rose storefront

The first Riley Rose storefront opened this fall in Los Angeles, and is designed with digital engagement and social sharing in mind. The floorplan is Instagram-friendly and Millennial-focused, with a brightly-lit, pink color scheme, and in-store associates who encourage shoppers to spend time trying products, taking photos and engaging both within the boutique environment and with the store’s online channels. Riley Rose uses social channels to share photos of products and influencers, promote special in-store pop-ups, and source new brand recommendations from shoppers. It remains to be seen how Riley Rose will fit into the broader beauty market, but the retailer has plans to open at least 9 more stores before year’s end.

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Gorilla client Tata Harper is a beauty manufacturer offering a high-performing line of natural, non-toxic luxury skincare. Tata Harper’s products are available online through their ecommerce channel as well as via select retailers, such as Sephora and Nordstrom. The skincare brand’s approach to sales and branding echoes their approach to product formulation, with a focus on the quality of ingredients and production standards. In order to encourage crossover between their online and offline shopping channels, Tata Harper promotes certain products available exclusively online to customers during in-store shopping experiences. The brand’s shoppable Instagram channel focuses on curated photos of products in use and on display, educational content about ingredients and formulations, as well as select influencer posts, such as a photo of model Chrissy Teigen with a Tata Harper product bag.

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