... an exploration of mobile trends in luxury retail

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la mobile beauté contre

In digital luxury, luxury mobile on November 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm

“The most beautiful make-up on a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy.” –Yves Saint Laurent

In a September 7th Wall Street Journal article, “Estée Lauder’s Counter Makeover,” an investigation into the venerable beauty brand’s revised department store strategy reveals a significant shift in in-store shopper engagement that directly correlates with the on-going (r)evolution in Luxury retail from a traditional B2C model, complete with hidden price tags, aggressive consultants, and out of reach glass cases, to a revised C2B retail paradigm, where shoppers are armed with previously inconceivable access to information, opinions, and accessibility to brands than ever before:

Walking through Clinique’s new counter in Bloomingdale’s New York flagship, Lynne Greene, president of Estée Lauder’s Clinique, Origins and Ojon brands, demonstrated the new ways women can now shop for the brand’s cosmetics: An express line for consumers who already know what they want, areas to browse on their own, and seats for those who want a full consultation.

As more beauty brands begin to follow suit, offering store shoppers far greater flexibility and far less pressure in terms of how they engage with the brand, the mobile channel is posed to serve as an augmentative medium to further enhance the in-store experience.  As I have preached ad nauseum in prior posts, those brands that view mobile as simply a scaled down one to one extension of their e-commerce presence on the small screen are severely limiting the capabilities of their mobile strategy and further exposing the inherent disconnect between the online and in-store customer experience, which is at the core of Luxury retail’s oft-maligned reluctance to engage the online channel:

The historical hesitance among many Luxury brands to delve into the realm of e-commerce and, more importantly, where the medium has fallen short for brands is most obviously evidenced in its inherent disconnectedness from the essence of the luxury experience – the exclusivity and uniqueness of the brand and the tactile, sensual in-boutique experience.  E-commerce, by its very nature and definition is all-inclusive – a world wide web of accessibility to brands that heretofore were accessible to only a select few.

Mobile, as a medium and an “always-on” channel, has the unique ability to serve as a galvanizing force behind multi-channel unification, uniting online, boutique, and catalog channels in a highly targeted and personally relevant manner through a device that is always within arms reach.  Given the example of Estée Lauder’s revised counter strategy that puts more control in the hands of shoppers and engages them on their own terms, how can mobile solutions offer extended functional capabilities designed to enhance the shopper in-store experience and provide a deep level of engagement with the brand’s legions of loyalists – while increasing brand loyalty among those shoppers who typically choose from a wide portfolio of beauty brands – by providing a differentiated, utility-driven mobile experience in the store?

John Demsey, group president of several Estée Lauder brands, unknowingly, but effectively articulates the need for this type of solution:

“People today are looking for real know-how, but they want to be served in the way they choose.”

Conceive for a moment a mobile application construct that serves as a “Mobile Beauty Counter,” combining information, utility, education, consultation, social shopping, and location awareness all within the palm of your hand:

The “Mobile Beauty Counter” provides a complete view of the brand’s product catalog, complete with rich displays and enhanced navigational capabilities, allowing shoppers to access descriptions of product and, in the case of Estée Lauder, access customer reviews that provide transparent consumer insights in the store to provide additional levels of confidence in considered purchases.  Tapping into the immense power of a global bazaar, where word of mouth about the quality of product is given additional relevance by allowing shoppers to sort consumer-generated content based on attributes or applications of product important to them, such sort by usage by “skin type” or “skin tone,” creates an immensely powerful and influential application of mobile as a research mechanism.

Integration of video tutorials on device allows shoppers who wish to forego the time- intensive in-chair consultation with a beauty consultant to access branded tips and tricks usage of application videos that educate them on how best to use the product while standing near the display counter.  The incorporation of shopper “wish lists,” that allow shoppers to add selected items to their “Mobile Beauty Counter” for fully-integrated social sharing on Facebook and Twitter to consult with beauty experts within their social network, wraps a tremendously-influential element of social shopping to the solution and provides shoppers with the ability to glean expertise and experiences from their social networks to positively influence purchase behavior. Lastly, support for GPS or cell tower triangulation for location determination and store location functions can serve as a powerful driver of traffic into stores and support for click to call functionality allows shoppers to contact stores in their vicinity immediately to check inventory availability and arrange for in-store pick-up at the shopper’s convenience.

As Luxury beauty brands continue to formulate comprehensive mobile strategies, a targeted focus on application utility, speed, and simplicity – leveraging the ubiquitous mobile web platform and its efficiencies as an “always on” delivery medium – can and will yield a significantly enhanced in-store shopper experience that serves to increase brand loyalty among the brand’s legion of loyalists and those peripheral shoppers searching for brands who actively seek to engage them on their own terms.

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