I was greeted by a giant bunny with foot-long ears. He was in white and gold.
He casually ushered me into a MAC store, Berlin, where I found a slighter giant in all black from tips to lips with slicked back blond hair.
Between them they hit that rare yet nuanced store attendant spot: helpful without hovering. Could this be the experience inspiring beauty lovers who itched for MACs Kenyan arrival? Just barely.
Conversations with women across town have the same undertone. It is frustrating. Beauty retail stores generally have a high profit margin, are located in places where women are already expected to spend and attract high end consumers. Women do not lean over counters, point and take home products like mum did.
Instead, beauty shopping is an adventure. What does this colour do? Where does that door lead? It goes beyond the pretty well made-up shop girl. Beauty is about experience. Not even about walking in to buy what you want. Women browse, meandering, hoping, waiting for something magical. Beauty retail is disruptive business.
Little things add up in a shopping basket. Clients love the relationships they have not just with the products, but also the store. Locally, it is a passive market. Thank beauty testers now exist. But, women still want to engage with their perfume, foundation, skin care products, creams and lotions. This is where the subject of samples came up.
Our stores don’t share these pretty little packages that can sometimes fund an entire slay queens’ first quarter. Women don’t just want to buy because it’s there. They want to buy it because it’s theirs. On that note, loyalty programmes do go a long way even if I will never cash in my Smart Points.
The very layout of beauty stores is enticing, visually attractive. Except, how does it feel to walk into and is it designed to keep you coming back? Beauty lovers crave excitement, entertainment, adventure and yes, selfies. Stores ought to have this constant hum or buzz. Beauty stores invite us in not just because we follow them on their social media, but by introducing us to the latest products and allowing us to share this experience as a community.
Entering a beauty store should make a grown woman rapt like a kid at a toy section. Kenyan consumers may be fresh to all this beauty possibility but this should be seen as an opportunity. Granted, not everyone will shop with a smartphone in hand ready to hit Amazon reviews and Google for insights before arriving at the store.
I may always buy what I know but even I, like other consumers, yearn to be enthralled not just by my own beauty, but by the experience at the stores. And why not. Beauty is much intended to be tactile.
Beauty stores offer spectacular brands. Clinique, MAC, Chanel, Black Up, Black Opal; a selection so delicious I almost forget Fenty Beauty - almost. Wonderlands of fragrance and gorgeousness. Except, where is the love? The throne to sit on as I sip a glass of water or sniff coffee beans to cleanse my palette because someone saw me walk in and said, “I think Decadence by Marc Jacobs is perfect for you,” and when I ask why, they articulate. She woos me with a 7 day sample and in 4 days I make a mad dash back.
Experiential beauty retail carries significance when you keep in mind beauty is now leaning hard towards women of colour with a range of products for a segment with quite the say. Besides, this thing technology connects consumer and product. A strong digital presence reaffirms a brand sending women to stores to touch and feel or shop.
This is why Sephora is so legendary. From Sephora Studio where digital makeovers are recorded and saved on email for future reference, touchscreens to precisely match lipstick, foundation and concealer shades and 2015s Beauty T.I.P - (Teach, Inspire, Play).
Clients come in to literally T.I.P, or book premium services by reservation. Beauty classes with professionals. Some things I cannot begin to understand but involve Snapchat in France, an Innovation Lab – to groom people – and oh yes, shopping app. It explains their 2,000 plus but who’s counting stores globally. A large part of their success is they are light on their feet and observant. The result: a Sephora community.
Beauty retail is in fact so competitive that Sephora is only scratching the strategic surface. Plenty of stores and brands circle. And ours is a soon to be Sh6.6 billion local industry. Yes. That much. Malls like Yaya, The Junction, Two Rivers and Garden City have magnificent stock, striking set ups and amazing products. But, what do the clients say about their experience? Can anybody hear me?