Fifty shades of pink

Does the world really need another beauty store?

My go-to coffee shop in New York City recently relocated. I was pretty miffed by this event, as it disturbed my daily routine and caffeine boost. I was curious and eager to see what would pop up next in this prime retail space.

After five months of waiting, a beauty retailer arose from the ashes. At first I thought, “Just what the world needs, another beauty store.” Especially with five Sephora’s within a half-mile radius. This new shop, NYX, displays bucket loads of black and white packaging, punchy graphics, brash pops of color. It even mirrors, in some ways, the recognized visual world of Sephora.

Pops of colour from NYX. Source: L’oréal

So why the hell do I care? Well, like it or not, every now and then I find myself in one of these types of stores, making an unplanned purchase. As a creative thinker (and impulsive shopper), I wondered what would be special about this flagship store’s proposition. It got me thinking about some of the most impressive retail experiences I’d seen, and what it takes to breakthrough in an already saturated category.

To create something successful and revolutionary in any category, you need to think about more than just the product and package design. If you can attract new consumers by establishing an emotional connection, you can elevate product sales while pushing the boundaries. Retailers, supermarkets and pharmacies should all be looking to curate better, more relevant, and immersive beauty ventures.

Some of my most engaging retail encounters have inspired unforeseen purchases and threatened my loyalty to other category leading brands. I was taken in by beauty store Le Labo and how they create authentic moments through personalization and craft. Professional, eloquent experts are on hand to help customers shop and even create their own personal fragrance. Everything in the store is made to order, directly in front of you, with only the highest quality ingredients. The entire process creates an emotional desire that entices customers to invest in the high-priced products. Last time I was in Le Labo, I seriously contemplated a hideously expensive after-shave that I would never normally have considered – but in that environment, the brand’s story had a huge influence on my potential purchase decision.

Freshly hand-blended fragrance. Source: Le Labo

Outside the world of beauty, many brands have created pioneering experiences to expand their target audience and break through saturated markets. For example, take our branding for The Breakfast Club in the UK. From choosing the right shade of egg-yolk yellow for the cafe’s exterior, to sending out opening invitations printed on toast, every aspect of the brand’s design was pieced together to tell an authentic story about breakfast and 80s nostalgia. The result was an effective brand experience that is so appealing; it has customers queuing around the corner every day.

Back over in NYC, I’ve seen air freshener brand Glade flex its creative muscles and present its products as art in a multi-sensory pop-up experience. Attendees were invited into multiple environments that brought to life the candle’s scent experience. One of the rooms represented the ‘Clean Linen’ scent with a child’s bedroom scene, complete with bubble machine, clouds, and the sound of children laughing.

The ‘fresh’ room by Glade. Credit: Bob Coscarellis

While Capital One have made a standard ATM visit a vastly different experience at their flagship at Union Square. Upon entering the bank, customers are greeted with a dramatic LED ATM wall and warm aromas from Peet's Coffee shop. In addition, there’s plenty of space for meetings or lounging, where visitors can enjoy free Wi-Fi and re-charge their devices. The second floor has additional meeting spaces and tellers with iPads who greet customers face-to-face for transactions, instead of hiding behind the standard bulletproof glass. There are also private rooms for consulting and even a classroom for courses that educate customers on topics like mortgage financing.

Then there’s Samsung, who have taken things a step further by putting brand experience before the product. Their truly groundbreaking flagship store Samsung 837, or ‘Cultural Hub’, is like nothing else on the market. There isn’t a single item stocked on the shelves – it sells products solely through experience. The store features full TV walls with personal social media feeds and selfies being posted in real-time, a connected living room that demonstrates how a smart home works, and a full kitchen that is available for cooking demonstrations and classes. Before visiting the store, I had no real interest in the Samsung brand, as my loyalties lie with other (un-named) tech brands. However, the totally immersive and unique retail environment changed my opinion. With the right experience, brands can take people like myself where they never thought they would go.

Me and the guys experiencing a virtual reality rollercoaster at Samsung 837.

Circling back to my tragic coffee shop loss and the ultimate question… Does the world really need another beauty store? The answer is yes, but only if the beauty store can be immersive and meaningful. As a male who doesn’t often purchase upscale beauty products, I want something relevant to me. How cool would it be if, similar to my visit to the Samsung store, I entered this new beauty retailer and had a memorable and experiential encounter? What if, through a seemingly standard store visit, an emotional brand connection emerged that altered my personal brand loyalty and purchasing behavior in a somewhat alien sector? Now that would make another beauty store very worthwhile.

At the end of the day, whether we’re discussing beauty, technology, home goods or sporting equipment, it’s not simply the product or package design that will drive success. It’s the totality of the experience that matters.


As featured by Beauty Packaging

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