Innovations in Retail Selling

E-commerce has been steadily growing for several years, and it’s expected to hit $327 billion by the close of 2016, More brick-and-mortar-focused retailers are stepping up their online game and increasing the percentage of their sales that come from online channels, and Web-only retailers have been growing at an impressive clip, too.  Say goodbye to the traditional “omnichannel” retailing.  E-commerce and commerce aren’t viewed as separate channels by the consumer anymore. Termed “unified commerce, commerce anywhere and boundryless commerce,” things are forever more changing in the world of retail.  The buy online and pick up at the store model is dead.  The source in the store and purchase for deeply discounted prices online is dead as well.  What the future hold for beauty and personal care…?  The future’s so bright you’ll have to wear shades; virtual reality shades, that is!

While waiting the 3-5 years it will take for this technology to launch on a mass scale augmented reality and limited virtual reality is just what beauty consumers have been craving for decades.  For instance, at Sephora an augmented reality Pocket Contour experience allows users to learn the techniques of contouring specifically for their face shape, as well as experiment with the help of arrows and dots. A mobile app feature allows users to scan various items inside stores for additional AR (augmented reality) content. That then rolled into the Play! by Sephora subscription service, allows users to glean AR content from the accompanying brochures.  Sephora Virtual Artist allows users to try more than 3,000 shades of lipstick and roughly 100 types of false eyelashes through live video rather than an uploaded photo. Sephora has found users might experiment with 50 different lipsticks during a session — something they’d never do in a store. So far, shoppers have tried more than 75 million lip shades. No doubt, everyone involved is loving the new opportunity to explore.

No matter the timing or the scope of the purchase, the new retail consumer in some way engages with social media before making a final decision. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building social connections. Retailers need to choose the right channel based on their customers. Whether that’s Snapchat or Instagram, YouTube or Facebook depends on the shoppers that retailers are targeting. Getting it right will foster transparency and a sense of authenticity; getting is wrong will result in lackluster returns.

As millennials become more and more financially well off the blue chip retailers getting it wrong simply won’t be able to stay in the game.  While millennials seem like they are all entertainment with very little emphasis put on purchasing, this couldn’t be further than the truth. Millennials give a new meaning to word of mouth referral sales—and, they are fiercely loyal to a brand once they are convinced that the company is truly engaged in best practices for the environment and to its employees in a consistent and meaningful way.

Like most new retail technologies, deploying AR/VR for technology’s sake is not a strategy. The application can and should be used to solve a consumer’s problems; it should naturally extend the brand’s connection to the consumer.  Additionally, retailers should be warned to resist jumping into a connected store or proprietary technology that is half baked.  If it isn’t a significant benefit to the consumer’s experience or to their purchase, poof…the consumer will vanish.  However, for all of those, like this industry expert who lived through skin scanners, slide bar skin care quizzes and dos technology to figure out both our wants and needs; please, please bring on the technology!

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