The beauty of community-led experiences

Foreword: At Impact Retail, the beauty industry is kind of our bread-and-butter. Since our inception back in ’94, we’ve been steadily creating and innovating for a sector which has changed considerably over the years. We’ve been witness to a significant shift in the balance of power, with newcomer beauty brands rising to burgeoning empires and bringing fresh approaches to pricing, scientific development, and retail experiences. In response, the bigger brands are rising to this bait, curating strategies which hope to retain their dominance in the marketplace.

From our perspective, it is one of the most innovative and dynamic sectors and throughout our latest Retail Forecast series, we’ll be discussing the latest motivations and innovations affecting the future of beauty retail.

No1: Community-Led Experiences

After several challenging years (we might start referring to the pandemic as the “P” word), beauty brands have been bouncing back – and they are better than ever. Undoubtedly, the most successful are those facilitating relationships with die-hard beauty fans and inspiring communities of like-minded individuals. In fact, if we could pick any ‘trend’ to be the ultimate in beauty retail, it would be the concept of community. We highlight trend in inverted commas, because community-driven retail is no longer a buzzword, but an authentic strategy in building relationships with consumers and moving away from traditional sales models.

And can we discuss the concept of community-led beauty without referencing Glossier? Certainly not. They are a clear example of how fostering communities can pave the way to success for modern beauty and skincare brands. And we’re not simply talking about communities of celebrities and influencers, paid to advocate for the products via social media. In fact, Glossier offer quite the opposite. Complimenting the 2019 study which said that “recommendations of friends, family and peers are influential because they are based on trust”, Glossier invest in content from motivated customers and close confidants. Not only that, but they quite openly offer regular chances to co-create with them, asking passionate beauty fans to tell the brand what products are needed on the market. There might be no greater way to bring together a community of superfans than by opening opportunities for the consumer to co-create an item which will appear on shelves.

But while Glossier may have been born on the internet, their community-led success is not limited to e-comm and social commerce. They also centre their physical spaces around the idea of community. In a move very similar to Aesop (see our Retail Forecast discussing Aesop’s architectural localisation here), the Glossier stores are reflective of both the locale and the local community. They are in fact, a hub, buzzing with the excitement of shoppers seeking a make-up bag top-up, or their next skincare saviour.

As Kleo Mack, Glossier’s CMO, states: “We like to say that, if Glossier were a person, our NYC store would be their home. It’s about connection and community, and our products are about emotion and feeling. We’re tying in a lot of what is unique about Glossier.”

Sure, their retail spaces are awash with millennial pink and highly instagrammable moments, but it’s not simply the aesthetics which are drawing us in. It is the opportunity to bump shoulders with a fellow beauty addict and chat with a Glossier representative about how their cleansing jelly or SPF might be the perfect addition to our routines. It’s also a sense of belonging, of being unafraid to test and trial products while surrounded by fellow beauty hunters.

And this sense of belonging to a community is by no means limited to Glossier. Superdrug, one of the most prominent beauty retailers on the high-street, have had enviable success with the community-led beauty model. Community.Superdrug is an online beauty hub, complete with contests, ‘’shelfies’, insight into product launches and community creations. Superdrug also respond to thousands of shopper questions every month, generating a buzz around key beauty trends and helping shoppers convert.

However, the introduction of their online beauty hub has not deterred the retailer from continually launching products and experiences in-store. In fact, as a definitive link between the online and in-store experience, Superdrug launched their “Store Insider” service which can link an online shopper with an in-store expert. Rather than wait for a response within the community platform, users can be directly connected with an in-store Superdrug ambassador to ask questions or be advised on products or beauty services.

Simply put, Superdrug are successfully capitalising on the success of integrated communities and allowing beauty consumers to feel as if they are, themselves, in the beauty industry.

When assessing the economy, brands and retailers could be forgiven for feeling that social commerce is the future of retail. They can target beauty enthusiasts as they scroll social media and encourage a purchase with simply a few taps. But in a sector whereby tactility is of the utmost importance (we cover this next in our series), the role of the store is far from obsolete. These physical locations are an extension of a brand’s online community, transforming transactional touchpoints into moments of belonging, togetherness, and community.

Overall, our prediction is that as beauty consumers become more selective with their purchases, they will value the sense of community at the heart of physical retail strategies. And this method of inspiring a consumer collective will ultimately drive purchases for brands.

No2: The Power of Tactility will be released next week….

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