Lionesque and MG2 imagine a connected, hygienic, convenient retail experience
by Melissa Gonzalez
Just months ago, beauty relied on high-touch sensorial environments. Consumers immersed themselves in product exploration with seemingly unlimited accessibility. Glossier was setting a new standard for energetic “open play” in bright airy spaces with merchandise set out on communal tables accompanied by open-air rooms with sinks to test skin cleaners and trial beauty regimens.
Similarly, Chanel Beaute Atelier provided one of the chicest vanity experiences. Product testing and experimentation was the top reason to visit. It, too, was anchored in product play. Whether taking a self-guided tour or consulting with a beauty expert, discovery and exploration made this destination magical.
With a raised awareness around high-touch environments, the beauty industry now is challenged to appeal to customers in new ways that responsibly tackle the “touch and feel” interaction associated with product testing. Environments will still need to inspire, educate, and give customers the confidence that they have found the perfect pigment, texture, and/or shade for them while being hygienically responsible. Augmented reality and lift and learn moments aren’t new integrations to the in-store experience, but will likely need to be more comprehensively designed into stores in the future. The challenge will be to keep stores feeling inviting and authentic while balancing digitization and human interaction.
Here is a conceptual solution.
A new look at the gondola
What if the gondola is reimagined to be a micro store immersion that blends curated merchandising and technology integration? When it merchandises an edited assortment rather than a brand’s full product line, the gondola becomes a vehicle for virtual testing, product education, a spotlight for best sellers, new product launches, or unique collaborations. Endcaps equipped with AR mirrors enable virtual play, and customers can experiment as they please. On the central core, QR codes allow customers to use their mobile device to browse through categories and products. A responsive tabletop identifies movement and enables a no-touch exploration around product details, brand story, or a guided survey. Customers can take testing a step further by requesting physical product samples or completing a mobile purchase through their phones; items are queued for pickup at the concierge station that anchors the store.
Parallel play and mood lighting
For those who want a more personalized try-on experience, private “rooms” can be booked through a digital booking system or a mobile device. Once added to the appointment system, customers can text to check on appointment wait status, to leave the line, or to request more time to browse further. At the start of the parallel play appointment, a digital lighting system allows customers to set the scene for moments they want to dress for — at work, at night, or in the sunlight. A highly skilled artist leads a side by side parallel makeup application session; the customer uses sanitized, disposable tools and the smart mirror records the interaction for later replays.
Interactive and shoppable store walls
Store walls become “larger than life” points of contactless exploration and education. Customers can immerse themselves by scanning their personal mobile device, enabling them to learn more by unlocking branded content and requesting products to physically test. Products of interest can then be scanned, opening the option to request a personalized tester or to add to a virtual shopping bag, paid for digitally, and queued for pickup or for an at-home shipment.
The entire store experience is supported by a digitized backbone, fueling efficiency in managing customer requests and fulfillment. The back of the house is notified when orders are placed via mobile payments, and packages are prepared in a streamlined back-of-house environment. With a display of the customer’s proof of purchase, items are picked up at check out.
Play won’t be lost in the next iteration of beauty as innovation continues to fuel possibilities.
Beauty has been one of the first retail categories to integrate augmented reality enough to illustrate that it can add true utility to the customer experience. With the accelerated adoption of mobile technology, a connected store experience will become more intuitive for customers. Cleanliness and hygiene will be a key priority for both brands and consumers, but the emotional experience of discovery will still shine through.
For more on how this segment is coping with the ramifications of the pandemic, listen to the Shop! podcast Defining the Next Normal: Cosmetics Industry.