-

To triumph in the battle for the hearts, minds and dollars of salon customers retail purchases, we need to arm ourselves with a deep understanding of our customers digital journeys and the factors that influence their online purchases.

We can sometimes feel as though we're living in an Amazon-centric world. Not a day goes by without a story of a new innovation set to revolutionize how we buy and receive products. No matter your thoughts on Amazon, it has undoubtedly been responsible for enabling many salons to take advantage of the online customer.

Amazon commands an average of 36% of consumer online spend. That share of the digital market is now above 50% and the proliferation of smartphones have made ecommerce shopping effortless and ubiquitous.

Their dominance is only going to grow as Prime becomes even more of a mainstay in households. Prime members will continue to buy more and more through Amazon and expect increased speed and convenience. With Amazon so strong and so omni-present, how do salons compete for product sales in the Amazon age? How do you encourage a consumer not to default to Amazon for their online product purchases?

The answer is twofold: learn from what Amazon does do and implement what Amazon can't do!

STAND FOR SOMETHING

Increasingly, consumers are looking for salon brands that stand for something. The majority of millennials support and visit service and retail companies when ethics and morals played an important role in the purchasing decision. 

In an era of ease, speed, convenience, scale and profits, aligning a brand or product with a cause is something that Amazon is unable to do, and is uninterested in doing either.

There are salons and manufacturers that are great at this, and those are the ones that are authentically built on what they stand for. Lush is a good example; it provides premium products made from ethically-sourced vegetarian ingredients, as well as actively fighting against animal testing and using eco-friendly packaging.

Nike is a great case study of an established organization aligning itself with causes. Could you argue that this is simply jumping on the bandwagon, and using a difficult situation to promote a brand? Perhaps, but this campaign works for Nike because it also aligns with its mission statement which is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. The emphasis in this case being on every athlete.

BE SPECIALIST AND CURATE

Amazon's aim, right from the beginning has always been about scale, and who can argue with the vast range of goods and now services that it offers? But what if you want something specific or specialist? What if you want to know that the retailer that you're using really knows about the products it’s selling?

If you know a committed hobbyist, it's unlikely they fuel their passion with purchases from Amazon. Cyclists, for instance, use Wiggle, footballers use ProDirect, and fashionistas use Net-a-Porter. In these cases, the brands and retailers often stand for more than the products they are selling.

CREATE A COMMUNITY

Related to the point about specialism is the concept of community. What you purchase often reflects who you are as a person, your hobbies, your views, and your aspirations. These purchases can often gain you access into collective groups - in fact, the history of the fashion industry is littered with examples - mods, punks, and Harley Davidson - which represents a way of life, a culture, and a shared lifestyle?

Let's take retailer Sephora for example, which has taken this concept of community to its advantage with its Beauty Talk and Beauty Board. This forum is used by beauty enthusiasts to share ideas and communicate with other like-minded beauty product lovers. The Beauty Board allows users to upload pictures of them wearing the products, and links through to the product pages.

Salons need to emulate the best practices of retailers that create a concept of community and embrace a social cause that extends customer impact. We spend far too long thinking of new ways in which we can keep pace with Amazon. Instead, we should be thinking about how to perfect what Amazon can't do.

COMMUNICATE IN THE WAITING PHASE

When something gets to you in 24 hours or less, it's clear that there's nothing bespoke about it. It's been sitting on the shelf, in a warehouse near you, and has been quickly and efficiently picked, packaged and shipped to you.

Salons can win by elevating from a generic experience to a personalized experience. This is particularly relevant for products and services which are made bespoke, but is still applicable to those that are not. Updates and alerts help to make a consumer feel like they are valued and pro-active marketing to new and existing consumers via a mission control center, rather than just from a reactive call center.

CREATE LOYALTY BENEFITS

It's important to ask yourself the question, why would the customer deliberately choose a more difficult customer journey to purchase your products directly from the salon, when they might be able to do it at significantly less hassle to themselves through Amazon? The answer could be loyalty benefits and personalization.

This has long been held up as a chink in Amazon's armor. However, it's important to remember that while many people view Prime as a delivery service, it is increasingly being used as an effective tool, with membership, an incentive to stay, and additional benefits.

What this shows, is that in order to encourage a salon customer to take the special journey, there needs to be a reward beyond just transaction at the end of the experience. This is not something that Amazon would do.

SO, WHAT NEXT?

Creating the ecommerce experience that offers consumers a superior experience and something different to what Amazon can is now the aim. If you plan and deliver an experience which incorporates having a strong sense of what you stand for and standing for something; being the experts of the area you are in and creating products and services that feel curated for the individual; creating a sense of community that will have your customers feel that they belong to something special; and making the most of the delivery and presentation, it will set you apart.

By thinking about how your salon can be the best version of itself and giving consumers a reason to shop with you beyond the transaction, it is more likely that you will create a distinction to Amazon and any other online organization that sells beauty products. By maintaining direct relationships with your customers, and ultimately being proactive with the data, you will create a culture and brand that separates you from Amazon.  It's not what Amazon does now, it's What Amazon does not do now, but potentially will in the future.