In a career that spans more than 40 years, her background is unique. She’s created and owned salons; created and managed brands; run education, sales, marketing and development for leading distributor and rep firms; consulted for dozens of salon companies; launched and was host of the popular American Made Beauty podcast. Now, Schmucker has taken this vast experience in the beauty business to help bring the industry together with SalonInteractive.
“SalonInteractive creates a backbone for the ultimate beauty collaboration,” Schmucker says. “All these entities come together (consumers, service professionals, salon owners, distributors, brands, software companies) and are integrated on one retail platform.”
Expanding the Playing Field
For years, salons have been competing with diverted product in big box stores and professional retail in grocery stores, drug stores, and more recently with mammoth e-commerce sites. But ultimately, the consumer wants to buy her beauty products from a trusted authority—her stylist.
“But that’s not always convenient,” Schmucker says. “Consumers can only buy from their stylists in the salon. Their most trusted authority is locked out of where the consumer is—online.”
With SalonInteractive, e-commerce is no longer cost prohibitive to build and operate, or deal with the logistics of packing and shipping. For the first time salons have a trusted solution to sell retail on their own site, elevating the relationship with their clients. It’s also solving a problem for manufacturers and distributors.
“Brands control their message when it’s delivered through SalonInteractive, and distributors are still able to help educate the salon professional,” Schmucker says. “SalonInteractive is a place for brands to bring their products to life with marketing and educational tools.”
However, getting clients through the door is just the beginning. Guests are looking for more than just a service and a bottle of shampoo—they want a personalized, authentic experience.
Creating Experience Centers
In most salons, guests can browse a retail area, smell products and maybe try a lipstick. But the time has come to reinvent salons and spas into the ultimate beauty lab where consumers can play, feel and discover personalized authentic beauty and wellness solutions.
“We need to own our authority as the consumer’s preferred beauty influencers and create better beauty experiences for the consumer, which they prefer over just buying stuff. We’re in an experience economy and through SalonInteractive industry leaders are helping professionals transform salons from service places to experience centers, making them the hub of a community where consumers go to connect.”
Schmucker refers to a quote by Simon Sinek, an author and organizational consultant, who said: “Technology has created the greatest paradox of the modern era because we are living in a world that makes it harder to connect with other humans.”
The industry leaders who are coming together through SalonInteractive have a shared vision of transforming the 200,000+ salons in the U.S. into places where real human connection takes place. As technology enters our lives, more issues of isolation are being reported. Our industry provides a natural environment for authentically human connections.
So, what does this look like? Maybe it’s a makeup bar where guests can play with eyeshadows and foundations while their hair color is processing. Don’t carry a makeup line? You don’t need to. Just supply the samples and direct clients to buy the products they are interested in through the e-commerce section of your website. With SalonInteractive, it’s possible to carry and recommend as many brands as you want.
It’s also an opportunity to retail flat irons and other tools. Guests need guidance on the right tools and brushes just as much as products. Create an experience center where they can experiment with a variety of flat irons, brushes and other styling tools, then direct guests to buy them through your site. You don’t have to stock expensive items, and they get the right tools recommended by their stylist.
Think about the way consumers live at home, then find ways to create pop-up experiences in the salon that will help the consumer visualize themselves using the tools and products in their own home.
Study high-end retailers and don’t be afraid to try some of their merchandising concepts. One example is Macy’s newest shopping concept called Story, which will bring in new merchandise every few months like a magazine changes their featured articles in each edition. With SalonInteractive the “story” in your salon can continue to evolve and explore all sorts of beauty experiences with few limits on space and budget. As the “experience economy” expands, consumers want to pay a fee to get access to service and product bundles. In the future think of annual membership for everything from beauty, food, fashion and wellness care for the whole family.
“This is the greatest opportunity in the history of our industry,” Schmucker says. “Now is the time to seize the moment and change the beauty experience for consumers so the salon isn’t just a service establishment; it’s an experience center.”
Data + Collaboration = Growth
On the business side, one of the greatest benefits to owners, brands and distributors using SalonInteractive is the data collected, which will allow them to see all the way through the supply chain.
“If a tube of mascara is sold to a number of mass retailers, the maker of that mascara knows a lot about the customer who purchased it,” Schmucker says. “We’re the only industry that can’t provide that data—until now.”
Some of the data (customer’s personal information, email addresses, etc.), remains in control of the salon and is protected by SalonInteractive, but other data is aggregated to create a better beauty experience.
“We can now understand how frequently the customer comes to the salon, what they purchase, which services they love, and more,” Schmucker says.
For salon owners, this data allows them to compare their businesses with similar salons and utilize the marketing tools SalonInteractive provides to drive business.
“For example, if a salon has a slow day, they can send out a brand-focused email to market to clients on that day, without having to create it themselves,” Schmucker says. “They can present themselves in a way that looks more elevated and set up tools to automate everything from birthday greetings to new service suggestions based on their history.”
“The concept of shared information and using data to drive business decisions and consumer insight can be scary for service providers, distributors and brands,” Schmucker says. “If the professional beauty industry is going to optimize the innate relationship we have in the real world with the consumers who now live and play in the digital world, we need to be willing to step into the greatest collaboration in the history of our industry. This will require data and the acceptance that professional brands must play in every channel of sales where consumers shop.”
The industry knows the rules of doing business have changed and, to grow and thrive, it must change too. There is a movement, enabled by SalonInteractive, to encourage all businesses—large and small—to participate as good citizens in a shared vision to help consumers live well and feel good. The professional beauty industry wins when the consumer can find a place to shop for authentic, professional beauty brands personalized from a trusted beauty authority. There is no better place to deliver on all these promises than the professional salon or spa.
At the heart of the SalonInteractive platform is the professional service provider with the authority to influence their clients which results in a beauty sale based on trust. As salons and spas take back their retail and begin to increase their profitability, they can become more effective in creating true experience centers.
As the creative forces of this industry put their collective muscles behind the vision of transforming the salon into experience centers, we also will see these hubs become incubation labs for innovation and indie brands.
“The market has changed with the unstoppable rise of independent stylists, the development of salon suites, and the expansion of professional brands into specialty retailers,” says Bertrand Fontaine, president of SalonCentric. “The old ecosystem has been disrupted. To build a strong network, to invest in new technologies will require solid players, but nothing will ever replace the one-to-one relationship between a sales representative and a stylist.
“This is where independent distributors will keep an edge,” Fontaine continues. “Some new brands are too small to cope with the size and needs of a national distributor. This is where a boutique distributor has a role to play—to build up a brand with local roots, before it goes national at a later stage.”
Schmucker believes SalonInteractive has an important role to play in uniting the various players in the industry like the United Nations of beauty. “Now, beauty professionals will become the center of their clients’ beauty experience and earn the right to be the place consumers choose to spend the bulk of their beauty dollars. This is our vision for the future.”