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Véronique Le Bansais
Focus | 9 mai

The free spirits of cosmetics: a lesson in marketing
Things you must remember from alternative cosmetic brands’ customer experience.

 © DR
Unlike world-known brands such as Dior, Chanel, Clarins or Clinique, so-called “alternative” brands target a narrower audience and are positioned as free spirits, breaking away from globalized marketing strategies to take a more authentic stand.
Long considered as trivial, alternative brands are gaining ground, some even make the biggest turnover at some department stores. Success stories include Jo Malone, Dyptique, Aesop, By Kilian, Frédéric Malle to name a few. Besides the undeniable creativity of their offer, what lessons can we learn from these brands in terms of retail experience?
First of all, their points of sale have a ‘story’ to tell, embodied in the space, to enhance the purchasing experience. Acqua di Parma invites customers to a sunny and refined Italian retreat; Jo Malone revisits the country house with a quintessentially British touch; Frédéric Malle rethinks the publishing house; Byredo provides a luxurious Scandinavian getaway; Dyptique stages a chic bazaar to tell a story about its fragrances.
 © DR
Although major brands sometimes have a story to tell, alternative brands apply their narrative to every lever of the customer experience with a lot of consistency, starting with architecture.
Two trends can be distinguished:

 Brands which “speak from the heart” and choose to build a strong ambiance and atmosphere: Acqua di Parma, Dyptique or Jo Malone, for instance
 Brands that are more “intellectual” and which share their philosophy and expertise through a clean and graphic architecture, Aesop and Byredo: “We are convinced that a well-thought design can enrich our lives” (Aesop).
In both cases, their architectural concepts are highly proprietary through codes that are unique, recognizable and easily replicable across different retail environments (particularly department stores) to convey the brand’s retail story.
Alternative brands also show consistency in the way they organize space and display their offer. Atmosphere-driven brands play on closeness and conviviality through a space organization that favors free circulation and comfort:

 The store furniture is welcoming. Instead of products, Jo Malone chooses to arrange white towels on its ‘Beauty Bar’ to invite customers to a hand massage
 A generous and accessible product display: horizontal displays to stimulate testing, high product density to convey generosity, visual merchandising to create an ‘art de vivre’, staging of the gift box
 © DR
Graphic-driven brands make choices that are equally consistent with their message:

 Their space organization emphasizes verticality, sometimes in a quite artistic way: there is no invitation to try, only an invitation to see and get inspired
 Product staging plays with alignment, symmetry, repetition and rhythm, to express a message about order and control
 Storytelling is discreetly expressed through materials and perfection of details
 A rather static client journey relying exclusively on a relationship with an expert-adviser dedicated to well-being
Last, what would the experience be like if customer experience was not designed in full consistency with the retail story?
Again, the staff’s uniform, attitude, language, gesture and proposed services are elements that strongly sign the selling ceremony. For instance, sales associates at Frédéric Malle use a very rich vocabulary that could be worthy of literary critiques while Jo Malone chooses to share a sensory moment with customers around its discovery tables.
Acqua di Parma’s uniform, inspired by the traditional Italian suit, reinforces the staff’s speech about the Dolce Vita, while Aesop’s advisors, equipped with a black apron, tell a story about the alchemy of ingredients around an iconic sink.
 © DR
As too many marketing initiatives tend to blur messages and prevent brand differentiation, alternative brands are teaching the industry a lesson in terms of commitment and consistency, from space conception to customer relationship.
Véronique Le Bansais
Partner MADnetwork
Véronique Le Bansais est Partner chez MADnetwork, en charge du pôle cosmétique. Elle accompagne également des maisons horlogères et joaillières à imaginer leur concept boutique de demain, associant le rêve et à une efficacité commerciale redoutable.

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Crédits photo : PLURIS, DR
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