Online-only DTC brands experimenting with pop-up shops as a prelude to opening permanent brick-and-mortar stores is a common occurrence these days. A common downside of online-only brands is that customers don’t get the chance to try any of the products out before buying. But how does a brand give customers the same in-person experience when the product is underwear?
Thinx, the period underwear brand known for its bluntness when talking about menstruation, is the latest online brand to open a physical pop-up shop. The focus of the store, which opened this week in NYC’s Soho and will run for two months, is to give customers an up-close look at the brand’s underwear.
I asked Thinx’s chief brand officer Siobhán Lonergan how they plan to give customers a hands-on experience with something they can’t really try or use until they buy it. She said that rather than offering a try-on experience, the pop-up is focusing on educating the customers and helping them build a personalized set of products.
“This pop-up is built around the idea of ‘Redesign your Period,’ where we invite customers to build a cycle set of Thinx products that match their individual period needs as everyone’s period is different. We also have specialists from Thinx on hand to help answer questions and provide period advice. We have our entire range of sample sizes and styles available to browse, as well as sizing charts to help customers choose the perfect size.”
When you have a product that can’t really be tried before it’s purchased, education and guidance may be the next best thing. –Danny Parisi
Holiday shopping by text
Shoppers are willing to pay for convenience, especially during the holidays.
Last week, Jetblack -- the invitation-only, text-based shopping service launched by Walmart’s retail incubator, Store No. 8, in May -- saw a record week for unit sales. Kathryn Winokur, head of marketing, said the company expects to top that number this week.
Gift recommendations are made by a concierge about 20 minutes after members, who pay $600 per year, fill out a six-question gifting survey over text. They state their budget and deadline for the gift, their relationship to the giftee, and the giftee’s sex and interests. According to Winokur, who declined to share the company’s sales figures, Jetblack has maintained an 80 percent recommendation-to-conversion rate.
When members know exactly what they want, they make an item request by texting a screenshot of a specific item or even a full cart of items from a retailer. Winokur said the latter is becoming more popular, as members are learning to take full advantages of Jetblack’s services: Along with faster shipping than most retailers, it offers free gift wrapping and the delivery of items on a choice date, even weeks down the line.
“The omnichannel approach to shopping is definitely happening,” said Winokur. “Shoppers see something, wherever that may be -- there’s a discovery stage -- and then they’re getting it online or, if they’re a member of ours, by text message.” –Jill Manoff
Apple, Google and Amazon are courting the beauty industry
Beauty brands like L'Oreal have been investing and making acquisitions in the tech sector, and now big tech companies Apple, Google and Amazon are increasingly courting the beauty industry.
Over the past several weeks, there has been a bevy of announcements from beauty brands about some partnership involving one of the aforementioned tech companies. First, there was Sephora announcing in November that it is now selling Google Home Hub devices in-store and online, followed soon after by L'Oreal and La Roche-Posay saying the My Skin Track UV product could be purchased on Apple's website and in select stores. Earlier this week, iHome announced an Amazon Alexa-enabled vanity mirror, and today, Coty announced Clairol has joined the voice assistant group, working with Google. Coty also previously launched “Let’s Get Ready,” a visual skill designed specifically for Echo Show, Amazon’s first Echo device with a screen, in January.
Considering the number of partnerships involving voice-assisted technology, the reason these tech companies are courting beauty brands is fairly straightforward. The war to dominate the voice-assistant market between these three companies is ongoing, and beauty brands are being showcased front-and-center as a value-add for consumers who choose one tech company's assistant over another.
The interest in voice assistants from the beauty and tech industry is mutual. Fred Gerantabee, Coty's VP of digital innovation, is particularly bullish on voice assistants.
"In my opinion, [voice assistants] are one of the most important frontiers for beauty as these devices live in a very personal space with consumers," he said. "Service is the new product, and consumers expect value way beyond the box. Brands taking that seriously will see more success and differentiate themselves, which not only leads to more customer acquisition, but also long-term brand loyalty,"
Beauty consumers are some of the most socially engaged and technically savvy, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of beauty communities on tech and social platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Reddit. For example, in June, Instagram said it has roughly 200 million beauty fans on Instagram worldwide and that over 25 percent of its Instagram community follows a makeup account. I recently wrote how Reddit's own beauty community saw 33 million collective page views per month. So in many ways, it makes sense to court this large group of consumers. –Emma Sandler