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In the winner-takes-all conversations around beauty, much has changed including what a winner looks like in the midst of a pandemic. Fortunately for Sally Beauty, it had embarked on a digital-centric strategy before Covid-19 became an industry-rocking crisis.

“We had a pretty extensive brand relaunch that we were in the throes of. It was about modernizing the brand, showcasing to consumers that we will deliver the confidence they needed to DIY at home. The strategy honestly has not changed, because that’s become even more important during the pandemic,” said Sally Beauty group vice president of marketing Carolyne Guss on the Glossy Beauty Podcast.

Online sales for Sally Beauty Holdings were up 250% in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020, compared to the prior year.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation with Guss, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

The state of play before the pandemic
“Starting in January, we had a pretty extensive brand relaunch that we were in the throes of. The tagline was all around ‘unleash your protential.’ And really, it was about modernizing the brand, showcasing to consumers that we will deliver the confidence they needed to DIY at home. The strategy honestly has not changed, because that’s become even more important during the pandemic. But we were doing TV and out-of-home advertising, and making a big media investment. Some of that obviously changed with what was happening with Covid. And the other thing is, we were embarking on a digital transformation. So we were making updates to our app — we had just launched ColorView, which is AI technology, so that you can pick your pick your favorite [hair color and makeup] shades, and see how they look on you before you buy them. So we had a lot of things in the works that we had just started when the pandemic hit. What we had to do was be nimble. So on the store side and the consumer side, it was, ‘How do we meet customers the way they need to shop?’ We were prepared, but we also accelerated a bunch of things from a digital and omnichannel perspective. We launched ship-from-store, so that you can get your product and get the assortment faster. We launched BOPIS [buy-online, pick-up in-store] recently, so in case you don’t want to go into the store, you have that option.”

Social media as an education vehicle
“For salon pros, we had to focus more on digital education. We offered online [continuing education] credits and partnered with some of our brands to make sure we could bring the salon pros the education they needed online. I will say that social media has been a tremendous resource and one that we focused even more on in the pandemic. Whether it’s the salon pro or the consumer, she’s been very focused on trying to get education and expertise online — particularly through social, but [also on] a variety of channels. Podcasts have really exploded, and that’s why we launched a podcast recently. Obviously Instagram is key. Others are embracing TikTok much more than before, which is another channel that we branched into.”

The multicultural consumer
“We’ve been very conscious about making [our merchandising] a priority for women and Black-owned brands, in particular. That was one of the things that we did with launching our ‘Cultivate Program’ three years ago. It’s an accelerator program for us to work with female-founded brands. We launched it again this year and got tremendous interest in the program from a number of different emerging brands. A number of them were in the textured hair space, because we found that it’s been such an underserved category.”