Wednesday, 08 January 2014 12:11

Everything Retail How to Plan, Buy & Market

Written by   Bella Schneider, P.M.E

When it comes to buying products, think strategically. I bring a new product onboard when I find a hole in my arsenal or when I need particular ingredients to deliver the results for which my clients are looking. My choices are often driven by client or technician request. It is important to maintain a product inventory that works synergistically. Start with an organized strategy, so that when bringing on new products a surplus of unnecessary items is not created. I often find that aestheticians purchase on impulse, or based on their own tastes, rather than on a coherent buying strategy for their spa. I once made the mistake of buying a line of bath and body care items because it had a beautiful look and feel.

The line was quite costly with a high markup, and the products did not upsell well. In addition, they competed with my own brand which is more profitable for my business. After a year, I phased the product out. Ultimately, it was a good business decision on my part because the following year the products were readily available in department stores and the Internet. I made the right decision to downsize my product line to core basics and will never make that mistake again! Clients love my brand of core products, so why fight it?

Distinguish Between Seasonal and Standby
There are clear categories of aesthetic products: clinically effective cosmetics, feel-good/smell-good products that are less efficacious but generate impulse sales, and body products. It is important to have the basics covered before investing in peripheral items. What are these basics? Make sure to always have staple products, including vitamins C, E and K. Always carry retinols, serums, ampoules, antioxidants and quality sun protection products. A core component of cosmetic success is incorporating new textures and smells. Therefore, test new possible products with several people to determine the appeal of their texture and smell. These products are the spa’s bread and butter. They will help generate quality services around targeted retail products. With that being said, peripheral items containing the latest trendy ingredients, soy candles and tamarind-infused hand creams, are great seasonal items. They will both create a higher-end feel in the spa and provide an avenue for impulse shopping.

Do Your Research
Before choosing products, an aesthetician should assess their capacities and needs, their service offerings, the size of their boutique, and their unique brand and service offerings. Unfortunately, most aestheticians do not focus enough on retail products that complement their professional offerings. When testing products as part of a service offering, make sure that the retail component is integral to the service so that multiple brands are not needed to cover all client needs. Then, look at the service menu and prioritize product purchases based on your expertise. Finally, once certain products or lines have been determined, make sure the distributor can be relied upon to provide the education, support and flexibility to meet daily needs. A distributor who is reliable, experienced, and has a proven track record of delivering product within stated timelines should be chosen.

Identify Clients’ Primary Concerns
Most product lines cannot meet every need or cater to every type of clientele. Before beginning, think about the spa’s unique brand and what it represents. Think about the clientele and their specific needs. The main issues encountered today in clinical skin care are hyperpigmented skin, aging-related problems, hormonal/oily breakouts, and sensitive skin types. When deciding what to purchase for the spa, stick with these core issues. Remember: choosing a protocoled facial that has accompanying retail is the surest path to helping clients achieve their beauty goals. Using this buying method also reduces the amount of product needed on hand. Furthermore, do not bring products onboard that have unknown ingredients; wait for the market to educate consumers so that clients are already prepped for the sale. Finally, once the top solution verticals have been identified and addressed, make sure the product packaging fits clients’ needs and that size, material, usability and price point are attractive to the target market.

do-your-dueDo Your Due Diligence
Before making a final decision on any product, review again the purpose for bringing on the product in question. Through feedback, research, and interviewing other aestheticians, make sure your clients actually want the product. What does research entail? Try an online survey or subject the product to in-spa testing. Seek advice from colleagues and other industry professionals. Read product testimonials and speak to current product users. Solicit positive and negative feedback from other aestheticians, so that a clear picture of the products’ potential benefits can be formed. When client feedback and research is not conducted or provided the attention it deserves, unfavorable scenarios can arise. For example, since it was an emerging trend, I once decided to sell an organic nail polish line in my spas. I found a fun European line that I thought would be a great choice, given the high volume of nail services I provide (28 manicurists between my three spas). I bought a small group of core colors for professional use and retail. The product was much more expensive than my own non-organic brand that I had been carrying for years. The clients ended up showing little interest in natural nail polish and just wanted the variety of color to which they were accustomed. Additional-ly, it is important to note that products sold in many other outlets are not necessarily profitable. The retail did not sell and the products were expensive. Choose products that are not offered everywhere… create a niche. Moreover, if a product that is readily available is chosen, ensure that the price point is guaranteed by the seller, so that it cannot be easily undersold by the competition.

Educate Yourself
It is imperative that all aspects of the product is known and understood – inside and out. A thorough training on the products use should be administered to staff members from the aestheticians and managers to the customer service staff and receptionists. When planning a training event, make sure to have an ingredient list available and encourage staff to ask questions. The training itself can take place in-house, onsite at the manufacturer’s, or online. In fact, tools such as Skype, YouTube and the Internet make it possible to learn about products without leaving the spa.

Prepare for Takeoff
Create a formal sales plan with target goals, activities and timelines – using specific dates. Check the product’s progress against the stated goals periodically (after three months, six months, and a year). While working through the plan, think about squeezing the most out of this investment, perhaps by finding multiple uses for it, or identifying different target markets. For example, if a new cleanser is brought on, ask if it can also be used as a makeup remover or even rebranded for men. Next, make sure to introduce the product at the correct time of the year – a new sun protection product should not be launched in the middle of winter.

sell-it-upSell it Up
When it comes to selling up a new product, the first target market is the spa’s staff; the second is the clientele and media. First, create an in-spa display with write ups, posters and testers that utilize the collateral material received when a minimum amount of the product was purchased from the manufacturer. Then, provide staff with samples to generate excitement. Next, when selling the product to clients, honesty about its benefits and whether it is a good match for a particular client is important. The product should also be introduced to clients in the treatment rooms and on retail shelves. Aestheticians should be knowledgeable about the product, its benefits and appropriateness. Maximize exposure on all distribution points, including the spa’s website, on-hold messaging, e-mail blasts, press releases, and social media. This can be done inhouse at a minimum cost, using various software systems that provide generic marketing templates. Create a press kit for the product or ask the distributor to provide product brochures to distribute to well-matched clients. Produce an educational seminar on proper skin care where the product can be introduced. A well-conceived direct mail piece or goodie bags with new product samples are other great ways to get the word out. Finally, consulting with a marketing expert or working with a public relations consultant is a solid option for a groundbreaking retail opportunity.

Host Sample Events
Manufacturers will sometimes provide a promotional budget that includes donating product as well as sending someone to the spa to educate staff and clients. Turn these opportunities into consumer-facing events. Let clients know through e-mail blasts how excited the spa is about the new product. Create special offers with vouchers to generate a buzz (two-for-one and limited-time specials work well). Make sure there is a sleek, professional-looking display that highlights the product with shelf-talkers and write ups. Invite beauty editors to the spa by hosting a media event, or send samples to bloggers. Ask industry experts to come experience the new service with a sample of the product – opportunities are endless! One method I have used to boost interest is the introduction of a new product line with a new service. For example, create a new microdermabrasion service that requires a follow-up product.

Close the Loop
It might be assumed that once the new product hits the shelves, the spa is ready for the next challenge. Not so. Follow-up is required to ensure that the product remains a profitable part of the spa’s retail selection and professional toolkit. Review the data, solicit feedback directly from staff and clients, and make any necessary changes to price, distribution points, and educational strategy. Remember: customer passion for a product does not happen overnight; it takes time for them to develop loyalty and begin the repeat purchasing process. Lastly, hold postmortems to evaluate product sales reports and reset sales targets as needed.

Bella-Schneider 2014BSB and LaBelle Day Spas & Salons founder, aesthetician, educator and formulator Bella Schneider, leads a team of more than 200 aesthetic professionals at three premier spas. For more than 35 years, Schneider has traveled the world to bring service providers the best in aesthetic science; as a groundbreaking formulator, successful retailer and respected educator, her mission is to help professionals enhance their practice and grow their business. Winner of the Nouvelles Esthétiques lifetime achievement Crystal Award for contributions to beauty science, she hosts beginning to advanced training in clinical and spa skin care as well as ethnic skin care, peels, and other new techniques at BSB’s Palo Alto, California-based training center which specializes in elite protocols, peer education, retail profitability, and leading-edge products and ingredients.

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