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Secrets for a glowing retail presence

By Rita G Chauhan | Vjmedia Works | August 19, 2013

Beauty is as much a holistic experience as it is a visual one. For a brand to win the consumer in this segment would involve not just looking good in store, but also giving an experience. Here's a detailed look at how beauty brands can have a glowing presence at retail and win the customer at the store.

She waltzed past those colours,
Her eyes searching..
Her senses absorbing...
Her mind wondering:
 "Which brand do I buy...?”
Meet Eve -the protagonist in the whole brand story that is played out at retail. She's the shopper. She wants to look better. And, make no mistake -- she can't take any chances here. So how well do you woo her? How best can you win her? Well, this is a question that a beauty brand needs to ask itself.  After all, this is an area where merchandising is only one aspect of the whole path to conversion that happens at retail. The other being, offering an experience, supported by advice that supplements your brand imagery, and enhances customer perception of your brand. 

According to an IBIS report, the Global Cosmetics Manufacturing industry is poised for strong growth over the five years upto 2018, despite its maturity in developed markets. It adds that rebounding consumer purchasing power will pave the way forward combined with newer retail formats and an increased role of the retailer. 

You can't just show it, you've got to prove it...

Speaking to a few retail solutions providers and fabricators we sought to gather the trends and innovations in terms of the demand from their beauty segment clients in the country, what more can be done and what are the challenges. Says Ragesh Bhatia, Director, Rex Enterprises Ltd, for whom, about 30% of the turnover comes from cosmetics and personal care brands, "Cosmetic brands have scaled up merchandising spends in the last 2-3 years and are investing in more premium assets. There are two kinds of stores - stores with assisted sales and those without. We find a greater focus in assisted sales counters especially since the brands are launching a huge range of products and are trying to get the consumer to build a beauty regime. These counters, usually in MT and Beauty outlets require elaborate customised assets where a detailed site recce and a 3D simulation is created before deployment. Installation is also done by us and we are expected to provide end to end solutions anywhere in the country.”

He adds further elaborating on the trend, "We have worked with several brands to help adapt international templates to the Indian store layouts which tend to be much smaller. However, we need to cover the complete range for both skin and colours segment.  Many large installations also demand a make-over zone where customers can engage with the products along with experts. We are also offering digital solutions where we can remotely update digital content based as and when needed such as wedding seasons, Diwali offers, excess stock liquidation etc.  In both segments aesthetics is of prime importance and we extensively use imported laminates, acrylics and PU based paints to offer the best finishes. Besides brands, we are also working with the retailers to develop assets that provide the consumer with a better experience. We have even done category management solutions for this segment."

Says Mahesh Shinde, Director, DMS Solutions Pvt Ltd, for whom this category contributes almost 30 to 40 % of the business, "For every Indian woman, whether a housewife or a working woman, cosmetics today are Essentials rather than a Luxury product. From a POP design and manufacturer's perspective, we are giving solutions that are strikingly different in design, shape, colour and materials. Since the market for this segment had increased, so has the competition and the number of brands today fighting for that space. Hence it is absolutely necessary for agencies like us to come out with fresh and off-beat designs, use new materials and make " WOW” visibility solutions.”
He adds while elaborating on what really works here,  "The idea is to do more and more within the given budget as the retails doors keep increasing year on year. Apart from POP, other parallel in-store activities definitely give the brand / product the push that is needed. The next level though will be use of technology, more screens, interactive POP that will help engage the customer and take back home an experience that he / she had with the brand.”

Are you wooing her enough?

But are these brands doing enough given that the scope is pretty vast in this segment? Says   Rushabh Shah, Proprietor, ACE Enterprises, "Brands can come up with much more innovation as 20%-80% funds are spent on the same designs. There are lot of units made up of metal and traditional materials and we need to go in the direction of eco friendly material items like paper corrugation etc." He adds, "Around 10% of our turnover comes from cosmetics and we can see this number increasing in years to come due to new cosmetics brands entering the market.”

Agrees Sauvik Chakravarty, Director - Graffiti Signgraphics Pvt. Ltd, "Given the present economic condition, the brands have not been doing enough recently because the rentals have gone up rigorously in the MT space and they are trying to maintain a balance with low cost arrangements in the retail front, but the functionality should be kept in mind so that the retailers do not keep it aside.”

Vinod Nikumbh, Visualiser, Integra Retail Communication Specialists, "The cosmetics segment is not doing well as all the brands want us to redo work on the old units and CDUs. There is hardly any or no innovation carried out at retail. Also, most of the work is done on permanent category and not in temporary category. The products which the units are stocking are premium and command a higher price, whereas the display units or the design shared with us are not in proportion to that. The units created for these premium products also need to be premium which is not happening."

He adds that while 10% of the turnover at Integra comes from the cosmetics category, the number will grow due to the growth in the segment.
Ragesh from Rex also feels that brands need to take what they are doing in their flagship stores down to the tier-2  cities and smaller towns in a smaller format. Agrees Rushabh Shah from, ACE Enterprises, "With the kind of market we are living in we need to expand our market segmentation and reach out to smaller markets as well, not that we are doing it right now, but the major focus for us is still the metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and we need to work hard to go deep into tier two and tier three cities.” He also feels that'Going green' is the mantra among these brands ; and no surprises here considering that many of these products are now going organic in keeping with the rising eco and health consciousness of the consumers.

Cracking the tough nuts


The tough nuts here are definitely not shoppers, but the challenges inherent in retail and others areas that make it difficult for a retail solution provider to help the brand woo the potential customers. To begin with is the budget. Says Sauvik Chakravarty  from Graffiti Signgraphics Pvt. Ltd, "The budget perhaps is the most important determining factor at the moment which is holding us back as market players because it the advertising accounts which gets a cut at the very beginning. Though we are trying to give them a fair competitive product suited to their need.”  
Vinod Nikumbh from Integra agrees, "The design budget is very limited which restricts the brands to try something new. When we design for MT and GT we have to ensure that the designs are standard and this is a challenge as the space provided in both GT and MT is different. We have noticed cramped spaces even in MT. This makes it challenging to create a unit which is not only standardized, but also with similar brand appeal in both the different formats in the limited budget.”

Besides, there are also other challenges. Says Ragesh from Rex, "Clients are getting more quality conscious and aware of global benchmarks which we constantly have to match. Very often we have to source globally from China, Singapore or Taiwan to ensure we achieve the quality benchmarks. Another challenge in cosmetics is mass customization of brand assets. This requires a good field team for recee followed by a flexible production and a strong installation team.   To achieve premiumness requires time for finishing and it's always a race against the clock. In design, the biggest challenge is to develop tester bars as we have very limited space to fit several hundred products and the mix keeps changing with time.”

Mahesh Shinde from REX further sums up the challenges faced by retail solution providers, "Working with multiple brands and multiple products, time is the biggest challenge, time to conceptualise, to design and to produce and yet give an out of the box solution. Apart from this, the next level of challenges are: 1) To do more in the given budget as the retail door keeps expanding in number, 2) To do different and innovative designs for back to back launches to differentiate from competition as well as our own POP solutions offered in the past, 3) To beat the competition with better visibility solutions given the number of brands entering the space. 4) Lastly, every product in this category is very interestingly packaged and hence there are some challenges faced during designing the solution, but having said that, I would also agree that the sheer product shape and design also inspires us to think differently.”

The list of do's for a brand

Well with retail solution providers willing to experiment and innovate, and newer retail formats emerging, not to mention the emergence of a well informed shopper, here's what a beauty brand can keep in mind for a win-win situation, where she, the one you are trying to win, goes back smiling from her retail experience:
In a chat with Point Of Purchase, Sumit Chaplot,  Merchandising Manager, Mabylline, talks about the brand's approach to retail and its shoppers.

What is your investment in retail? Is it possible to break it up in terms of the spends on merchandising, retail formats and consumer study?

As of now there is no specific retail investment plan. Maybelline being a makeup brand is not very heavy on TV and print and we focus on merchandising. Merchandising is a very important part as we focus on engaging with consumers on our visibility plan through our visual communication and POS.  If we divide by total budget of the year then it will be around 20-22% of the budget for the plan on retail. And we see this number increasing as well in near future.

Consumer study is very important for us and we regularly ask our consumers about their wants and requirements from the brands and according to the trends understand their needs. We put a fair amount of effort into consumer study.

How often do you change the displays in stores?

It depends on the different kind of displays. For example there are permanent displays, which are assets for a company. These include counters, and tester bars which are huge investments for the company. And there are temporary displays, POS  and launch based units, which are put up prior to a launch, which is very temporary in nature.
When you plan an in-store campaign what are your typical objectives? How much of it is met by merchandising and how much by shopper connect initiatives and activations?
The core objective is to highlight the launch. And we will highlight both the brand and campaign which varies from case to case. It should be highlighting the launch for the month.

Most of the objectives are met through merchandising as it is a direct connects with consumer. Merchandising gives you a first point of contact where you come to know about brand and product.

Any new retail formats you have looked at lately or are planning? Could you elaborate on the reasons?

The Health and Retail format in India is very recent if you see there are mostly two chains - Health and Glow and New U from Dabur. Earlier, there were departmental stores, hyper markets and supermarkets. We started with Health and Glow, and now with Dabur New U also. The new health and retail format has less area coverage, so designing differs and what we decide to keep there is very area specific.

What kind of challenges do you face when it comes to planning, designing and executing your merchandising?

We don't have agencies providing one stop solution - they are either good in designing or good in manufacturing/execution but not in both. Another important challenge is the use of manual labour. All these affect cost and timelines.  

How do you collaborate with retail solutions providers? Also, do you have some standards for merchandising? What are the other challenges you face?

Most of the agencies we work with have an understanding of the brand, so there is not much challenge involved.  In the case of new agencies, it is sometimes difficult to communicate to them about the brand and make them understand what we as a brand are looking for.

Could you share with us some interesting case studies of in-store merchandising and activations you have done recently?

There is a new product in the market -- Maybelline Kajal which is a great success story from L'Oreal India.  People have been used to a Rs 5 Kajal and they were not expecting a branded product priced at Rs 150. And hence the challenge was to merchandise, highlight and outshine the other products in store. We arrived at this eye catching colour combination of yellow and black which was distinctively visible. One important thing we did on all our merchandisers was of using the pack shot. This has helped us with visibility. Going forward, we plan to continue maximising impact through colours and packshots.

The brief to our retail partners was very crisp. Being a conventional product that was selling at a higher price, we had to showcase it with a high visibility factor -- without a shout out, there wouldn't be anything selling. So we wanted to highlight the colour - the yellow is a radiant shade– and like I said earlier, the use of packshot gives a lot of visibility to the product on the shelf.
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