The burning question in beauty as retail slowly starts to open up in the U.S. is, what does a high-touch category look like in the new normal?
As stores try to figure out the answers, suppliers, too, are looking to provide fast, innovative solutions, particularly around sampling. At stake is consumer confidence in the entire sector. “Brick-and-mortar stores are the destination to engage with products, but we want to do it in the safest way,” said Bruce E. Teitelbaum, chief executive officer of RPG, which designs and manufactures retail environments.
RPG has come up with a series of solutions it hopes will address the safety concerns of shoppers. One key area of innovation involves touchless and low-touch samples. RPG is working on low-tech, low-touch dispensers, for example, which allow consumers to take single-dose samples at their own discretion and can be retrofitted onto a gondola or put on a countertop.
RPG is also working on single-use testing palettes, made of sustainable materials and dispensed via a no-touch silo, and allowing retail workers and consumers to mix hygienic, single-dose samples and apply them with sanitary tools. The goal is to have such devices ready to go in the next couple of months.
“These are quick-turn solutions to help on an immediate level by the time customers really start to come back,” said Teitelbaum. “If we can provide consumers with samples that adhere to these hygienic standards, and vehicles for them, like testable palettes and little tools, it’s going to grow the business.”
In the longer-term, RPG is working on everything from store layout to check-out to antimicrobial displays and protective shields to create an in-store experience.
Monodose samples seems like the most expedient and immediate way to safely enable consumers to experience products in-store given that they largely exist already, provided that suppliers can ramp up to the new demand.
“Our samples were never really ever brought into a store on this level before,” said Diane Crecca, senior vice president of fragrance business unit, business development and corporate relations at Arcade Beauty. “If you’re going to go into 500 stores, how many samples do you order?”
Arcade Beauty’s single-dose samples, which are compatible across categories with the exception of nail polish, take about five to six weeks to turn around once they receive product from a brand, said Larry Berman, senior vice president of sales, North America, noting that most launches have already been tested for compatibility.
Using preexisting technology lightens the load for companies adapting to retail’s new norms, but Crecca said the longer brands wait to decide how to proceed, the longer the lead times for their orders. “If stores are going to open in July and they want samples ready, they need to start now,” she said.
Also working with an influx of demand is the packaging supplier Aptar. On the one hand, the company has been grappling with the increased surge in packaging for hand sanitizers, soaps, lotions and the like. But on the other, clients are asking for in-store solutions, such as single-dose and airless options, said Philippe Erhart, president, North America of Aptar Beauty + Home. Touchless packaging is also a priority. Said Erhart, “It’s going to be top-of-mind in our innovation cycle.”
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