Did you catch Smoooth Sessions?
Whilst the event remained virtual, we could feel the energy from the stellar panel through our screens as they uncovered how retailers are delivering the future of selling. Bringing the in-store experience online, community building and looking forward to the return of the high street – our panel covered it all.
Meet the panel.
Panelists included Lou Bennett, Marketing Director UK & IRE of Benefit Cosmetics, Andreas Palm, Co-Founder & CEO of CLPD, Neha Singh, Founder & CEO of experiential e-commerce platform Obsess, and Klarna’s UK Head of Marketing, AJ Coyne. Farrah Storr, Editor-in-Chief of ELLE UK, expertly chaired the discussion.
Missed out? Here’s the scoop.
If you didn’t manage to attend the event, watch our recorded session right here to get all the panels insights, and we’ve rounded up some key takeaways:
The new flagship.
“Brands are realising that their .com is their new flagship store. From a technology perspective, it is important to understand how you can improve that experience and bring the in store experience you offer online.”
— Neha Singh, Founder & CEO of Obsess
“We have had a clear out of all non-essentials that do not have the customer front and centre.”
— Lou Bennett, Marketing Director UK & IRE at Benefit Cosmetics
“Now the question is ‘what is the role of the traditional retail experience in a shop?’ Experience is really key.”
— AJ Coyne, Head of Marketing UK at Klarna
Luxury in 2021.
“People had time to assess ‘what is luxury’ and what products are actually best in class rather than buying a brand that has been around 20, 30, 50 years that have sometimes shown no innovation.”
— Andreas Palm, Co-Founder & CEO of CDLP
What did you say?
Following the lively panel discussion, we ran out of time to ask our panel all of your questions, but don’t worry. Before they could enjoy the second DJ set from our fabulous friend Charlotte De Carle, we stole a few more minutes of their time to ask them some of your questions.
How will beauty brands continue to adapt, how will they use technology to do this?
Lou Bennett: Being customer obsessed is the first step, understanding not just what they want, but how and when it’s wanted. We can get really tied up sometimes focusing on one channel, when in reality, we all as customers want to buy from brands that offer a seamless blend of online and offline experience, as and when we want it, and technology is obviously key. For beauty specifically, the art of immersion is so important. Buying or exploring beauty is such a rich, sensory experience, touching, smelling, feeling, playing, and while technology can’t always recreate all sensory experience to its fullest, it needs to at least allude to it, either carrying on from the physical experience of that brand, or else drawing to it as a next step. We’ve been deploying technology to give our customers Virtual Try On experiences for a number of years now, virtually trying on brow products, shades and shapes, and over the course of the last, highly formative, 12 months, we’ve increased our offering here to extend to full virtual, always complimentary, digital masterclasses and 1-2-1 more personal sessions with our top trend artists, which customers can enjoy in the comfort of their own spaces, asking the questions and getting the tips & tricks they would have previously visited us in-store for. Keeping the authentic connection alive, regardless of the channel, is always our focus
How can retail brands who have relied mainly on store trade transition to a thriving and successful uptake in online sales?
Lou Bennett: Consistency, and authenticity, are key. Customers have never had so much choice as to where to shop, and when to do it. Connecting online requires a whole different strategic approach in terms of visibility, presence, execution etc, but what needs to remain constant always, is staying true to how the brand lives, executes itself in the store environment. It doesn’t need to be the same experience, in fact, it shouldn’t be, but it does need to feel like you’re shopping with the same brand. Personalisation is key, and for many brands, so much more achievable online. Engagement and entertainment is key too, and online can offer a way to entertain, educate and inform a much broader audience than just the traditional in-store presence alone can give.
Do you think consumers are shifting to more conscious shopping habits, and if so, where does that leave retailers when it comes to encouraging spending while not pushing unsustainable/unethical consumption?
Lou Bennett: Consumers are definitely more conscious, and we’re seeing the rise of conscious consumerism more and more, particularly around trends like Black Friday. The perception of value is changing, and what’s becoming more and more important to our customers varies from before, so brands have to stay on top of that if they want to maintain meaningful, long term relationships with customers. Retailers and brands need to provide more than just a transaction, there needs to be an acknowledgment, personalisation, curation of content of ranges, experience, tailored rewards, a thank you etc, all on sliding scales of what brands are able to offer, but those that don’t, wont remain relevant, and in a landscape where choice is so broad, it’s unlikely purely transactional only relationships will provide any future growth or evolution.
What advice would you give a fashion student? What would you tell yourself to do if you were 20 again to do with getting in the fashion industry?
Farrah Storr: Don’t let the fear of the industry’s aloof reputation stop you from entering it. I took a huge detour to get to where I am, choosing to specialise in feature writing over fashion because I feared I wouldn’t ‘fit the part.’ There is no part. Fashion is and always will be deeply nonconformist. Your point of difference will be the very thing that sets you apart.
What should the remaining retailers on the high street be doing now, in order to survive?
Farrah Storr: They need to focus on their people more than ever. A magnetic workforce is what brings shoppers in. Make your retail team the stars of the show. Their connections and influence should be vital to your success.
What is the most important development in the e commerce landscape for you recently?
Farrah Storr: Brands who make their websites as exciting a place to be as a bricks and mortar store never fail to get my vote. In the last 12 months many smart brands have started to realise the importance of having an e-comm platform that does more than simply sell to its consumer. Sharp, engaging and surprising content can make consumers come back time and again. For example, I love that luxury brand CDLP runs a series of beautiful photographic exhibitions across its website. As a consumer it makes me feel valued beyond my status as a potential paying customer.
How can we enable a better UX in the selling process, what are we missing today?
Neha Singh: The User Experience (UX) of the online selling process is very transactional today – focused on a dry, database-like presentation of individual products, and focused on optimization of the checkout flow. Discovery primarily happens offline or on Instagram, but to form an emotional connection with customers, brands need to go beyond that to bring an engaging experience to their e-commerce website. Providing customers with a unique, branded visual experience where they can discover products, shop, interact and be immersed in the brand’s world is what will make them engage longer and build loyalty. All of this can be created virtually and imagination is the only limit – the goal is to bring the creativity behind the brand’s products and stories front-and-center during the actual online shopping journey.
How much willingness will there be for big brands and smaller retailers to come together on a common platform to sell to the same customers?
AJ Coyne: We expect the majority of brands and businesses to adopt a consumer first approach which could lend itself to a solution like you propose. We at Klarna have already seen a similar demand which is why we’ve evolved our app to become an all-in-one shopping service, where UK consumers can already browse all online retailers, save products from any website to their wishlist and will soon be able to shop with Klarna anywhere on the web (all in our app).
Will consumers be more likely to buy brands’ products or services bigger marketplaces rather than brands’ own e-commerce sites?
AJ Coyne: We believe it will be a combination of both. But expect a significant growth in marketplace adoption as consumers are continually searching for frictionless solutions to online shopping.