Consumer needs are changing fast and salons will have to evolve just as quickly if they want to stay relevant. The average business roadmap is five years – think of how much has changed during that time – and how irrelevant those maps are while navigating modern times. When we look to the future of the beauty industry, we have to consider the evolution of consumers and that requires an in-depth look at what’s shaping consumer changes in the first place. There are lessons to learn and signals to observe, so that we can adapt our businesses.
We can learn to adapt from examples in nature. In the permanent darkness of the caves in the Rio Grande, a translucent fish thrives. This albino-looking cave dweller is not different to other fish, except for the fact the fish is blind. However, this fish was not always blind: the entire species of this fish became blind over time. Living in a dark cave with little oxygen, finding food is difficult. When living in darkness, eye-sight is not helpful and being efficient is critical to survival. Over time, these fish sacrificed their eyesight so they would be able to retain more energy to find food and survive in the difficult environment of the caves; the blind fish have 15% more energy than eye-seeing fish. These small pinkish miracles are called Mexican Tetra. They evolved as their dark and uncertain environment required. They didn’t go into a cave and die; they learned to thrive by losing the sight that was useless to them in that environment.
The blind cave fish remind us that it’s our ability to evolve, adapt and embrace change that determines our ability to survive in the world. It’s the same for the salon business we create and run.
Keeping up with constant advances and the complexity and disruption is no small task. The top threat facing salon owners is the impact it is having to consumers. The pace of technological and digital advancement is surpassing the normal evolutionary curve of society. Unlike the Mexican Tetra, humans are programmed to resist evolution. We fight change. We want to stay safe and cozy. The reality is, nature is working against us.
We must have a clear concise purpose! I’m not talking about your mission, which is what you do every day, or your vision, which is where you are headed. Both are important company drivers, but they play a different role to purpose. Mission and vision will change with circumstances. They are important, but they are also temporal. Purpose that is rooted in your ethos, distinctive to your salon brand, meaningful to all of your team and consistent with your values is authentic.
We sit on the cusp of an era that will see the eventual end of all knowledge-based occupations. Anyone whose job it is to ‘know stuff about things’ will be replaced by an Al that requires no wages, sick days or benefits for doing the same job only doing so with exponentially better performance and accuracy. But this also suggests to me, the only remaining vestige of meaningful future employment will be creativity-centric. Deliciously irrational, beautifully human, and insanely inventive creativity, will be considered the new Ivy League master’s degree by the planet’s best companies and brands. Because in a world of pervasive Al, how does one salon even develop a conventional advantage over another? The only remaining advantage will be to out-right-brain your competitors. With the continued advancement of AI, the world is going to need a lot fewer lawyers, consultants, engineers and accountants and a lot more dreamers, hairdressers and born risk-takers.
The Amazon Factor
A perfect example of adapting is Amazon. As retailers are playing checkers, Amazon has become the grand master of chess. Its strategies are complex, interwoven and often defy conventional retail calculus. Leaving other retailers perplexed and unbalanced. They are constantly plotting several moves ahead.
Year after year as we huddle at beauty industry conferences to share best practices on omnichannel. A term that loosely defines a sense of consistency and seamlessness across physical and digital channels. Amazon has been quietly positioning its chess pieces for the ultimate checkmate. A position where no matter which way retailers choose, they lose.
Understanding Amazons retail strategy begins by acknowledging Amazon is not a retailer at all. At least not in the conventional sense. They are a data, technology, logistics, service, innovation and media company that uses each of these competencies to weave a sticky web of conglomerate platforms, when combined become exponential in their effect. Amazon is not a retailer, but rather a consumer ecosystem, where the whole equals much more than the sum of its parts.
Amazon services connects consumers to local trades people. Their membership program, Prime, offers free shipping as well as special promotions and pricing. Amazon’s music aims to rival platforms like Spotify and Pandora. Amazon video will invest more this year than HBO. Amazons web services offers state of the art data management. Amazon has become the default search engine for online shoppers, with some 55% of searches beginning not on Google, but Amazon.
In addition to providing critical data funnels and distribution nodes, Amazon has gone into physical space and offer experiential media points to promote their consumer technology arsenal. The golden child of which is Alexa.
Salons should not try to compete with Amazon, they must evolve from conformity to originality. They need to risk unconventional thoughts, initiatives and strategies. Convention is the enemy of progress. In other words, do what Amazon can’t do…. give personalized services. We need to do a lot more than learn quickly, we must have courage, passion, perseverance, grit and a growth mindset.
Experience the Consumer Journey
Why do we need to adapt? Because power has moved from the producer to the consumer and we stand at the intersection of rising consumer expectations. Salons must adapt to a personalized experience-led consumer journey that goes beyond service and adapts to a world where every visit is entertaining. The consumer experience is rapidly evolving from a transactional process focused simply on service, to a model built on deep, enriching relationships at every step of the customer journey. Salons must become an indispensable part of consumers’ lives. They must build a sophisticated understanding of the way consumers shop, and use this knowledge to provide value. An experience-led consumer journey is no small feat. It requires a consumer-centered view of the entire business, from service to marketing.
With the increased frequency of global disruption, consumers have become more fluid and shifted how they make purchase decisions. They have placed increased emphasis on personal experiences, particularly those that improve their life. Personalized experiences designed to contribute to the self-esteem of consumers, will be the most respected propositions in the new economy. This, balanced with affordability concerns as well as preferences for sustainability, creates greater focus on the value salons provide. Salons that lead on addressing the disruptions will shape our future industry. Consumers are showing they are multi-dimensional and we need to adapt our approach and understand them as multi-faceted individuals.
As evolving buying habits and brand preferences transform the consumer journey, salons must find the right balance between meeting the needs of the consumer today and growth for tomorrow. Disruptive technologies, new business models and agile market entrants are revolutionizing the way people shop, what they buy and how they live. In this complex environment, salons must employ a dual-focus on protecting what they have and establishing a path for the future. They must build the capabilities to put data at the heart of the organization underpinned by a technology ecosystem that creates the agility to respond to changing market dynamics. They must evolve into a transparent demand-response network.
From Consumer Centricity to Life Centricity
Salons once looked to a service centric model approach focused on performance. Then as I mentioned above, some shifted to a consumer-centric strategy, meant to prioritize experience. But now, the dynamics are more complicated. Until salons stop over-simplifying their customers and start accepting, they are ever-changing, multi-dimensional people deeply impacted by unpredictable external forces, they’ll find themselves stuck.
They need to become life-centric. Life-centric businesses deeply understand the different forces shaping customers lives and deliver the most relevant solutions for those contexts. Salons that embrace a life-centered approach— one that takes into consideration the humanity of the consumer, their shifting modes and the unpredictable life forces that come into play along the way—are best positioned to thrive in the future.
The way forward is to take a holistic, dynamic view of who their customers are and what motivates their behaviors and supply personal experiences to treat them as more than just customers. Life-centric businesses are prepared to adapt so that they are delivering relevant options across their products and services to accommodate the shifting life forces impacting their customers.
Simplify for Relevance
Amid the pressure of life forces and the chaos of everyday life, what customers ultimately need is simplicity. They are drawn to anything that cuts through the noise and makes their decision-making—and their lives—easier. The net effect is a growing acceptance of paradoxes, in which people make peace with the often contradictory and conflicting consumption decisions they make moment to moment. Because of this, businesses that want to stay relevant need to find ways to clear the path for consumers to walk easily. Salons must embrace a life-centric approach that helps them meet customers ever-changing circumstances and priorities. In this way, they will be best positioned to meet the future—no matter what new challenges are around the corner.
Ultimately, salons need to abandon the idea of one size menu fits all consumers and focus on flexible options. For example, create a subscription-based salon model with membership that could be the “the holy grail” for a salon aiming to deepen its engagement with its customers. In an environment of perpetual change, consumers are working to reconcile their core values and sense of purpose with the demands and practicalities of everyday life. If salons can’t match this new way of thinking, they risk falling behind.
Change the way you look at your Business
Another example of adapting is to evolve the systems and programs salons traditionally use to measure and plan. Forecasts are out, dashboards are in. The notion that you can predict the economy and other aspects that can disrupt life and business is gone. Now we are in an environment where we’ve learned what we need to have a handle on are: metrics, insights, KPI’s, data points that are relevant to your business and what’s happening on the ground.
We live in a vast unpredictable business landscape that we sculpt as we go along. There are far more variables at play than we can feasibly determine. The old method wasn’t a panacea, but it was a reasonable guide to create financial predictions. Unfortunately, with the power of banal truisms, it led to inaccuracies and in some cases sweeping conclusions. We need to look outside our industry to business oracles to guide us and to create new ways of thinking. It will enable us to determine the strength of our paradigms by forming new hypotheses.
Neuro Marketing Strategy
It all starts with a vision and from the vision an effective plan that needs to go beyond standard marketing. Salons must adapt and evolve to a Neuromarketing strategic blueprint and implement a holistic approach, focusing on core salon values with a fully integrated strategy, cohesive across all media. Presenting an easily accessible aesthetic philosophical and commercial identity, consistent with an ethical contemporary modulator, whilst embracing its legacy of integrity.
Today’s initiatives will be tomorrow’s minimum standards with increasing rapidity. Because consumers today are not the consumers of yesterday. They are now more resourceful, selective, technological, and accustomed to convenience. More importantly, they are on the search for salons who will actually listen to them and make genuine efforts to cater to their preferences and meet their needs. They are looking for personal relationships, trust, transparency, and communication.
The harsh but abundantly obvious reality is that we live in a world of absolute product and service proliferation. The consumers primary challenge is to sort through the myriad of choices. Ultimately, it’s all about salons understanding that no one needs what they sell. They do, however, need how they sell it. The personal experience and life-centric policy a salon offers its customers, is about the only differentiator left.
Unlike the Mexican Tetra, there is no need to live in the dark. By adapting, salons are well placed when it comes to overcoming most new challenges. Now is the time to transform your salon to deliver an unparalleled customer experience that surpasses, customer expectations. Really listen to your customers. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what’s important to them. Then, make changes to reflect those same priorities. Because if you don’t offer what your customers value, someone else will—and you’ll lose your customers to the plethora of competitors waiting in the wings. Begin by messaging, personalizing, reducing friction, increasing convenience, and improving customer experiences with technology.
Twelve months from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did. The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is just tenacity! So, cut the anchor, sail away from the safe harbor and catch the trade winds and adapt to the evolution of the consumer.
Charles Darwin wrote: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”