P&G's Mark Komanecky Shares Top Retail Tips

Mark Komanecky

The Business Forum for Salon Owners, which is being staged during America’s Beauty Show (ABS) at Chicago’s McCormick Place on March 13th promises to provide salon owners with a different take on business education. An all-star lineup of business movers and shakers will be on-hand for the program, including P&G Salon Professional CEO Rueben Carranza as well as P&G’s Shopper-Based Design Manager Mark Komanecky, who is set to reveal the latest thinking on salon merchandising.

P&G Vice President of Salon Business Development John Moroney (JM) recently sat down with Mark Komanecky (MK), who shared his views on how to create the seamless, service-to-retail experience with today’s beauty shoppers

JM: Salons have been told for years that if you have a tester and make the retail area look pretty, clients will buy. It’s not working today. What’s changed?
MK: The beauty shopper changed. We see three major changes in buying patterns that affect salons:

  1. Shoppers have more choices in where and how to buy beauty. Direct to-consumer shopping—via online, TV, smart phones—is exploding, creating easy product availability.
  2. Shoppers are confused. More than 200 beauty brands were launched in the last decade! Though less than 20% of them are still on-shelf, there is increased consumer confusion.
  3. Shoppers are far savvier today. They’re researching products with friends or online, as well as studying magazines for editorial recommendations. Salons should remember clients are shoppers too, and they’re big beauty shoppers.

JM: What else do salons need to know about today’s beauty shopper?
MK: Today’s shopper is still looking for value - but the idea of value has changed. In today’s retail environment, time and accessibility are the new value. Shoppers today don’t have a lot of time to shop - so they need to find it fast and get on with their lives. Additionally, Accessibility is a key dimension for today’s shopper. She can see something in a magazine, go online wherever she is, find out all about it right from her mobile device. She can also find numerous places to buy it as well. The key for salons is to take advantage of this new value equation, by talking about products they offer—even showing her on her own mobile device, key testimonials about it – all while at the salon.

JM: What about the salon’s competition? Food, drug and mass store aisles are looking more like prestige locations. Are these outlets are getting a bigger piece of the beauty pie?
MK: Yes, but that’s partly due to the recession. However, mass retailers are purposely emphasizing beauty. Grocery stores used to put bar soap with laundry soap. Now each has its own aisle. They realize they can either play the price game or go after their core shopper. Like salons, they need to bring shoppers to their stores so they’re changing the way stores are designed to create a better shopper experience and changing product selections to play up their equity as a one-stop shopping location.

JM: If other retail channels are creating a better shopping experience, what can the salon do?
MK: Salons can bring the client/beauty shopper in with a seamless transition from the services she loves to the products she buys. First, you have to know your core customer—that 20 percent of clients who often generate 80 percent of your total revenue. Then look at making physical changes that make shopping easier.

JM: Can you also expand on what the right physical layout in a salon would be to make it easier for clients to shop?
MK: It’s not about making her grab and go; it’s about making the client stop, look, find what she’s looking for and then browse for more. For example, Sebastian Professional uses a sophisticated eye-tracking system with their salon partners that follow where clients look on shelves, so salon professionals put the right products where the shopper will see them.

JM: Conventional retailing wisdom said “consumers want choice” so you need to carry a lot of lines. Is that still true?
MK: Consumers still want choice—but today, they want relevant choice. Our research actually proves less is more. We experimented in stores by pulling 25 to 30 percent of products off the shelves. Shoppers actually thought there were more products. They could understand what was there and that made it easier to shop. Savvy salon owners have the advantage here. With a smaller assortment of well-known brands and the all-important stylist recommendations, the client is less likely to go elsewhere to figure it out for herself. Today’s consumer is “time starved.” She really has no time to go through 40 different brands at a drug store, or for that matter, even 10 to 15 in the salon. Plus, with less stock you reduce your inventory financial burden and shoppers buy more. It’s a win-win!

JM: I’ve heard about the concept of 360 marketing in mass retailing. What is it and how can salons also put it to good use?
MK: Ensuring your salon message is reinforced at every touch point where your target can see, touch and feel—that is 360 marketing. Use all your available marketing tools while the client is in the chair and also throughout her day to reinforce the credibility of products you use and recommend. We know clients go to a salon to get away. They say it’s “their time to sit and relax.” They are also seeking professional help and advice. But on our salon visits we don’t see much interaction between stylists and clients. The conversations are often less than professional, without any interaction. There is little give and take or discussion about “I’m using this product, this is why,” or “check this product out in Allure and look on our Facebook page.”

JM: What about the fear factor in cutting the number of lines, changing your store layout, evaluating your pricing structure. Will making the changes you talk about result in lost salon revenue and clients?
MK: Change is never easy. But in today’s world, it’s a must. If you know your core customer and market directly to her, she will respond positively. The salon’s advantage over every other retailer is its professional personnel. Stylists can give a personal consultation about services and products that the client can’t get on Twitter, Yelp or anywhere else. She really wants somebody to tell her why something is good or not good for her. In hair color, the most transformational of services, consumers turn first to the stylist/colorist as a trusted advisor. Use the consultation to show her what your salon colorist can do for her than she ever could at home. This is your golden opportunity to turn her into a loyal salon color client.

JM: Here’s the million-dollar question: How do salons compete with big box retailers with big promotion budgets?
MK: Here’s my advice based on our research of the beauty shopper/client:

  1. Partner with the right manufacturer. Leverage large companies, like P&G Salon Professional, that have a tremendous amount of shopper data can help you turn it into sales.
  2. Really know your target client before you decide what products to offer, how to arrange your retail area, etc. You have every opportunity to learn about a client’s beauty preferences while she is in your chair.
  3. Differentiate your salon from others. Know what you stand for. Know your strong points and amplify them every way possible to that 20 percent of clients who purchase 80 percent of your services and products.
  4. Try something. Take a small step. If it works, and often it does, roll it out. Focus on the foundation of your business—the services and the relationship you have with clients—and not just making everything “look pretty.” Pretty just doesn’t cut it anymore in the multi-billion-dollar world of beauty.