An industry that thrives on face-to-face interaction has been plunged into a whole new world where the likes of Shopify and Shippit became heroes of the narrative.
Many introduced new retail lines to excite their customers, launched bundles to incentivise lockdown shopping, others started from scratch and got their business up and running online where some are yet to make the move online at all.
I sat down with Karla McDiarmid of Macquarie Medispa, Olivia Mulholland of Olivia Catherine Facialist, and Rebecca Miller of La Bella Medispa – three operators who have absolutely nailed (and scaled) their retail offerings during uncertain times.
Each generously shared with me the role of online retail in their lockdown wins, the blessings in disguise that have come their way and how they’re ensuring unboxing an order from their salon is an experience so good, it keeps their customers coming back for more.
It would be remiss of me to suggest that the pivot from face-to-face service to online hasn’t presented its challenges along the way. For solopreneur Olivia, the first challenge was overwhelmingly clear – how was she going to go from seeing 30+ clients each week to zilch.
Olivia wasn’t certain her in-clinic experience was something that could be replicated in the online space. Six lockdowns later (that never gets any easier to type), Olivia shares that the lockdowns presented her an opportunity she had not had in quite some time – the chance to work ON her business, as opposed to in it.
“I completely overhauled my brand, photography and website – which included an online retail space for both retail & treatment purchases and bookings. Hearing positive feedback from clients at how easy it was to use and how beautiful it all looked, was really encouraging – and has definitely assisted during the subsequent lockdowns”, she shares.
Similarly, the La Bella Medispa team discovered the learning curves that came with taking a massive retail offering like theirs online. With over 30 pages of retail, ranging from skincare to apparel, launching an online store was no mean feat for the Parkes and Orange salons.
“We had to implement and innovate a whole new way of delivering the La Bella WOW. We had to train our team really quickly in many modalities as far as technology goes and make sure they had everything they needed to execute this time around”, Rebecca explains.
So, how exactly do you stay connected with hundreds of clients via a screen and take them from the likes of social media or text to your online store?
For Karla, harnessing a mix of platforms is integral to ensure all clients are connected with, not just those on social media.
“We have stayed connected via social media, live tutorials in skin/makeup/self-care, we have sent emails/texts and we like to phone our top 100 customers to check-in and see how they are and a way to offer home deliveries. We are offering click and collect and deliveries which have been a great way to also just check-in and wave through the front door and we can send private messages to check how they are going”, she explains.
Education was at the forefront for Olivia and Rebecca who both harnessed opportunities to elevate their client’s knowledge of skin and wellbeing, supporting them to make considered and effective purchasing decisions.
“Educating clients via posts and online content, without the push, is my everyday ethos. In translation, I know what I like to see online, I put out there what I like to see as a consumer”, Olivia shares.
Rebecca adds the use of webinars and zoom parties worked exceptionally to maintain the connection between her clients and team. La Bella Medispa continued to use social media as their hero communication platform and invited special guests, like Fiona Tuck, to educate their audience from the comfort of their own homes.
Let’s face it. Some consumers need incentivising to type in those card details, especially right now when they are inundated with marketing. Innovative incentives were one of the reasons I chose these three women – they have made it work hard for their business! I’m not just talking flat discounts or free shipping but the ways they have boosted the value of their brand and kept their customers repurchasing.
Gift with purchase is a huge part of Macquarie Medispa’s retail strategy which Karla shares is thanks to a backlog of goodies ready to go. She adds that your suppliers should be providing you support, through the likes of wholesale promotions, to assist you in selling more products.
“I believe if you are selling skincare and the company isn’t offering any monthly promotions to help you sell more, it’s time to change suppliers”, Karla adds as I nod in agreeance. If this doesn’t sound like your experience, it’s time to speak up.
In what I consider a stroke of genius, Olivia has targeted those that have already supported her business. She tells me that in return for content, her existing customer base has the chance to be exclusively rewarded.
“I have also created promos specifically for my existing client base – because they have supported me from the beginning – so it always feels good to give back – so getting them to either create content or reviews of their treatments in return for being included in a product draw has been very successful in keeping them excited. I’ve got to say, the ‘win your purchase back’ promotion has been incredibly successful and probably something that I will keep up in the future”.
The La Bella Medispa team did what they do best and focused on experiences. Customers had the opportunity to attend virtual La Bella Medispa parties which not only educated them on the use of their purchases but got them excited to repurchase in the future.
“This time we really amped up our delivery and had lots of fun launching Zoom at-home facial parties and home roller webinars. We also had a client happy hour which our clients just loved lots of belly laughs that night”, Rebecca explains.
After three total “shut up and take my money” moments, I couldn’t help but ask my guests what their most popular retail products have been since launching their lockdown pivots.
For Macquarie Medispa, 2020 was the year of the Glasshouse Candle and at-home facial pack where 2021 has seen a rise in lash growth serums and LED masks with at-home facials remaining consistent. Similarly, La Bella Medispa’s at-home facial kits and internal support products have continued to go from strength to strength thanks to a boost in virtual skin consultations, in addition to LED masks and luxury items, like candles, taking centre stage.
For Olivia’s Melbourne customer base, it’s been all about combatting maskne with skincare; something we Melbournian’s know all too well. Olivia’s education around maskne-prevention and treatment has seen her recommended skincare routines fly off her shelves.
Receiving an order is now an unboxing experience that keeps customers repurchasing. Consumer’s love being surprised and delighted when opening their orders because let’s be real, we love free stuff! Even without the retail giant budget, you can still be adding a little somethin’ somethin’ to your customers unboxing experience.
A fan of unboxing videos herself, Olivia prioritised her own unboxing experience when overhauling her brand in her first lockdown. When describing her unboxing experience to me, each small yet impactful touch exudes luxury.
“I have luxury gift box offerings with my brand on the outside and a quote (from me) on the inside. The products are carefully wrapped in my signature tissue paper and sealed with a branded sticker. I also have a little branded notecard to write a personal message with each purchase, it’s the little touches really and a few extra samples/sheet masques here and there is something my clients have come to expect”.
Tapping into the sensory experience of unboxing, La Bella Medispa has invested in amplifying their unboxing experience with not just quote cards and handwritten notes but beautifully packaged boxes that actually smell divine for its recipient!
“Everything is beautifully wrapped so when they open La Bella delivery it gives them a feeling of joy which keeps them coming back for more”, Rebecca adds.
When adding special touches to Macquarie Medispa orders, Karla leans into her gift with purchase strategy to encourage future sales. In addition to custom ribbons and beautiful packaging, her surprise examples, facial headbands and signature Tim Tam with every order are designed to have her clients trying a new product, love it, and head straight back to the Macquarie Medispa website to repurchase the full-size product. Excuse me whilst I fist pump for a moment – I love this!
If you’re yet to launch an online store, there truly is no better time than right now. Even if you’re located somewhere that hasn’t been as intensely impacted by lockdown, I think we can all agree that it’s time to lockdown-proof our shopping experiences.
I concluded my chat with Karla, Olivia, and Rebecca by asking them to share their advice with those that are yet to jump online.
Karla begins by reminding our community that Christmas is well and truly on its way and shopping online will be fundamental for those not ready to shop in person. She adds that if something isn’t selling, don’t give up on it but instead, repackage, revamp, and redesign its inclusions until you find what connects with your customer base.
“Your online store right now should be cranking! Your social media should be buzzing and linked to your online store to link product items to sell instantly. Promote gift vouchers; you need to be ready for Christmas gift ideas as Christmas packs will be hitting our shelves very soon if not already and your store needs these – there will still be people who don’t feel safe coming out to the shops”.
Olivia explains that an online store is a total no-brainer but understands that it can feel overwhelming at the beginning.
“Just do it! It is a no-brainer and absolutely allowed me to continue to operate and bring in revenue. I had thought about it for the longest time and thought it was all too hard, but honestly, if it is out of your depth – find someone who specialises, remember you are not meant to know everything”
Rebecca concludes our chat by sharing that by adding an online component to your business, you’re able to foster new skills and growth in your team and add serious value to the impact you can deliver as a business.
“We have really loved building our online store, now stocking a massive range of lifestyle, body and internal products to complement our in-clinic products and services. We are extremely grateful knowing our La Bella brand is making its way all around Australia, empowering women to feel confident and educating them to love the skin they are in”.
We hope that this deep dive into the world of lockdown retail has left you feeling inspired to ramp up your own! Do you have your own unboxing experience or divine hamper that sets your business apart? Our team would love to see them by mentioning us on Instagram.