Glossier puts the experience first expecting sales to follow

Photos: Glossier
Nov 24, 2021

Direct-to-consumer beauty retailer Glossier continues to bring an experiential element to its brand with its new store location in Los Angeles, its second since shuttering all its stores last year, according to Glossy.

The beauty brand appears to be leaning even farther into experience-heavy showrooms than its pre-pandemic incarnation. The brand said that Glossier stores are not meant to “facilitate transactions” but instead to focus on a “new kind of beauty experience.”

The new store features Instagram/Tik Tok-ready installations, Hollywood-themed designs as a nod to the Los Angeles locale, lighting and mirrors “optimized for selfies” and other elements meant to appeal to a social media-savvy audience. There are separate rooms for skin care and makeup and an outdoor space with a cafe meant to act as a community hub.

The store concept as described recalls a wave of experiential pop-up retail that appeared in the years leading up to the pandemic.

Pop-up museums like The Museum of Ice Cream and Candytopia began appearing throughout the U.S., encouraging visitors to take selfies with in-store themed installations and post them on their social feeds.

Many such businesses experienced significant setbacks with the onset of the pandemic. The Museum of Ice Cream, in particular, often visited by celebrities, experienced a 100 percent drop in revenue almost overnight, according to Yahoo! News. The attraction is finally on the rebound with ticket sales for its New York City location beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels and two new locations opening this year.

While Glossier appears to be thinking of its stores primarily as experiential brand builders and not transactional locations, it has also taken other more traditional steps into physical retail.

At the end of 2019, after having been exclusively direct-to-consumer outside of its New York City and Los Angeles flagships, the brand entered into a partnership with Nordstrom. Glossier opened pop-up shops in seven Nordstrom locations in major urban markets to promote and sell its Glossier You fragrance.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think an experiential beauty store that is not entirely focused on product makes sense for Glossier? What is the best way for a DTC company to determine the right in-store experiences to offer shoppers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Shoppers love unique experiences and those that have the opportunity to visit the experiential Glossier store will have more loyalty to the brand."
"Glossier’s retail stores are evolving into theater-like experiences, with the art of discovery at the heart of their strategies."
"DTC brands have the benefit of driving insights through data."

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14 Comments on "Glossier puts the experience first expecting sales to follow"

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David Naumann

The social media value of shoppers posting selfies in the experiential beauty store combined with the increased brand awareness may provide a return on investment from an advertising value perspective. Shoppers love unique experiences and those that have the opportunity to visit the experiential Glossier store will have more loyalty to the brand.

Ken Morris

I totally agree David. It’s theater that creates loyalty.

Chris Buecker

The combination of DTC with an experiential store will be a winning formula moving forward.

Dave Bruno

Kudos to Glossier for recognizing that physical experiences bring your brand to life, and for trying again despite their pandemic-induced challenges with stores the first time around. We simply have to find ways to differentiate from the online world of bloated marketplaces and choice overload, and clearly, store experiences are very high on the list of ways to differentiate. I would suggest to the execs at Glossier that they allocate budget for keeping these experiences fresh, as novelty is maddeningly fleeting on Tik Tok…

Melissa Minkow

Beauty brands will have to approach experiential differently as long as we’re wearing masks and can’t sample products in stores. It’s smart to focus on brand building during this time for that reason. Glossier is a trend-driven brand that does well merely by fostering its connection with consumers, so I think this will be a successful endeavor and pandemic work-around.

Ken Morris

In this case, Glossier is going experience first and square footage dedicated to product second. They’re acknowledging that their brand is fueled by social, and Hollywood-staged selfie stations will get more followers, likes, swipes, and influencer types than end caps loaded with SKUs.

This new store concept will allow them to differentiate from Sephora, Ulta, and others. The combo with Nordstrom will help with Glossier’s visibility and reach, too. Glossier clearly understands their customer and the brand interaction needed to generate buzz and sales. It’s all about the experience, with social being the force multiplier for them.

Liza Amlani

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and experiences are the perfect way to connect with the customer and build deeper relationships and loyalty.

Beauty is truly personal. It is so much more than product. It’s about how beauty makes a customer feel and we need more engagement across brands to keep them relevant with fickle customers.

DTC brands have the benefit of driving insights through data. They have everything they need to determine what the customer wants, what will delight them, and what will drive loyalty and excitement across experiences. The key is asking the right questions to inform marketing AND merchandising to keep customers wanting more engagement with the brand.

Steve Dennis

“Experience” is an over-used and ill defined word. Everything is an experience. The salient strategic question is do the elements of a physical store visit add meaningful value when it comes to driving traffic, converting that traffic, driving full price selling/cross-sell/upsell, willingness to come back (to our store or our website) and, ideally, share the remarkable story of our brand. The right way to do it is to dissect the key elements of the customer journey for the cohorts that have the best potential CLTV.

Gene Detroyer

I love this. Glossier may be 10 years ahead of its time. It would not surprise me if almost all stores eventually focus on connecting with the consumer to get them to ultimately buy online.

It is a completely different mindset than most retailers don’t have today. Going omnichannel was a big hurdle for some. They did it not because they “saw the light,” but because the competition and the numbers were there. Now Glossier has taken it to the next level.

Dave Wendland

This makes total sense to me. Retail space must showcase things that cannot be as effectively delivered digitally. Retail cannot survive as a mere transactional environment.

In short, I love the concept of experiential beauty which should evoke action. Glossier will increase excitement for their brand and generate sales as a result. I look forward to the buzz this will generate and the enthusiasm for the Glossier experience!

Andrew Blatherwick

Experiential retail is becoming more important for retailers to gain customer attention and interest. It is interesting to see this from a direct-to-consumer brand that is not looking to use stores as transactional. However I note the term “principally,” so while the experience is primary they are not rejecting transactions at the store location.

Consumers who are social media fixated will no doubt find this a great place to visit. So will a lot of others who want to explore what is possible. I’m not sure it will work in some other markets but cosmetics is a great place for this type of store. We will see more of this in the future. The key is going to be how well they do it. This can’t be a halfhearted strategy and has to be an all-out experience that customers can really get into.

Venky Ramesh

DTC brands, beyond their phase of initial growth spurt, face the challenge of increasing incremental cost of customer acquisition triggering them to look to physical channel to drive brand discovery and engagement. For example, Harrys started selling shaving kit at Costco expecting to sell replenishment blades online on a subscription. Others like Glossier are doing it through their own experience stores to create emotional bonding with their customers.

We will continue to see more instances of online DTC companies marrying offline with newer and more interesting ways of driving discoverability and engagement.

Brandon Rael

Along with the luxury brands, the beauty segment is a prime category for driving outstanding customer experiences. With the emergence of social selling, digital marketing, and live streaming content via Instagram/TikTok and other platforms. The Glossier team is making a timely pivot to driving fulfilling experiences over transactions.

The engagement between brands and consumers has to extend beyond the product or the shopping experience. Every customer touchpoint is another opportunity for brands to drive engagement, community, a sense of belonging, and personalization. A TikTok first approach will remain a winning strategy as long as Glossier’s integration of the TikTok ready selfie installations adds to the experience and remains an authentic part of the overall experience.

Glossier’s retail stores are evolving into theater-like experiences, with the art of discovery at the heart of their strategies. It will be fascinating to see how this develops and if their competition steps up in this emerging space.

Anil Patel
DTC brands must own their customers. In other words, they need to understand their customers, in and out. And based on this knowledge, they must deliver on the product performance and the shopping experience. So from that perspective, experience-first stores make perfect sense for a brand like Glossier. For example, an Apple customer’s journey is not limited to just the transaction. An Apple customer is a part of their community and is sure to enjoy a convenient post-purchase experience. Even though Apple is a completely different category, we can all agree that post-purchase experience adds significant intangible value to customers’ shopping experience. Customers do not visit a beauty store solely to purchase products (online platforms can help them do it very conveniently). They come to the store to have an experience that is more than just a transaction. A good pre-purchase experience is table stakes for retailers. You do it wrong and your customer is lost forever. To differentiate from the competitors, retailers must master the post-purchase experience. This will help avoid brand switching which… Read more »
"Shoppers love unique experiences and those that have the opportunity to visit the experiential Glossier store will have more loyalty to the brand."
"Glossier’s retail stores are evolving into theater-like experiences, with the art of discovery at the heart of their strategies."
"DTC brands have the benefit of driving insights through data."

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