As the world emerges from pandemic lockdowns, many retailers are leaning into immersive and experiential store experiences to draw shoppers back to brick-and-mortar. Designed to provide memorable, interactive, and personalized interactions, these experiences offer a way for retailers to build a loyal customer base and mirror their in-person offerings with the effortless, online journey shoppers have come to expect.
The beauty category provides the ideal environment to innovate and grow such experiences. RIS spoke with Donna Arnold, senior director of retail at Sally Beauty, about how the retailer is leveraging technology to improve the overall store experience – both for frontline associates and shoppers. Arnold also gave insight into Sally Beauty’s latest project – a DIY-centric concept store named Studio by Sally, which opened in March 2023.
Continuing the Modernization Journey
According to Arnold, Sally Beauty has been on a modernization journey since before the pandemic. When COVID hit, company leaders had an opportunity to make some broad improvements to in-store technologies. Specifically, the retailer needed to update legacy POS systems and implement an intuitive solution that supported inventory visibility.
Working with solution provider Direct Source, Sally Beauty created a plan to update and deploy a new POS system in about 4,500 stores. As part of this renewal effort, the retailer’s goal was to give sales associates simple, streamlined, multifunctional devices for inventory management. This has involved rolling out easy-to-use mobile devices across all Sally Beauty stores, allowing associates to easily see real-time inventory levels.
The initiative was a success from the get-go, says Arnold. “During the pandemic, Sally Beauty used some of its stores as distribution centers instead of being open to the public. These dark stores kept people employed. Now, all our stores can act as mini distribution centers as they have real-time access to inventory and can quickly fulfill BOPIS orders.”
This, in turn, has helped Sally Beauty meet expectations from consumers for faster service, and support the company’s 2-hour delivery standard.
Using the mobile app, Sally Beauty store associates can now see what they have in-store by checking handhelds and can replenish stock faster when inventory levels dip. This ultimately curbs lost sales and boosts the customer experience.
Training-wise, using consumer-styled devices has simplified the employee training process and lowered the learning curve, and helped get new hires up-to-speed and onboarded more quickly. Ultimately, Arnold says that handheld technology frees up Sally Beauty associates to focus more on the customer and deliver a memorable, engaging experience. By empowering associates with information on inventory, they also feel more confident in customer-facing roles.
Empowering Associates to Deliver Engaging Experiences
Enabling associates to deliver a more engaging customer experience will be key in Sally Beauty’s next venture – a new concept store named ‘Studio by Sally’ that builds in a DIY-centric salon experience to the store visit.
Arnold shares that associates at these concept stores will be trained cosmetologists, allowing customers to work with a licensed stylist to improve their personal styling and achieve results at home using Sally Beauty products.
With salons and hairdressers shuttered during pandemic lockdowns, these kinds of DIY, at-home beauty treatments skyrocketed, along with sales of products like hair dye. Studio by Sally will build on customers' new confidence in trying out styles and techniques at home, but with an added salon-style consultation built into the experience.
“This is a new way to engage, educate and empower consumers using interactive experiences to showcase Sally Beauty’s on-trend, color, and care expertise and drive product sales,” Arnold shared.
Focused on educating and informing customers, Studio by Sally will have a digital-first focus from virtual check-in and digital education throughout the store to DIY demos, streaming at the storefront, and take-home videos from the personalized sessions.
“Consumers today are creative and savvy,” said John Goss, Sally Beauty’s president, in a statement. “They know they can achieve great hair at home and are hungry for knowledge to help them do it. It’s in our DNA to empower consumers and help grow their confidence when it comes to coloring and caring for their hair. We created Studio By Sally to help take them to the next level in their DIY hair journeys.”