The future of the retail store

VP, Education Strategy
June 26, 2017
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Bluemercury is a fast-growing luxury beauty products and retail spa chain. The company currently has 140 stores in the United States; with three new stores opening every week, though, that number is expected to double next year. “We still have the feeling of the friendly neighborhood store where you can get expert, honest advice,” co-founder and COO Barry Beck says. Bluemercury focuses on using expert advice to solve customer problems, believing that unparalleled customer service prompts product sales.

On this week’s episode of Retail Gets Real, Beck shares his company’s strategy for becoming an integral part of its customers’ communities, using education and entertainment to attract shoppers and build a loyal customer base.

Half the time, “a customer comes into Bluemercury looking to solve a problem,” Beck says. Employees develop expert product knowledge so they can brainstorm solutions instantly. “Our people are our enduring secret weapon,” he says of the company’s team of beauty experts, who are given long-term career paths with the company and access to benefits.

Barry Beck (left) in the podcast studio with host Susan Reda (right)

Barry Beck (left) in the podcast studio with host Susan Reda (right)

With resources from Macy’s, which acquired Bluemercury in 2015, the brand has built a robust online platform where customers can go to research products and buy at their convenience. But associate expertise is at the core of the business, and customers return to stores again and again. “I pore over the data on a daily basis,” Beck says; insights from his customer research led to the development of two private label makeup brands, M-61 Skincare and Lune+Aster Beauty. 

“Retail today has to transition to become a new form of media.”

Barry Beck

Beck is opposed to the idea of e-commerce drowning out retail stores; it’s not so much a technological shift as a change in consumer behavior. Younger consumers think about shopping in a completely different way than previous generations. With more than 70 million Americans under the age of 18, Beck says changes are necessary and there will be “more opportunity for well-placed stores than ever before.” He sees pure-play e-commerce companies such as Warby Parker and Amazon entering bricks-and-mortar as a positive sign: “It’s practically impossible to actualize your brand without a physical world presence,” he says. “That’s why they’re opening stores.”

Bluemercury is pioneering solutions at new locations to adapt to this new world, especially at a new flagship in the heart of New York City. The features are high-tech and intended to encourage the social aspect of shopping, because “human beings are social creatures,” Beck says. “Shopping is a social experience.”

Listen to this week’s episode for more on the future of the retail store, and subscribe to Retail Gets Real so you’ll never miss a future episode.

Susan Reda is one of NRF’s co-hosts on Retail Gets Real. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.