Why Physical Retail Spaces Are Still Relevant for Beauty Brands

Posted on December 27, 2019 by Carm McCormick

Why Physical Retail Spaces Are Still Relevant for Beauty Brands

Posted on December 27, 2019 by Carm McCormick

From sensory experience to customer service and more, physical retail spaces still play a critical role in the success of beauty brands

With more direct-to-consumer beauty brands dominating the beauty industry, the landscape for the industry has changed drastically. Customers can purchase their favourite products online with the click of a button, where buying has become enabled by email marketing, shoppable apps and social channels like Instagram. With all of this digital purchasing power, It’s no wonder the beauty industry is worth over $500 billion.  

And yet, beauty brands continue to invest millions of dollars into physical spaces. Why? It’s simple: physical retail spaces are still critical to the success of a brand’s customer experience. Without physical spaces, customers can’t touch, feel, smell or see what they’re buying…and they won’t find that perfect foundation match online. 

The benefits that physical retail spaces offer customers when shopping in-store allow brands to offer curated experiences shoppers won’t find online.

The proof is in the concealer

Online shopping can be fun, but nothing compares to trialing beauty products in-person, which is why so many beauty brands tailor their physical spaces to include testing or sample stations where shoppers can touch, feel and try on different items, like foundation, lip stick, concealers and much more. While online shopping is convenient, customers who care about the quality, look, feel and efficacy of their beauty products will flock to beauty retailers to see the goods in person. 

Beauty products are also personal purchases, and having the opportunity to test out items on your own skin or hair elevates the shopping experience and establishes trust, because customers can see what they’re getting and discover what works (and what doesn’t) for their own needs.

No more second guessing product purchases

Today you can walk into virtually any MAC, Sephora, Ulta, Walgreen’s, CVS or Cos Bar and you’ll find expert technicians and makeup artists who know the products they sell and can help customers find the right item. Whether it’s skincare, hair care or makeup, beauty brands rely on their expert sales reps to inform customers about their products and purchases. Many brands have online virtual buying assistants on their websites, but they don’t allow you to try out a serum or find the right makeup match for your skin. 

It’s why retailers like Sephora are so successful with in-store sales and customer service – the brand’s staff is knowledgeable, customers can sample different products, and sales reps are on hand to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. It takes the guesswork out of purchasing beauty products from brands you know and love – and ones you’ve never tried before.

Retail design takes a front seat

Everything from product displays and lighting to checkout counters, sampling stations, mirrors and more creates an experience from the moment customers set foot in your store. 

That’s because the smallest details truly count, like accurate lighting, which can help a customer find the right shade of foundation for their skin and encourage them to purchase it. Strategically-placed mirrors allow shoppers to try different products on as they browse, while accessible checkout counters make it easier to follow through with a purchase. 

The way certain product lines are displayed can contribute to a positive customer experience – like placing new product launches at the front of the store, sample stations near popular brands, or discovery areas near the checkout lane for impulse buys. 

To help customers get the most out of their in-store experience, beauty brands can design and optimize their stores with strategic product placements, brand categorization, advice counters, beauty bars and even digital beauty displays where customers can see what’s on sale or grab a secret discount code.

It’s the experience that counts

For beauty brands, taking a hybrid approach where customers are exposed to more than just products means shoppers not only make a purchase but stick around for more. 

For example, Aesop offers customers tea to sip on while they browse, and most retail locations have seating or hand wash areas where shoppers can try out different products before buying.

LUSH uses its retail stores to educate customers on the natural ingredients they use and lets them try out every type of product right in-store (all without having to make a purchase). Meanwhile, Philosophy uses it’s WellBeing Beauty Store for sensory experiences, virtual meditation and community connection. 

Creating experiences that allow customers to do more than just make a quick purchase can keep them coming back (and buying more). Like Kiehl’s, which provides personalized skin consultations to customers and helps them choose the right skincare items, brands can offer advice, tutorials, consultations, events and so much more, all in-store.

By offering a hybrid store experience, beauty brands are able to capture more customer attention because the experience is multidimensional.


Whether you’re a national beauty brand or a small retailer working on launching your third store, the right design approach and elements can help elevate your customer experience – and put your retail space to work. If you’re ready to take your store to the next level, our team of seasoned experts are here to help you elevate your retail space. Contact us today to discover more!

What’s the future of retail?

Malls, as we know them, are changing. And many are changing not only to serve customers but to serve retailers, now and into the future. As the way we shop continues to change and evolve, retailers and malls have to find unique ways to adapt to consumer needs. Many malls across Canada are reinventing themselves not just for the short-term needs of consumers, but for long-term demand, thinking ahead for the future of retail.

Explore the future of retail for both malls and retailers alike in our white paper, “Reinvention: The Saviour of Canadian Malls?”.