Besides testing and reviewing products, the one thing that really interests me about the beauty industry is the evolution of how brands interact with the customer, particularly in the online space. However, a real problem area still exists with bricks-and-mortar counters, all revolving around key principle of customer service (or lack of!). I submitted this article as part of Beauty Heaven’s Blogstar competition and thought I would reproduce it on my own blog. You are all consumers – what are your thoughts?

There’s been a lot of noise lately about shoppers skipping bricks-and-mortar department stores and making their beauty purchases online. The retailers are complaining that they can’t compete, but is price really the problem?

For decades, department stores have held a monopoly on high-end cosmetics. It didn’t matter what the price was and what the service was like – if you wanted the product, you had no choice but to buy it there. Over the past few years, aided by a boom in e-commerce, beauty products have become far more accessible to a broader range of consumers. The retail landscape has changed significantly but many counters are failing to adapt.

Price is a key factor but it seems that many brands have forgotten the basic element of sales – customer service. Customers want to be pampered and to feel special. They want someone to help them who is polite and knowledgeable, and can show them the right products and techniques to look their best. A customer has to feel comfortable enough to share their insecurities with a complete stranger.

Image: www.dailymail.co.uk

Beauty brands often strive for the image of luxury, but some staff are confusing this with unapproachable. A sales assistant should not be snooty or aloof, no matter what brand they are representing. Most of the time I’m too scared to come within five metres of the counter, let alone touch the products for fear of a sales assistant snapping “Can I help you?!”. This is one of the key factors that has made beauty bloggers so popular – the ability to see real-life photos of products from the comfort of your home, without the pestering and the hard sell.

Given the universal policy of not accepting returns on used cosmetics, customers want to be absolutely sure before they buy. Trying on products is essential, but often there is reluctance by counter staff to spend the time on a proper application. Foundations and skincare need to be trialled for a few days, so why are counters so loath to provide samples? Customers don’t want to feel like they are begging for the right to try products.

One-off sales need to be translated into long-term relationships through positive experiences. Redeemable makeovers have become a popular way to add value, as have in-store visits by international makeup artists. Some brands even demonstrate key looks in dedicated studios at the back of the counter.

Everyone likes a free gift, but purchasing rewards are in desperate need of an update – how many of us have a huge bag of unused, generic samples sitting under the bathroom sink amongst a pile of cosmetic bags? Products chosen by the customer and tailored to their needs will provide the most popular and provide highest level of satisfaction. Interestingly, no-one has thought to implement a points-based loyalty program like Sephora’s hugely popular Beauty Insider.

Have you drifted away from the department stores? What could they do differently to win you back?

My favourite jewellery designer Samantha Wills had one of her infamous sales over the New Year. Some styles were seriously marked down (60% off) so I was able to pick up some great statement jewellery for a very cheap price.

I’d had my eye on the Helen of Troy necklace (was $145, now $58) for a while…

…it has a luxurious Cleopatra feel to it and would really pop against navy, which I wear a lot of. Imagine a Friday night drinks outfit of blazer, skinny jeans, statement heels and this necklace.

I really like tribal and aztec accessories, so the Adelpha Coin Ring (was $59, now $23) was a natural choice…

…it looks like something I would seal my letters with!

Shop Samantha Wills here: www.samanthawills.com

2012 New Year’s Resolutions

Posted: January 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Why are most people so down on New Year’s resolutions? I think the start of a new year can be a great time to draw a line in the sand and make positive changes to your life. The key is to actually have a plan. Most people set goals and fail because they haven’t thought about what they need to do to get there.

Here are a few things I hope to accomplish in 2012:

1. Read 12 books. I used to be a reading machine when I was a kid. I churned through every single Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl book in existence, and spent countless hours at the library. Once I started uni, it all stopped. All those dry, boring textbooks and academic papers killed my enthusiasm and I hardly touched a book for four years. I’m pleased to say that after a few years in the wilderness, I’m back on the wagon and looking forward to my first read of 2012, The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do.

2. Go to the gym three times a week. I usually go to the gym a few times a week but I’ve been a bit slack over the last six months. I want to get fit so I can do Run for the Kids again, plus I want to lose a bit of weight but most of all, I don’t want to waste money on something that I’m paying for every fortnight! I’m going to go to Results class on Mondays, Body Pump on Thursdays and run on the treadmill on Wednesdays. That equals about $4 a visit.

3. Save more, spend less. I want to save more for a few reasons: (i) I want to build up a deposit for an apartment (ii) I want to have enough money to go to New York in 2013. I want to spend less for a few reasons: (i) I already have way too many clothes and accessories and way too much makeup, all of which are underutilised (ii) My apartment is hard to live in when it is so cluttered with stuff (iii) I feel overconsumed - buying stuff isn’t as fun as it used to be.

4. Bring my lunch to work four days a week. This spins out of goal number three. It’s very expensive to buy your lunch every day - I’d know, because I used to do it. $10 x 5 days x 48 weeks = $2,400 = yowser! I can’t quit altogether, I mean, I’ve been buying my lunch every Friday ever since my first lunch order in Prep. It’s a big deal for me. However, if I only bought my lunch one day a week and put the money I would have spent on the other four days in a jar, I’d save $1,920. That’s more than enough for my plane ticket to New York.

What are your goals for 2012?

2011 Highlights

Posted: January 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

I was flicking through my iPhone the other day and realised that I’ve collected quite a selection of photos over the year while I’ve been out and about town. Here’s a few highlights…

I watched Kim Clijsters defeat Li Na in the Australian Open Women’s Final…

I attended my first ever rugby union game at AAMI Park (Go Rebels!)…

I cheered the Tigers to a good win (vs Essendon at Dreamtime at the ‘G)…

I took a winter trip to Darwin…

…and a cruise down Katherine Gorge…

…I strolled along Port Melbourne beach…

…I witnessed show time at the Regent Theatre…

…someone bought me flowers…

…the city was guarded by giant Batman babies…

…I ate my first ever vanilla slice…

…I ate breakfast at OST (Bridge Rd, Richmond)…

…I posted a letter to Santa at City Square…

…I ticked off a bucket list item – drinking Veuve at The Italian!

I’m back from holidays and ready to announce the winner of my 2011 Christmas Giveaway!

I’m pretty excited about this because I know that the person that was drawn out will be super-excited when she sees this. So without any further adieu

THE WINNER IS…A LITTLE TETE-A-TETE (aka Lisa)!

Your prize is all packed up and ready to go, send your postage details to melbournebeautyblog@gmail.com and I’ll mail it out to you straight away!

Thanks to everyone that entered, it was fun to read about all of the cool toys you got from Santa and it brought back some great memories from my childhood.

Keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways later in the year :)

Chanel Photos

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Beauty, Fashion, Places
Tags: ,

It seems that everywhere I turn this week, Chanel is there.

There was this Chanel No. 5 bus stop ad on St Kilda Road, which I also saw in Doncaster and Collingwood…

…then I went to my friend’s 30th birthday lunch at The Italian where we gifted her a bottle of Coco Mademoiselle perfume…

…then I saw this gorgeous cake at Dolce Espresso at Westfield Doncaster (I bet they sell like crazy!).

SABA Collins Street VIP Night

Posted: December 22, 2011 in Fashion, Shopping
Tags: ,

A few Fridays ago, SABA had a Christmas VIP Night at their flagship store on Collins Street. I was lucky enough to attend and be spoiled rotten!

Shoppers were invited to indulge in some champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries as they browsed the summer range, and the first 50 people in the door were treated to a showbag. The showbag was great – it had a scarf that I’d had my eye on for quite some time (the Nile Scarf in Ultramarine, RRP $69), as well as deluxe samples of Napoleon Perdis Auto Pilot Primer and Kora Hand Balm and a full-size SABA-branded lip balm.

In addition to all this, SABA offered 35% off storewide. After reading this article on the quality of SABA’s black pants in comparison to other brands, I decided that I would purchase the Viva Suit Pant, but unfortunately they didn’t have my size. To the staff’s credit, and despite the growing crowd, they helped me locate a pair at Melbourne Central. Great service!

I didn’t hang around too long because it was so hot and stuffy – the new store layout is much nicer to look at but is unfortunately a lot smaller so there wasn’t much room to move. I picked up the Basic Slub Print T-shirt which is part of the SABA Denim range. I wish SABA would make more basic t-shirts, this one was great quality and fit really nicely. I’m planning on wearing it on Christmas Day with some denim shorts.

Shop SABA here: www.saba.com.au