Building connections with consumers is one of retail’s most enduring challenges, and highly tactile brands faced extra difficulty when the pandemic limited traditional in-person efforts. Madison Reed responded by building out its omnichannel experiences: in the last 18 months, the retailer has launched virtual hair coloring parties, added video consultations and introduced video screens at its Color Bars. These efforts have helped Madison Reed quadruple its business.
Andrew Lande-Shannon, Senior Director, Store Experience at Madison Reed, estimated that 95 million women color their hair each year, with each spending an average of $160 annually, during his session at retailX 2021. Bringing these potential customers into the Madison Reed ecosystem means meeting them wherever they want to be met — whether browsing Madison Reed’s own sites or looking for its products at a retail partner — and Lande-Shannon attributed the brand’s success to its emphasis on making the shopper journey seamless no matter where they start or where they end up making a purchase.
“The word that comes to mind when we talk internally about customer experience and the customer journey is fluidity,” said Lande-Shannon. “In its simplest terms, it’s the ability of a substance to flow easily. The danger sometimes with businesses today is that it’s easy to become compartmentalized in all of the different channels that they are doing business in.”
Starting With a Playful Quiz Eases Stress
Madison Reed laid the groundwork for its current success years ago with the creation of its online hair color quiz. Shoppers answer a few question about themselves and what they’re looking for, and an algorithm analyzes their input to immediately start the browsing process with a curated selection of the right colors and shades.
“We know that hair coloring, for a lot of women, is a nerve-wracking experience,” said Lande-Shannon. “This introduces play, and therefore breaks down the barrier of how we’re going to convert you into a Madison Reed client.”
Digital technology still plays a role for customers who visit one of Madison Reed’s Color Bars in person. Stylists use data from the same quiz to help them guide customers to the right choice for them. The amount of time spent with each client is recorded to improve scheduling for repeat customers, for instance by giving those who need it a bit of extra time with their stylist.
Videoconferencing Drives Conversions
The color quiz offers a great foundation, but Madison Reed knew it had to continue evolving alongside its customers during the pandemic. One innovation was the launch of virtual hair coloring parties and consultations to help replicate the Color Bar experience during lockdown and beyond.
“It was driven by the search that we saw in the pandemic, when we had thousands and thousands of new clients entering in and wanting to color their hair,” said Lande-Shannon. “Everybody was on Zoom, and everybody still wanted to look great. We needed to talk to people, and we needed to guide people.”
The inaugural hair coloring parties attracted hundreds of attendees and asked them to invite their spouses, children, friends or whoever was helping them dye their hair to become involved in the process. The practice eventually evolved into one-on-one hair coloring consultations that shared a goal with the hair color quiz: reassuring women who feel that hair coloring can be a nerve-wracking experience. Seeing the stylist live provided a connection that’s hard to replicate with a purely audio interaction.
“We actually use it as an acquisition tool,” said Lande-Shannon. “We see more clients convert in video consultation than they do from a normal phone conversation with one of our colorists. We see huge potential as this avenue grows.”
Interactive Screens Tie the In-Store Experience Together
Madison Reed has continued expanding its omnichannel experience for the post-pandemic environment. One of the latest additions to its Color Bars are interactive screens where customers can browse color swatches to help them find the right shade shortly after they walk in the door. The retailer realized the potential of the technology during the pandemic, when women were spending up to two to three minutes browsing despite consumers’ usual discomfort with communal devices.
“The screen plays a pivotal role of being the technology that the client sees as soon as they walk into Madison Reed,” said Lande-Shannon. “It validates that we as a hair color company are also a technology-based company. We have thousands and thousands of women who have taken our color quiz through our algorithm, so all the knowledge that we have in terms of what color you should choose is based on the data that we’ve collected from all of those clients.”
The screens also help mitigate friction by letting customers develop their own independent consultations as they wait for an available stylist. Stylists also can integrate the screen into the consultation, ensuring that the customer experience remains smooth throughout the entire visit. Madison Reed plans to have the screens installed at 50% of its Color Bars by the end of 2021.
Madison Reed offers a wide array of starting points to its customers, which has impacted the way it developed its omnichannel offerings. Each unique touch point is connected by the brand’s emphasis on fluidity, ensuring that every customer journey is just as seamless and valid as any other.
“Whether she is purchasing her hair color from Ulta Beauty, from Target, from one of our Color Bars or directly from our website, we can meet her,” said Lande-Shannon. “Or she may decide that she’s going to be like a lot of clients; sometimes she shops from home or sometimes she decides she wants to go into a Color Bar. The key is making sure that we are matching that. We are listening to her, to what she’s doing, and we are making sure that we are supporting it.”