The A.S. Watson Group has recently conducted a survey to test how the pandemic has influenced the purchasing habits of consumers: how online and offline models merge to satisfy customers, creating “human connection”. Hair & beauty salon businesses can take advantage of these findings.
A particularly significant survey was conducted by Watson: the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer. It involved over 22,000 consumers across over 20 markets in Asia and Europe. Many have already argued that the pandemic has changed the way consumers shop and live, with the value of relationships becoming increasingly higher. Despite the increase in online purchases, it appears that most customers would like to get back to a face-to-face scenario, where they can make human connections again.
Malina Ngai, Group COO of A.S. Watson Group and CEO of A.S. Watson (Asia & Europe) said: “While the pandemic accelerated a growth in eCommerce and technological development, the crisis has underlined customers’ desire for human connections, and for the future of retail, these bonds will become even more important. A.S. Watson has been working to build retail brands that have a lasting, close relationship with our customers while also offering a seamless online and offline experience alongside industry leading technology. These technologies are designed to enhance the experience, but they can never replace an exceptional, quality service, strong relationships and personal connections with our customers.”
Demand for Human Connection
Due to the pandemic, people have had no choice but to shop online and this is why A.S. Watson’s global eCommerce grew by over 90% in the second quarter of 2020. Many people have become more comfortable with eCommerce and are likely to stick with online shopping in future, which will give eCommerce a boost in the long term. In the Group’s recent survey (over 22,000 customers aged 15-65 in over 20 markets) 90% of respondents said that they will continue to shop online, as expected, but most importantly, the survey revealed that 100% of respondents said they want to go back to physical stores for shopping, especially Gen Z, with one third saying they will even shop in stores more often. This showed that the customers’ desire for human connections in physical stores will play a crucial part in the business recovery.
Desire for Emotional Bonds with Customers Drives Optimism for Hair & Beauty Salons
The global pandemic has brought opportunities to build emotional bonds with customers for a well-organised group such as Watson, which can count on over 138 million loyalty programme members worldwide, that they have never stopped serving and engaging, especially during the pandemic. But building emotional bonds is the most powerful tool that Beauty Salon professionals have to create a relationship with their customers. We have always known that what makes people going to a Hair and Beauty salon is, most of all, the need to interact with somebody they can trust.
Watson is now paying more attention to services that allow Customers to speak to online experts. In Mainland China, Watsons’ WeChat Work allows beauty advisors to stay in touch with customers and give product recommendations In Europe, the ‘Go In Store’ service of The Perfume Shop and ICI PARIS XL offers a bespoke consultation and help the customer with the decision making process.
On this subject, Ms. Ngai added: “As A.S. Watson enters the new normal, we need to rethink our strategies and approaches to meet and adapt to the changing demands of our customers. Our insights show that customers are more emotionally demanding for relevance and care. As we continue to be the most-loved brands of our customers, we have to innovate the way we operate to be more personal with the service we offer in store and further enhance online personalisation through cutting-edge technology.”
In this difficult moment when we are all trying to rebuild our businesses, most of the survey results appear very encouraging for both hair and beauty salons. Customers are asking for ‘more hands-on care’ – something professional hair and beauty consultants have always been best at – so perhaps it’s time to take advantage!