Counter culture: 5 ways to Gen Z-proof your beauty store

Kseniya Sharin, Strategist at FITCH

This article was first published on Cosmetic Business 17.05.2019

Gen Z are set to become the largest generation of consumers by 2020, with a predicted spending power of £109 billion (Forbes, 2018), it’s time for beauty brands to pay attention to their needs and reap the benefits from connecting with this audience.

So, how can you cater your beauty retail store for the Gen Z consumer?

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

1. Prioritise experience above all

Beauty is one of the last sectors to enjoy the ease of driving consumers in-store; no amount of reviews, tutorials or seamless online checkouts will replicate the desire to touch, test and colour match in person.

For Gen Z, who are used to scrolling and being constantly inspired by stimulating content on social media, they expect the same of the places they visit. They see stores as interactive brand destinations, where they can connect with the brand, discover products and try out new beauty services.

Newly opened this year, the Chanel’s Atelier Beautéis a great example of the next generation of physical beauty experiences. Encouraging customers to play rather than shop, the Atelier is divided in rooms based on the routines of product application. With rows of generous samples, personalisation services and lockers to store your belongings while you explore, the Atelier is a creative workshop with endless possibilities to experiment.

In the last few years, we’ve started to see more and more stores turn into playgrounds for entertainment, labs for exploration and social destinations for a get together. There is an exciting opportunity for beauty retailers to prioritise and determine their signature experience and appeal to the Gen Z consumer.

2. Make sure your storytelling has purpose

Gen Z are using their social conscience to drive their purchase choices, choosing brands that stand for something and align with their views.

So, it comes as no surprise that the global vegan cosmetics market is projected to reach $20.8bn by 2025 (Stylus, 2019) and 83% of Gen Z already consciously buy organic or natural beauty products. Sustainability and ethics are not a trend, but a minimum lifestyle benchmark. It is imperative for beauty brands to convey their moral credentials in their physical stores.

Last year, in Milan, Berlin and Manchester, Lushlaunched its ‘Naked Shop’, the world’s first plastic-free cosmetics concept. Telling the story of plastic pollution, the store is a haven for conscious Gen Z consumers. A celebration of innovation and creativity, the Naked shops are ‘a place for customers to share and exchange ideas for a future without plastic’.

Beauty retailers should push the boundaries of storytelling through physical activations, whether it’s the latest clean product innovation or sustainability campaign: convey the true passion of your brand to succeed.

3. Focus on social to build real, lasting connections

For Gen Z, shopping for beauty is a great social experience. They value opportunities to learn more about the brands they shop with; exciting events such as workshops and masterclasses are a great way to build stronger brand relationships (and also have more fun with their friends).

Sephorahas developed a selection of beauty extras in their stores, called ‘Happening at Sephora’. The brand presents consumers with opportunities from instore beauty classes, to hearing interesting beauty industry speakers at their events.

Most beauty brands still tend to place a focus on social connection for their consumers in the pop-up sphere, but there’s value in creating a more permanent and constantly evolving calendar of events for your Gen Z audience. Nothing beats having an ongoing conversation with your consumers in real time, creating memorable and emotional connections that give them reasons to return.

Photo by on Unsplash

4. Provide generous and authentic services

Whether it’s adding an element of hospitality, expert staff recommendations, customisation or complimentary tutorials, providing generous services that are honest to your brand purpose will go a long way in instigating loyalty with your Gen Z audience.

A mixture between an old apothecary and a laboratory, Le Labotakes consumers on a sensual journey; smell testing a range of natural perfume essences alongside a 1–1 consultation. Expert staff in lab coats take the time to hand mix a chosen fragrance in and provide custom labels, creating an unforgettable service experience.

Beauty retailers should not shy away from placing service at the centre of their store offer, though it’s key to explore what authenticity means to their brand and how that can be translated into an exciting service proposition.

5. Give the digital community an offline presence

Once a solo experience for previous generations, Gen Z are now sharing every step of their beauty journey on social media. Driven by this digitally-native generation, more and more beauty communities are forming in the online sphere. This presents brands with an opportunity to bridge the digital with the physical, by creating experiences that bring everyone together.

Disruptor brand Glossier is well known for using retail spaces to unite its digital community in the offline world. The permanent flagship store in New York is dedicated to ‘conversation, storytelling and community building’. Consumers are encouraged to create content, make friends with fellow flagship goers and hang out with staff who are known as Glossier’s ‘Offline Editors’.

Beauty retailers should use their store as a physical extension of their digital presence. Target the Gen Z consumer by creating a space that buzzes from the high energy and connection of your brand’s passionate beauty community.

Photo by Jake Peterson on Unsplash

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