In this episode:

Wendy Liebmann talks to WSL Retail Strategy Consultant, Elia Auchane, and Retail Innovation Manager, Allie Chilicki, about curating a Retail Safari® at the inaugural Cosmoprof Miami event. And the power of connecting in store and on the convention floor.

They discuss:

  • A behind-the-scenes view to customizing the perfect Retail Safari®
  • Best-in-class retailers in the Latin-inspired Miami market
  • The power of people to build emotional engagement at retail, at Nike, and at Aesop
  • How Amazon and Ulta unlocked the challenges of doing business today
  • The excitement of seeing AI at work, IRL
  • Opportunities that emerged when retailers, brands, and service companies from Latin and South America and the US came together in Miami

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Watch the video episode:

Wendy 00:09

Hello, everyone. I'm Wendy Liebmann, CEO and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail and this is Future Shop. This is where I talk to innovators disruptors, and iconoclasts about the future of retail. Today, we're going to take a very deep view and have lots of innovators disruptors and iconoclasts in the room, sort of, through the lens of two of my colleagues. The three of us have just come back from an amazing beauty show where we looked at the future of beauty and beauty retail in Miami, which is a nice place to be when it's cold in New York City in the winter. So we're going to bring a broad point of view to you today from all the things we saw and all the things we did. And my partners in crime on this conversation and lovely warm journey in Miami are as I said, two of my colleagues Elia Auchane, who is our retail strategy consultant at WSL Strategic Retail, and works on a lot of our retail business, our retail clients as well as beauty, food, beverage, lots of other things. And Alexandra, aka Alli Chilicki, who is our retail innovation manager, and manages all the amazing Retail Safari® and innovation work we do and all our global scouts around the world. So welcome to both lovely to have you on Future Shop.

Elia 01:39

Thank you. And it's exciting and a little scary to be

Wendy 01:45

exciting and a little scary as how we like to live right. Just a little bit out on the highline without the net below us, I think is a good way. So it's nice to have you. this is just family, en famille. So as I said briefly, we went off the three of us to this amazing Cosmoprof show in Miami just by way of brief background. So Cosmoprof is the largest beauty show for innovation in terms of product and brand and packaging in the world. It began in Bologna in Italy, many, many years ago, it has expanded in the US and through Asia. This was its inaugural show in Miami, and the Cosmoprof team invited us to help them create some innovative activities at this big show, which we were very honored to do. So thank you, Liza Repay and your team. What made this especially interesting being in Miami was to bring in a very Latin audience of brands and retailers, and also people in the US who want to do more business in Latin and South America. So it was really exciting for all of us too. We did a Retail Safari® that I'm going to have Allie talk to you about. We did a lot of work to see what's emerging which Elia will talk to you about. And then we did a facilitated a a wonderful panel discussion, with two great partners, Ali Kole from Amazon and Muffy Clince from Ulta. Allie, you know, when you think about the future of retail and beauty retail, you put together a really interesting Retail Safari® for a select group of guests from different disciplines. And tell us a little bit about what that was and how you did it. And Elia and I will tell you what we found fascinating about it. So Allie, take it away. Yeah,

Alexandra 04:07

sure. Thanks, Wendy. I have to say it's nice to be on the opposite side of the podcast that we're listening to it so much. I'm happy to be here. So the focus of the Retail Safari®, it was the day before the conference. And the overall objective of it was to really immerse a very diverse group of attendees in what makes beauty retail amazing and innovative. On the itinerary was a really diverse variety of retailers that we got to see. So we led a group of everybody from small brand owners to manufacturers, we had graphic designers, and they came from all over the world. So Canada, the US, Latin America, interesting places like Chile, Venezuela, Haiti. So we had a really eclectic group, I would say, and we got to see how a variety of retailers, brands, small businesses were delivering beauty in warm Miami, of course. A few things I think in the Retail Safari® really stood out to me, hold

Wendy 05:22

on, I'm going to interrupt you, everybody in my company knows I interrupt all the time. So Allie is, you know, the guru of all this and in her quiet way, not only just she managed his global team of scouts, who look at innovation for us in places when we can't always get there. But you went down to Miami beforehand and scouted the marketplace with a certain view to what we might want to see. So just tell us a little bit about that. Because I think a lot of people who come to the podcasts don't always know about what goes on behind the scenes.

Alexandra 06:04

we'll go back from the beginning a little bit. So I initially visited that's part of the process. So what Wendy mentioned was part of what I do before we have an event and we host a Retail Safari® in a city is I'll go and I'll kind of scope out the market for a set of themes or objectives that we want to see in the market. So for Miami specifically, like I said, before, we wanted to see one how a really diverse range of retailers, brands, and even non beauty spaces were delivering on themes, like the relationship between beauty and wellness, which we hear a lot about, digital, the focus on services, convenience, and ease, which kind of go hand in hand. So those were like a few examples of the bigger themes that I was scouting out a few months prior to the show. So that's kind of part of the process, like you said. Through that I was able to come back and really curate a list of the best stores that I felt like kind of checked all the boxes were something unique, you know, something innovative, that people especially this being such a diverse global audience, a lot of them not from the US, you know, what might be something unique that they haven't been exposed to before that we can show them.

Wendy 07:48

So what stood out to you in terms of the mix, and then Elia, what stood out to you in terms of what we saw. And we had about what 25 people with us on the bus, which was great. Some retailers, right, we had from one of the largest retailers from Venezuela as well, as you said, some package designers from Chicago. So it was interesting. Allie, were there one or two of the examples of the retail experiences that really stood out to you and then the people, our guests.

Alexandra 08:21

Yeah, well, I have to say I think overarching, one of the two neighborhoods that we went to on this Retail Safari® was called Brickell. And for those of you who don't know it's an amazing mall. And they really it's a mixed use development. So one of the things that really stood out to me was how they created so much excitement around shopping and so many other opportunities besides going into a store and shopping to get traffic into and out of the mall. And it was so refreshing me, Elia Wendy went on Sunday night to the mall and it was packed. You know, there's movie theaters, there's bars, there's restaurants, there's WE workspaces, there's so many other things to go to this type of mall for outside of visiting your traditional retailers. So this whole idea of mixed use retail was really an interesting theme that really stood out to me. But in terms of the actual stores themselves, you know, Aesop was one of the stores that we went to in the small, it's the Australian body, skin, haircare brand. I mean, they centered that whole store around discovery. And I think the really interesting thing about this store was how they actually merchandised some of the products on the outside of it, kind of testing where products can sit beyond like those four walls of its store.

Wendy 09:58

I think that's it posting because anywhere you go to Aesop in the world, first of all, the store itself doesn't look the same the product does, right, that very kind of simple striped band of packaging. So it's not the packaging that necessarily jumps out at you. But to your point right outside the store before you even go in, they always have some of their hand wash or their body wash or that you can try before you just walk in the door. And the fragrance is calls you in. And it's a tiny store. I loved it myself. What about you Elia, how did you think about Aesop?

Elia 10:36

Oh, I love that. I mean, remember how we went on Sunday night, just you and me, Wendy. And we met those two lovely ladies who are running the store. And they were so friendly. And so passionate. We were talking about the brand and the stores and how each of us have experienced a different Aesop store because all of them are different. I think it's you Wendy who said they should make a book about it. And one of them said there is a book about it. And we all like watched that like beautiful book about like architecture and the Aesop store. And it's just like it was a very friendly encounter. And then when we went back for the Retail Safari® the next day, it just felt like we're gonna go see your friend. Again. It's just it felt very natural. And I think you could see also from the way the Retail Safari® attendees interacted with them. And with the stores, everybody almost bought something I think. I think that shows you how important it is to have like passionate and kind and friendly associates. It feels like very normal to say but it makes such a difference.

Wendy 11:43

It's interesting you say that because you're absolutely right. So everybody knows that. So Allie talked about she went to the market first scouted the stores to come back and say here's what I think would work to solve for what we want to expose and curate for the, for the guests that we had. And then Elia and I went in on Sunday night, Allie was in somewhere else checking things out. So we went again. And then when we brought 25 people into this little store, I don't know what it is 6-7000 square feet, they gave us a big hug. Ana and her colleagues gave us a big hug. They were so happy to see everybody. And I think it does talk a lot about what innovative retail and innovative beauty retail really needs to be today. If you really want to engage people in that experience. You know, Allie and the other one that I felt did some of that to us was Nike, right? Which seems an odd place to take a whole group of beauty gurus to but but what about Nike for you?

Alexandra 12:40

Yeah, that was the other thing that really stood out to me was the Nike Well Collective, you know, it's a little different from your traditional Nike store, it feels more friendly, maybe more approachable, community oriented for people like me, who aren't athletes, by any means, you know, it feels like a more approachable place to go just with the colors. And then the staff that they have, which they call the manager, the head coach. It just kind of helps reinforce that friendliness and that approachability, I think to the shopper. So we had one of the head coaches, the manager of the store, walk us through every nook and cranny of it and he was great. And one of his colleagues, one of the sales associates was there too. And it was a young woman who had said that Nike and the purpose of the Well Collective, which was also to empower women. It really like resonated with her because in addition to being into health and wellness, she has also served in the army. So it was incredible to hear her story and just to hear about how passionate and how happy she is to come into work every day. And the experience that must have for the shoppers is incredible.

Wendy 14:01

Well and we have Elia who those of you who don't know Elia is our fitness guru, and great volleyball aficionado. So from your point of view earlier, how did that I mean, it's a very limited selection. It's not a big gigantic Nike stores. Very intimate, right? Whole different feel. So as a our expert in in all things fitness, how did that play out? How did that feel for you in terms of health and wellness community? All that?

Elia 14:28

Yeah, it's funny, because we're talking like I had this conversation while we were in the store with a few of our Retail Safari® attendees, and we're trying to pinpoint exactly what it felt like a different Nike experience from what we were usually seeing, it's just a more like a chiller experience almost. The colors are lighter. It's not about performance, necessarily. It's like the mannequins are doing yoga poses are just like stretching. It's not like ultra competitive running or like your all sizes, right? Yeah, there's all sizes, all mannequin sizes. It's just very inclusive. But it's so subtle that at first, you feel really great when you enter the store. But you're not sure why it's more focus on lifestyle and just integrating that health and wellness. Just like having good healthy habits in your life. And like Nike can take you along the way, less about performance and more about a healthier state of mind, let's say, Yeah,

Wendy 15:33

it's interesting, because we've certainly covered and Allie and all the work you've done and other Retail Safari® work we've done for clients, where we've gone to the big Nike flagships in New York and other places. And it does feel a bit more intimidating, a bit jock-ish. It's like, if I can't run a marathon, then maybe you're allowed in sort of thing. But this didn't feel very, I must say, very welcoming, as we walked through. The other one that struck me, which was so interesting was we went to CVS drugstores, CVS Y Mas, which is CVS and more, and it's geared around the Latin community, and was sort of a regular-ish CVS. And yet, there was a lot of passion from our guests, our attendees, who liked what they saw, like the mix of, you know, Latin brands and dual language and all the staff, you know, basically was Spanish speaking. And it was not that far from Brickell them these other very fancy places. I don't know, how did you to feel about that?

Alexandra 16:35

It was interesting, because I think a big theme that also I'd came up was how fragrance forward, the retail landscape was in response to you know the local Hispanic market. So one of the first things that we had saw when he walked into the CVS was a fragrance counter, it was really prominent, and then you kind of go and you take a walk down the road, just about 10 minutes into this luxury mall, and you see more focus, you know, on fragrance in other retailers like Saks and even, you know, one off smaller types of brands as well.

Wendy 17:13

That's interesting, because I do think about how, when you step back from, whether you're in, as you said, Saks Fifth Avenue or the Chanel beauty store, which is a new thing, there's the Sephoras the Bath and Body Works, all of those things, but then there are these independent exclusive European, some of them fragrance only retailers. And it does talk a lot to the customization, the localization around the shoppers who come into that market, either live there or come to visit the Miami market and the importance of fragrance in that whole conversation. Even Aesop. I mean, you walk in there, and it's a very unique fragrance. And I often think that retailers around this country don't understand the power of smell to engage shoppers. I mean, you could put them off, right, it was too much Clorox, sorry, Clorox bleach, but on the other hand, you immediately create a mood and a mindset. And it's pretty powerful. The other thing that struck me and it was partly because we had a package designer with us from Chicago, was the level of design in terms of some of the packaging that we're seeing more and more of Elia thoughts on what we saw, as far as packaging was concerned,

Elia 18:29

there was two ways right, we had the Aesop way, which is very simple. Everything kind of looks like a the rest, like all the products look like. And then when we went to the more unique places or like a Wairua, which is a spa like a one location spa in Miami, focused on clean beauty, they had so many beautiful packaging and I think it's just one way of distinguishing your brands from the rest and like getting through that first message of what your brand is about.

Elia 19:18

The other thing was when we went and visited the Saks within the Brickell mall, it was almost on the exclusively fragrance there was very little skincare there was maybe two shelves of some like a few brands who were really not highlighted. The way fragrance was each fragrance brand had their own little booths. And it felt like I don't know if it felt the same for you guys but felt like a museum a little bit because everything was I think fragrance in general the packaging have to be like more beautiful and like more distinctive and more unique. And so it felt like we were entering this very clean museum of beautiful medals and beautiful products, and every one brand had their identity. So I thought this was very interesting in terms of design and packaging, just the way both the product and the area where the product was merchandised. There was quite interesting.

Wendy 20:17

We I think there was a lot to that. And even, you know, you're talking about in a luxury space at Saks, but then we walked down the, at least in the Brickell mall, and there was a Bath and Body Works, which had been just redone inside. And even the way they had sort of refined, repackaged and reinforced the messaging there and the power of packaging. So I mean, I think we always look at those things when we go and study something like this. But it was very evident, I think, because we were looking through the lens of our packaging designer who was with us, as well as looking through the lens of our Venezuelan retailer. And the two of them were having a very interesting conversation as they proceeded through our Safari through the day. So I think they're the other things that I find really interesting how conversations and learning is built when we do the Retail Safari®. So Allie, kudos for you for the curation and the diversity from Wairua independent, you know, specialty beauty services spa on the one hand and CVS Y Más on the other and Aesop and Nike and lots of others in between. So, and clearly it engaged this very diverse audience in terms of what was interesting. And we always know how to tell when it's they really appreciated, it's how many shopping bags they end up with at the end, at the end of the trip, which was great. So the other thing that was part of Cosmoprof, so that kicked it off, and the Cosmoprof team had asked us if we would do that as a first they were trying to they wanted to do special things to this inaugural event in Miami. But then there was a whole slew packaging floor as I said, brand and manufacturing ingredients, big companies, small companies from literally around the world. I know Elia, you ended up you haven't figured out everybody and there was French, the French pavilion, but there was a German pavilion and lots of other pavillions. So on the floor, I was curious to see what stood out to you, Elia. As you walked the floor, you wrote a great piece on LinkedIn as did ally go and have a look to them both on what was interesting to you on the floor. Can you talk about that for a little bit?

Elia 22:32

Yeah, sure. So with the last time I had to walk the floor, of course, they went to the French pavilion, just like for little taste of home what just walking the floor whether it was CosmoPak, so more on the packaging side, or Cosmoprof which was more brand side, there was a lot of talk. And I think we've seen this also with the Retail Safari® and through the education sessions, just that interest from the Latin shopper, or Hispanic shopper about on clean products, clean ingredients, clean beauty. And although I know there's not like an official definition, I think seeing brands making an effort, like smaller indie brands making an effort to make products that are respectful of either the environment or just the skin like making them without harmful ingredients or not tested on animals or all that stuff. I thought that was something that really stood out during the show. And on the booth whether it was skincare or haircare or even nailcare -- there was a lot of nail brands, I mean nail art brands. And the other thing that stood out to me was how inclusive a lot of these brands were. And I think it's also one way now, in first of all, there's so many brands, when you go to shows like this, there's so many brands who are trying to like be the next big thing. And I'm sure a lot of them will but there's so much competition that it's when you go to those shows you really realize the the amount of people that you have to compete with when you're an indie brand or just a growing brand. And I think one of the ways that some of them are really good at showing how unique they are is through this inclusive approach to beauty. Just to give you an example I went at the French pavilion, I met with this wonderful lady who launched her skincare company skincare brand called Ustawi Skincare. And their skincare is tested on darker skin tones she felt the need because she's a use of skin care and none of the products that she's ever found felt like it was designed for her. She designed an entire brand around that and the message is very inclusive, and it's just very real and it just makes you believe in the brand a lot more. So yeah, a lot of very, I think unique approaches to beauty from the indie brands, which is very, I think it's very hopeful and it just sets the tone, for the future, hopefully,

Wendy 25:01

The other thing that we did we participate in was the Cosmoprof team asked us if I would moderate a panel discussion about the future of beauty retail. And the two people, I did a set up about using some of our How America Shops® insights, you know, talking about things, as Elia said, about clean beauty and health and wellness and all of those key trends we see. But the two participants on the panel, we had wonderful participants, Ali Kole, who's the head of premium beauty at Amazon, and has a very interesting background from Sephora and incubators, and Microsoft. So technology and everything. And Muffy Clince from Ulta, who's involved in all the developing brands and key initiatives that they do at Ulta. And the two of them, I think, talk to a lot of that, what you just spoke about Elia about these new and innovative companies. And how do they then do business in the US with a company like Amazon or Ulta. And that was a really good standing room only session with a lot of guidance for people not just in terms of where the business is going and where retail is going. But what Ulta is looking for around health and wellness, some of the new brands, some of the established brands, and then what obviously, the behemoth Amazon looks for, and the expectations of doing business. So I think that to me, was was a great way to take a lot of the things we had seen through the Safari plus on the floor, and bring it together to say, okay, now I'm a new business or an established business. How do I do more in the US with these iconic retailers? So Allie did you have a sense from any of the other education sessions that what really resonated there? You

Alexandra 26:55

know, I think that one of the themes that stood out to me was it was during the session all about product innovation, and unveiling the secrets to that with a few executives from Shisedo, the Estee Lauder, and one of the themes that really stood out to me was the power of observation, they talked about how important it is to go into the store. You know, we have all of these tools at our fingertips now AI, data insights, all these higher tech, more cutting edge tools, and they really talked about the value and the importance in just going into the store and observing and seeing what shoppers are doing and how they're reacting. And one of the big, you know, things that they had spoken about was in order to innovate a new product, or whatever it is, you can't find an idea behind your desk. You know, this is something that you have to be interested in the things your shoppers are interested, go to the places that your shoppers might be, including the stores, including other areas of a city, you really have to immerse yourself in that world outside of your desk in order to innovate and to be successful and resonate with your shopper.

Wendy 28:22

Yeah, I mean, obviously, we were preaching to the converted, you should have seen, Allie was like, yay, you know, they get it you know, and this is Agnes Landau, who was at Lauder for a long time and now is that she's Shiseido. And Janet Pardo, I mean, talking about this as leaders in the industry who say, you cannot just sit behind a desk, you've got to get to museums, you've got to get into the restaurants, you've got to get into the stores to understand, as we say, follow the shopper to see the future, understand Shopping Life®, understand life, and then that helps you innovate. So I've never seen Allie so happy in all her life. Now, I

Alexandra 28:59

was so excited. And then, you know, Wendy, to your point before about the importance of doing these things in groups, so it's something that was also spoken about was body systems and how what one person sees the other person might not so going and being on the Retail Safari® and being with designers and manufacturers and all these different functions, you know, they see things very differently. They're very different eyes.

Wendy 29:27

And the other thing I'll say, and you know, as we sort of close up on this, there were two things that struck me at the same session. And it was what you just raised Allie and Elia, I'm curious of your comments. So we went with the three of us went to one of the insights sessions. the whole session was in Spanish, right? So I got in there after Allie and Elia. And they were sitting there and I'm thinking, wow, their Spanish must be great. They're just listening. And I found out before I walked in that I needed a QR code because automatically literally it translated through AI. It translated what they were all saying, while we were sitting there. And then obviously, the other two colleagues ran out and got the QR code. But what was amazing about it was one, these three people were speaking in their own Spanish, we got instant translation. And actually, it was generative AI. So you get the first translation, and then it was weird. And then very quickly, obviously, the little Widget, behind the scenes figured out that wasn't quite right and translated into more appropriate, correct. So that was that bit which was like mind boggling, AI come to life. The other piece was, I think one of the most passionate people I heard speak that I fell in love with was Claudia from Blush Bar from Columbia, the pink retailer, right, Elia? And she just won our hearts her passion for all things pink and fluffy in this retail, beauty retail concept she now has in Colombia, Mexico. Elia, your thoughts on that as a last thought about technology and passion and pink fluffy things, while at the same time,

Elia 31:14

we were definitely looking at each other with a very confused look with Allie, we're like, Wait, we thought this was going to be translated. Nobody told us also when we entered, but then we figured it out. There was a funny slash weird experience. Because it I mean, I watch, I guess shows and like TV shows and movies with subtitles all the time. But the fact that you had like three senses involved, like you had to look, but you also had to read and you had to understand. At one point I tried moving from English to French, see if that changed anything. And that was just more confusing than anything. It was funny to have that kind of dual situation where we're very being very digital forward with that AI Assistant, I guess, assistant translator, and then listening to someone who is on the contrary very about the human and in store experience, and making it as inclusive as possible, as happy as possible. I mean, everything that we also preach, because we know that's what shoppers want. But what's funny, like having those two things to kind of handle was two things giving you is like, like the digital and a human just combining together. That was very funny. But the app was actually great. I mean, I think it still needs some translating, or whatever, like English lessons,

Wendy 32:36

and said from a French person trying to figure out Spanish. For all of you listening, watching to Ali's point to the point of you know, the CMO of just say, the head of R&D at Estee Lauder, and somebody else, Susan, from Estee Lauder, talking about where you go for innovation. I mean, there's so many things that you know, we've all got on our plate to do. But you take a couple of days like this. And for us, yes, we were part of this defining, building this Retail Safari®, this diverse group of people on the floor at the show, seeing what was being discussed what new products were there doing our own session. These are the things that get out from behind your desk, and really immerse yourself because this is where you begin to see where the future of retail and the future in this case of beauty really is. You can do that we were in NRF, a couple of weeks ago, and very tech oriented, not so much this blend of soft and hard tech and as Elia said Pink Fluffy. These are places that are worth everybody's time. So keep that in mind. When you think about it. I will say a nod to Cosmoprof they have their show in Bologna, if you feel like going to Italy in March and their show in Las Vegas, a little closer to hand. It's a whole other conversation. But there are so many places you can go to immerse yourself in the future of retail. And that's why I think we wanted to bring this story and experience to you because not only do we make good friends, new friends and learn a lot from being there, but also the collaboration between our Retail Safaris®, and the retailers we're able to bring to the panel discussion are made for a very rich experience. So to both of you, thank you for joining me on Future Shop. And to everyone. This is the innovation team. So want to think about retail strategy and retail innovation. These are the two, look for them on LinkedIn because they both did really good write ups about Cosmorof. So thanks, Cosmoprof Thank you Elia. Thank you Allie.

Alexandra 34:45

Thank you and thank you

Wendy 34:47

and see you in the future.

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