The Body Shop has lately been establishing its presence in smaller towns
The Body Shop has lately been establishing its presence in smaller towns — a majority of its over 200 stores are now located outside tier I cities. Shriti Malhotra tells Devika Singh that the beauty brand plans to continue launching stores across the country, while enhancing its online presence with tech-enabled offerings. Edited excerpts:
The Body Shop is making inroads into smaller towns. How big is the market for premium beauty products outside the metros?
We are a premium beauty brand, but have always maintained affordability of our products. Also, efficacy, instead of pricing, is the key parameter for skincare products. We have seen a keen interest from small towns in trying out our ranges. We have over 200 stores in 68 cities — about 45% of these stores are in tier I cities, while the rest are in the tier II and beyond markets. Although the larger cities are a key part of our strategy, one of the chief reasons for our growth is that we have reached out to consumers everywhere, and will continue expanding in the country. Smaller towns, in fact, have comparatively been impacted lesser by the pandemic, and we have seen an encouraging response after reopening. On online channels, too, new customers are primarily from smaller towns.
Sampling before purchase is important in the beauty products category. How are you addressing this amid social distancing?
Since consumers visiting our stores cannot try out products inside the stores, we are giving away free samples of our products. We are also developing a virtual skincare consultation programme. While we are looking at tapping augmented reality for minimising the physical contact with beauty experts and advisors, human interaction is also an important part of this process. Hence, we want to introduce a more holistic and purchase-driven approach.
With consumers increasingly gravitating towards online shopping, are you ramping up your presence on e-commerce channels?
We have a large offline presence, but it is going through turbulent times due to the local restrictions and lockdowns. Although 70-80% stores are open, only 40% are operational throughout the month. Our high street stores are still witnessing 50-60% footfall in comparison to the pre-Covid levels; however, in malls, it is only 20-30%. E-commerce has become an important channel for us in these times, and while it was contributing about 10% to our overall sales, currently its share has gone up to 20-25%. In the last three-four months, we have added 5,000 pin codes, and are now delivering products to 25,000 pin codes.
A lot of consumers are also researching online and then calling our local stores to get the products delivered. So, we have tied up with hyper-local companies to arrange same-day deliveries of our products. Our web store has also been enhanced to reflect our offline retail experience. Besides live expert chat, we are now facilitating video calls with our beauty advisors.
With fewer occasions for wearing and buying make-up, do you plan to revisit your product mix or pricing?
We are primarily a skincare and haircare brand, and hence, this has not impacted us much. About 75% of our business earlier came from skincare, body care and hair care products; this share has gone up to 85%. We have also seen takers for eye make-up products and foundations. The products that are not doing so well are fragrances and lip make-up products.
We have seen increased interest for our Tea Tree range, which is an anti-bacterial range. Going ahead, we plan to extend our range of facial masks, however, in small sizes. We understand that affordability is an important factor these days, and though customers are not downgrading when it comes to quality, they are cutting down on quantity. We have also extended our end of season sale by a month, and are offering discounts of up to 50%.
The Body Shop introduced its first-ever TVC last year. Has the focus shifted to digital marketing now?
Digital has always been a core part of our marketing strategy, and about 60% of our budget goes to social media, OTT platforms and other websites. We also engage with a lot of influencers to reach out to the regional or non-English speaking audience. We will consider TV once again when the market picks up.
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