In New York City proper at least, it’s becoming the norm for storied retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s to spend gazillions of dollars creating stunningly beautiful new beauty departments featuring the coolest-of-cool brands and chicest-of-chic spa service providers. In need of a little “remodelage” on your love handles? Head to the Martine de Richeville outpost at Saks on your lunch hour for a little Parisian pummeling.
And then there’s Macy’s. While its competitors are opting for star-studded media reveals on their department overhauls, Macy’s has been doggedly and quietly updating pretty much every aspect of its approach to beauty. Leading the charge: Nata Dvir, EVP and General Business Manager for the category, a position she’s held since fall 2017.
Dvir’s “people” reached out to me recently to share what she’s been up to with Macy’s, and of course I bit. Below is our verbatim email Q+A.
DANA WOOD: How long has Macy’s been tweaking and adjusting its approach to beauty? When and what was the first major shift — Beauty Scene? Beauty Playground? And is there a plan for a “splashy media reveal” in the near future?
NATA DVIR: At Macy’s, we are always exploring new ways to innovate and elevate the shopping experience for our customers. In 2018, we invested in stores across the country to augment the customer experience and create a more vibrant shopping destination. This included enhanced lighting, elevated fixtures, and a more flexible layout on the beauty floor that has allowed us to bring in exciting new beauty brands and a place where our customers can discover products. In 2019, we are continuing to invest by adding digital components to help solve for customer pain points and enhance their overall experience. This includes Beauty Scene, Beauty Playground, a new interactive fragrance display with PERCH; and digitally optimized makeup application with Modiface virtual try-on technology. While we are investing in store formats, technology, and innovation, we’re also investing in our beauty advisors. Customers often discover and research new brands through social, online and through their friends. But with so much product to pick from when they come into the store, they want advice on what’s right for them. Our customers have great relationships with their Beauty Advisors, who are true experts across all brands.
WOOD: I understand that millennial, Gen Z and multicultural consumers are “driving beauty” at Macy’s. But with millennial and Gen Z, is that where the dollars-spent are, too? I would think an older consumer would be Macy’s core customer and spend more on beauty. But perhaps I’m dead wrong about that? What can you tell me about the Macy’s beauty customer of today, not the future?
DVIR: The Macy’s customer is happy! We talk about how she is the kind of person you want as your best friend. She loves to dress up for special occasions, she is smart and knows a good value. She’s very diverse too — we have so many different customers shopping our stores across the country, and she appreciates that we have an assortment of shades for her. She also appreciates the relationship she has with our trusted, expert Beauty Advisors. I read so many of our customer surveys and she often references our advisors by name.
WOOD: Cross-brand training would seem to have its plusses and minuses. Why is it right for Macy’s?
DVIR: While consumers often discover new brands through social media and by word of mouth, we also know they want advice when they come into the store. Our Beauty Advisors are the ultimate beauty enthusiasts, and we’re investing in their education through the development of a digital platform called Beauty Playground. The Playground is a site that lives on iPads in all of our stores, allowing our advisors to enhance their knowledge with the latest trends in Beauty. Our team updates the content in real time, allowing our Beauty Advisors access to all the information they need on products, trends and events, across all brands. They have the ability to learn by category, clicking into individual products and exploring its benefits. There is also learning through video and editorial training content created by Macy’s and our brand partners. We know that our customers are expanding the number of brands in their makeup bag and are more curious to try new types of skincare products – having our Macy’s Beauty Advisors help customers find the right product across category and brand allows our customers to have the right experience. But we also know that our customer comes for us to help solve her beauty concerns and having deep knowledge on products, ingredients and brands is an advantage for Macy’s.
WOOD: Spa services and aesthetic treatments tend to come and go in major department stores. Why, in your opinion, are they on the uptick again? And why are they a good fit for Macy’s?
DVIR: We are always exploring innovative, new ways for our customers to have the best beauty experience. Macy’s currently provides a large selection of complimentary beauty services and treatments in-store. Select stores have spa rooms and many of the brands we carry, such as Shiseido, SKII, Clarins, Lancôme and La Mer have in-house estheticians that perform facials and other spa treatments. We also provide brow services at Benefit Brow Bar counters, which offer convenient online appointment booking. Spa services in-store provide an extra layer to the beauty shopping experience by allowing customers the opportunity to try products they are interested in buying, while also offering the convenience of getting pampered in the same place shoppers trust in purchasing their favorite products.
WOOD: I have a 13-year-old daughter who is beauty obsessed, and I laughed when she recently insisted on buying a trio of Mario Badescu toners from Amazon. Not that Mario Badescu isn’t a great brand — it is — but it’s been around for decades. Do you feel there’s a sense of discovery by millennials and Gen Z that’s giving new life to older brands? What others, besides Mario Badescu and Murad, do you see undergoing a resurgence of sorts?
DVIR: Social media has created a new channel for us to hear directly from Macy’s customers. We have instant access by following #macysbeauty across social. With more than 50,000 posts and counting, this channel acts as a window to what’s happening in stores, with colleagues and brands, while also showing us what shoppers are currently loving and talking about. Similarly, millennials and Gen Z are discovering new product online and brands are speaking to them through those channels. Recently, I’ve seen excitement around ingredients, clean and natural skincare and makeup. So many great brands have a rich history that this new customer is just starting to learn about. For example, bareMinerals is a clean brand, so they have the opportunity to share that story with a new generation. Clinique launched a new personalized moisturizer range, my ID, to complement their cult-favorite Dramatically Different line, taking a hero product and making it feel fresh.
WOOD: Every day I get probably at least six emails about entirely new skincare brands. It’s relentless. What are some of your selection criteria? How do you know when to “take the leap” with a new brand?
DVIR: For us, the product always comes first. When we love the product and know it’s something that will resonate with our customers, that’s a great first step. After that we work with the brands on how to bring the product to life in store and online. We like to have a clear brand story – this allows us to help our customer understand all the reasons why this product is right.
WOOD: What do you feel is new and directional — from either a brand or product standpoint — in makeup?
DVIR: Skincare is getting all the attention right now. Whether it is clean beauty, personalized skincare, or identifying specific skincare concerns, we are seeing a lot of brands, new and old, coming into the market with a focus on skincare. There is a big focus on ingredients, vitamin c, hyaluronic acid, mushrooms, charcoal, avocado, AHA/BHA, retinol – you need a glossary (coming soon to Macy’s!).
WOOD: Is fragrance still a core category for Macy’s? The overall market is so much more artisanal and “niche-i-fied” these days. How does Macy’s stay relevant in this post-blockbuster era?
DVIR: Our customer really loves fragrance. As the number one retailer of fragrance in the US, we are always looking to innovate in this category. We have noticed our in-store customer was traditionally buying by brand, but online they were shopping by scent family. This drove us to invest in interactive displays to help replicate the online fragrance shopping experience in store. Through a new partnership with PERCH launching in May, we will offer a digitally driven, approachable alternative for fragrance shopping – allowing consumers to shop by their favorite notes across different scent families. An extension of the traditional counter experience, customers now have another way to find their perfect scent through a digital in-store display that mirrors what they love about shopping online. While the market is seeing growth in collection and niche brands, we believe much of that is centered around the experience of showcasing the brand story and notes – and we are excited to bring this experience to Macy’s across our assortment.
WOOD: A friend of mine is the founder of LOLI Beauty, and she told me Macy’s is doing something with sustainable brands like hers. What can you tell me about that initiative? And what appealed to you about LOLI?
DVIR: From our first introduction to LOLI Beauty, we loved their ingredient story and their ability to offer personalized product. They are a perfect fit for The Market @ Macy’s, our one-of-a-kind approach to retail provided as a service, helping both emerging and established brands reach new audiences in a physical space with turnkey entry into some of Macy’s most highly trafficked stores. All a brand has to do is book the space, share select info and send their product – we provide the POS, operational and selling expertise, marketing and consumer data and analytics. For digitally native brands, The Market @ Macy’s is a great way to explore growing their business in a physical store.