I think many of us can relate, both as consumers and customers, that there has been significant upheaval in the world of retail over the past decade. In fact, it has been the period of the biggest and most profound transformation in the history of retailing.
It has been largely consumer driven as they continue to seek value, convenience and unique experiences. Businesses who have not stepped up towards a more customer-centric approach are simply not surviving.
Retail is cut-throat. Customers are discerning. That creates a wonderful landscape for retail craftsmen to carve new space and cultivate engagement with shoppers beyond reason, at a very personal level throughout the customer lifecycle.
One such retail business that has impressed me in the New Zealand landscape, with not only their insight into the psyche of their customer audience but with their delivery of a unique and engaging experience is Hue.
Hue, is a specialist colour salon who “don’t do ‘dos’”. This is a retail business wrapped in their passion and their philosophy…pure, gorgeous, fabulous colour. And that’s it.
With 90% of women colouring their hair in some shape or form, this is a category with a lot of demand and also a lot of competition. Of course you can take the risk of a DIY kit at home which might save you some dollars but the results can be average. Alternatively, you can invest in the indulgence of a full salon experience, but this can break the bank and it can also chew loads of precious time.
The solution. Expert colourists. Fast, professional and expert service on your terms.
Having heard about Hue I thought I should put the experience to the test to see if it actually delivers on the promise.
Beautiful tresses. No stresses
Well, this is what the Hue website claims which I used to make my booking. The website booking process is run by the very reliable Kitomba salon and spa software solution. Very intuitive and easy as a customer however there was one hitch. Who did I book my colour experience with?
If you are anything like me, getting you hair done may make or break your mood. It’s a highly emotive experience and while the saying goes there is only 3 days between a good and a bad do, a bad hair day (or 3) can feel like a lifetime. On calling the salon I was taken through the different colourists available and found someone that seemed right for me.
The average appointment at Hue takes under an hour. From a hairline retouch to a creative colour application of the most current trends like ombre or balayage, there is something for everyone.
The value of time
The current fast paced nature of consumers’ lifestyles has made time saving an important factor in deciding where to shop and who to shop with. Providing time value is becoming just as important as providing quality value in the products.
Time is one of the most valued resources for women in particular, often impacting our decisions and behaviours daily.
Hue has tapped into the ‘Go Economy’ by providing an exceptional service by removing the length of time and hassle it takes to plan and complete a visit.
Delivering on an unmet need
Hue had built a business around overcoming an unmet need for many women that stopped regular hair colouring appointments:
Keeping to budget – hair salon treatments often break the bank so can’t be done monthly
Time is precious - Hair salon visits can take forever (my average appointment for a cut and colour takes 2.5 hours so I have to keep it at an 8-10 week cycle)
All the extras – You pay extra for styling such as a blow dry and straighten and if you are anything like me, having this done to simply go home and cook dinner for the family is a waste of time and money
Chemical defence – some customers experience negative reactions to harsh commercial chemicals
All about me – the time you spend in a salon is precious so you want to soak it up and maximise it as much as possible.
Like lots of traditional categories needing to be disrupted Hue responded to these challenges. By reducing the complexity and avoiding adding unnecessary layers they simply took a step back and asked one simple question: what does my customer actually want?
Yes, this may sound obvious, but you just can’t be all things to all people.
It’s all about the experience
I believe that what today’s consumers are looking for can be condensed down to just three key points: value, convenience and a unique experience. Hue are delivering on all of these.
Being a small, entrepreneurial business has enabled Hue to be nimble with their thinking. By listening astutely to the customer they are continuing to test and innovate to build the perfect experience. And it appears to be working.
With an attractive and calming modern interior you can sit, sip on a latte or a tea, browse the latest mags and chill while getting your tresses restored to a beautiful hue. Recognising that trends change means Hue have evolved their offer by adding other treatments related to enhancing your colour adds to repeat visitation and prolonged colour. Using organic colour product means even pregnant women and those with allergies can enjoy a colour experience. Having some of the best colourists in the market, means a fast and professional service every time.
Photo: Studio Gascoigne
Completing your look yourself at the DIY styling bar means you have hairdryers, straighteners and product to ensure you can step out the door looking great in no time – and within a budget that makes you feel savvy. Not paying for extras you don’t need.
You need only look at the Hue model to see how vital it is that businesses learn to put the customer at the centre of the retail experience.
Whilst there’s no standard template for success, Hue have demonstrated that by simplifying the customer journey and breaking down the components for customers can be a compelling proposition. If, broadly speaking, customers are demanding value, convenience or a unique experience (ideally all three) – then that’s what Hue is measuring themselves against. As such Hue is a great poster child for the new face of retail.