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Shaking Things Up in Retail

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

All too often in retail we look to shake things up in the interest of “achieving xyz”, but all we do is throw a lot of ideas in the air and see how they land. Amazon is the master of shaking up the industry and the latest move doesn’t disappoint. But what lessons can we learn from this and apply to our own thinking?

In the latest, most unexpected move, Amazon has opened it’s first-ever hair salon in Spitalfields, London. Initially a beta-test employees-only salon, Amazon is trialling some of the industry’s latest technology. They have bought in the “talent” expertise by partnering with Elena Lavagni, founder of Belgravia-based Neville Hair & Beauty (great name that!)

Amazon are the leaders in hacking the pressure points for customers. Those points of friction that we all dislike, (or fear) in an experience. I was talking to someone the other day about the stuff we hate and funnily enough these were our top of mind ones:

- When you book a car online and then you have to refill out all the paperwork again (why did I do it in the first place)

- When you get to a menu board at a drive-thru and there are cars behind you which places enormous pressure on ordering quickly rather than taking your time to order what you want (have you screamed “just hurry up” to your kids in the back seat?

- Going to a hair salon and making a change to your colour and your style (why didn’t I look like Rachel from Friends when she got her hair cut?)

Image credit: Evening Standard

The lists are endless which is why innovations such as Uber, Uber Eats and the coffee ordering app with Koru Club are held close to our hearts. The “shake-up” came from the heart of customer-centricity. An acute understanding of the customer pain points on the path to purchase.

All too often in the world of retail we look towards innovation (aka shake-ups) to deliver a seamlessness without truly delivering a meaningful outcome (eg. booking and reserving my car online only to have to fill-out EVERYTHING again).

So what has Amazon uncovered on the path to purchase which they are hacking away to make the process seamless, pleasurable and intuitive?

Augmented reality hair consultation – Seriously the BEST.IDEA. EVER. You can test drive new colours and styles before a stylist even begins and right in front of you

Loreal hair care products are displayed through a test new “point-and-learn” technology that will allow customers to point at a product on display and view information on a display screen. Then to purchase a product, customers simply scan the QR code on the shelf which will take them to a product page on Amazon, with delivery direct to their home.

- Entertainment and chargers everywhere - Scattered throughout the salon are tablets (Amazon Fire) rather than magazines and wireless charging pads (godsend)

In the moment personalisation - There’s an open-plan colour-mixing station where you can see your colourist mix your desired hue (bespoke for you) and a branded Amazon selfie wall, with a ring light ready for your before and after shots. I can never replicate the outcome my stylist achieves but I do have a memory to try however.

We have designed this salon for customers to come and experience some of the best technology, hair care products and stylists in the industry. We want this unique venue to bring us one step closer to customers, and it will be a place where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies. John Boumphrey, Amazon UK country manager.

The services are even cutting-edge:

- Hot Scissors, a savvy snip using blades heated to 180 degrees, which are supposed to seal the hair tip to lock in moisture and protect from damage caused by environmental aggressors, making your cut last an extra month.

- A liquid gold protein treatment, containing pure keratin and 24c gold, which promises to strengthen, restructure and rejuvenate lacklustre locks.

- Steam Wash, a high tech conditioning treatment for clients who could do with a big dose of TLC with a steam pod that gets attached to your head.

But this isn’t a retail play for Amazon to open salons. This is a product and technology play that meets the needs of the customer with bespoke solutions courtesy of Amazon. Delivering what customers and salon owners could only imagine in their dreams – making it a reality. So they can sell it to them and lift the bar of expectation throughout the industry.

“This new store gives hair and beauty businesses convenient access to Amazon’s selection of more than ten thousand salon and spa products and supplies, from straighteners and clippers, through to curlers and hair dryers,” the company said. “The store offers professionals benefits such as wholesale pricing and invoicing, no minimum order value, fast delivery and more.”


Many retailers are navigating the new normal of what new behaviours, habits and expectations of customers are post-pandemic – the biggest disruptor to our lives in decades. But before you go full steam ahead, really question have you nailed the problem from a customer-centric point of view. Or have you only shaken the pieces without adding real value? Also, many retailers also aim to “just getting to where the bar is today.” But is it enough for tomorrow?


How can your business be disruptive? It’s one thing to stay on the cutting edge, it’s another to help lead it.

Give us a call to learn how we help our clients win where it matters.

Juanita Neville Te Rito



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