Do Beauty Consultants Make Sense for Target?

Jun 03, 2013

After a test last summer, Target is expanding its Beauty Concierge program to reach 200 Target stores this summer. Recently introduced in Chicago and Los Angeles, in-store beauty specialists are also being added to locations in the Twin Cities, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and northern Virginia.

Each participating store will have a Target Beauty Concierge, a "highly-trained, brand agnostic beauty enthusiast" to answer guests’ questions in-store about cosmetics, hair care and skin care. Carrying iPads to aid in product look-up, the concierges promise to provide shoppers with "personalized, detailed and unbiased" information about beauty and personal care products and to serve as "a knowledgeable source of advice in what can sometimes be an intimidating department."

Located in the beauty aisle wearing a distinct black apron with pink trim, the concierges will not be working on commission.

"In an often crowded and sometimes daunting marketplace, Target’s Beauty Concierge program ensures that guests receive the friendly, personalized counsel they need to purchase their favorite beauty products at affordable prices," said Bryan Everett, Target’s senior vice president of stores in the Midwest region, in a press release.

The expansion comes as Target appears to be increasingly exploring customer service as a differentiator. A six-month test of Best Buy’s Geek Squad ended in early April, apparently as Best Buy’s new management decided to focus on the consumer electronic chain’s turnaround.

Georganne Bender, a retail consultant who had a favorable experience with a new Target beauty specialist at a Chicago location, said having knowledgeable staff can support the beauty category. She told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "If you are the only one shopping, it’s tough to understand all of the products. Target can capitalize on this, if you can get someone to use the product."

Still, a small survey of Target fans in New York City weren’t sure if a beauty specialist was necessary for Target’s price-range. They wondered if Target would be able to dedicate the space to try out cosmetics, seen as a minimal requirement for department store beauty counters. Two assumed the program would resemble Duane Reade’s beauty consultants who initially promised in-store makeovers but now focus on promoting deals and handing out samples.

Can beauty advice work in the self-service, discount channel? To succeed, how should Target’s Beauty Concierge program particularly differ from the experience offered at department stores?

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10 Comments on "Do Beauty Consultants Make Sense for Target?"

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David Livingston
4 years 3 months ago

It will come down to the quality of service offered. Even Walgreens has a cosmetics counter that offers some of this. One thing for sure, Walmart can’t and won’t try to compete in this area.

Joan Treistman

Target has had success in Chicago and Los Angeles. These are cities with sophisticated shoppers. I am sure Target will apply lessons learned into the next markets.

There are two advantages that come to mind related to these in store experts in a Target setting.

1. More engagement with products and experts will encourage more sales. Consumers, as much as they please, can touch and examine the cosmetics merchandise in Target. In a department store examining products directly is limited to open displays on the counter tops brand by brand.

Engaging with products will produce questions and interaction with the resident experts. The more interaction the greater the sales.

2. Target will be able to monitor trends through customer questions and product discussions. This will help Target with their brand/product selection and merchandising. Staying on top or ahead of trends will result in more sales.

Cathy Hotka

Great idea! The customers who purchase cosmetics—younger women, working women, moms—are the same people who are responsible for setting up households, being Santa, and purchasing groceries each week. Target has the opportunity here to provide a new level of customer insight and personalization. Nice move.

Seth McLaughlin
Seth McLaughlin
4 years 3 months ago

It appears to me that many of the moms at my local Target would welcome the chance to escape from the usual grocery and diaper run at Target. Cosmetics is a high-touch consultative sell. It is exciting to the female buyer as she dreams about what is possible. If this is done right, Target will excite and improve their customer experience for their key target market—young moms.

Verlin Youd

Yes, if these employees engage with shoppers and provide real value, including helping to find the right product to fit the need. It is a well proven fact that when customers are engaged they purchase more. However, there is always the possibility of negative effect from over-engagement. A critical factor in success will be the ability to measure and manage how shoppers are being engaged and adjusting to specific market needs based on the results of those measurements.

Ryan Mathews

It might work in selected markets—or better said, selected neighborhoods—but I’m not sold on this being a truly scalable strategy.

Ed Rosenbaum

Target, more than the other big-box competitor, seems to have the best chance for success with this. But it will not be a difference maker when it comes to door busters.

Craig Sundstrom

What part of “self-service” do they not understand? I suppose Target thinks this is one of those 80/20 situations—i.e. they can get 80% of the benefit of a(n actual) consultant at only 20% of the cost of one (or some such ratio)—but I’m firmly with that “small survey of Target fans in NYC.”

Karen S. Herman

Very interesting. Instead of pulling out my smartphone to research beauty products in the aisle at Target, I may be fortunate enough to encounter an in-store beauty specialist dressed in a black apron with pink trim and equipped with an iPad to answer all my questions about cosmetics, hair care and skin care. Even better, she will not be working on commission so I can expect she will give me unbiased, knowledgeable advice. Awesome! What a fantastic way to heighten my shopping experience and win me over if she follows through with good customer service skills. I will even recommend her to my friends….

Target should investigate hyperlocal extensions of the Beauty Concierge Program in these markets, too.

Carol Spieckerman

Beauty consultants make sense for Target because Target is competing against retailers like Sephora (stand-alone and within J.C. Penney), Walgreen (LOOK Boutiques within Duane Reade and Walgreen), and department stores that offer consultation services. Mass retail beauty sections are notoriously difficult to navigate and both Target and Walmart have taken pains to simplify the shopping experience from a merchandising standpoint. Target’s beauty consultations will give it a leg up in mass and put it on par with the rest.


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