The Valley Group

Retail Genius: Lessons from Lush

July 5, 2023

Many retailers strive to deliver ‘immersive retail experiences’ aiming to fulfil the demand of driving footfall into store, whilst creating authentic brand connections with consumers. From our experience we regularly see retailers opening shiny new flagships with an army of influencers and social media content at the ready to amplify their newest investment- only to leave the physical store feeling underwhelmed and asking the question, is retail really delivering the ultimate in shopper satisfaction?

One brand achieving the rarity of both shopper convenience and meaningful experience in physical retail is Lush, the British ethical retailer famed for bath bombs, pioneering solid packaging free bars and for having a scent you can smell down the high street. We take a look at the lessons that can be learnt from a brand going against convention to stay true to its values whilst putting the shopper firmly where the heart is.

Purposeful retail experiences

Lush stores are packed with physical experiences. Across every floor it’s clear that product and consumer engagement lead store layout, with a focus on educating the shopper- be that through experience or information. However, what could be sensory overload is instead a well-considered, engaging community space.

With features such as a hair salon, coffee shop, florist, spa and perfume library (a space for shoppers to learn more about the since behind perfume), Lush stores are becoming a destination for shoppers to relax, recharge and refuel. Bright, colourful products are creatively displayed, with rotating sushi bar carousels adding to the theatre, collectively creating impactful moments in every part of the store, driving shoppers on a journey of discovery.

Why it works?

Lush are delivering experiences which can’t be replicated online. Physical experiences which appeal across age groups create a deeper understand of products and a meaningful connection with the brand. Lush are creating immersive retail regardless of age and ability, by putting community spaces at the heart of the retail environment. Many services offered are available without scheduling an appointment- unlike most of the retailers we see offering community inspired events. This revered approach to impulsive experiences is one we see growing in demand from consumers.

Driving footfall: Staying Fresh

Lush isn’t afraid to try new approaches to retail spaces and adopts a refreshing view to monetising the physical space. Lush Parties are available to book and are hosted by the store team. Using part of the shop floor space they offer hands on product making workshops with games and activities tailored to the age- from kids to hen dos.

Brand partnerships have been a key sales driver for Lush, with highly publicised collaborations with the likes of the Super Mario Bros movie, Netflix’s Stranger Things and streetwear brand Lazy Oaf, high impact window campaigns supporting limited edition products give reasons for shoppers to keep coming back.

Why it works?

Using the store as a venue for events is a great way to encourage footfall, exposing Lush to both loyal and new customers. Creating reasons for shoppers to keep returning is essential to the success of any store. Collaborating with culturally relevant partners keeps the brand fresh and relevant to the consumer, with new products to talk about it creates ‘brand heat’ on the back of global launches.  By using wider market analysis Lush is focussing on the lifestyle needs of its customer, and by meeting them it is undoubtably tapping into new revenue driving opportunities.

Anti-Social Media approach

Very few brands stay true to the core in their beliefs, especially when it comes to putting values ahead of profitability. One message which is clear from Mark Constantine, Lush Co-founder and CEO is that the very nature of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok don’t currently do enough to shield its audience from the harm and manipulation they can experience online. Which is why the company took the decision to remove Lush from each of these channels. Given the wide scale adoption of social media by their audience, it is bold and brave approach, although one that speaks volumes of the genuine care they have for customer wellbeing.

So how do they connect with consumers? Lush can be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube, with content focussed around tutorials and the background on how ingredients are sourced and products are made.

Why it works?

A belief that ‘tech should be built for the greater good and impact positive social change’ is a refreshing approach within retail. Focussing on the ‘real’ from an authenticity and experience perspective shows customers Lush are genuine in their values, a prized philosophy in today’s culture.

‘I’ve spent all my life avoiding putting harmful ingredients in my products. There is now overwhelming evidence we are being put at risk when using social media. I’m not willing to expose my customers to this harm, so it’s time to take it out of the mix’

Mark Constantine, CEO and Co-Founder of Lush

5-star customer service

Retail staff provide a humanised connection point to customers, the phrase ‘you are only ever as strong as your weakest player’ rings true for all retailers- regardless of sector.

In today’s landscape the role of in-store advisor has never been more important. With increasing cynicism from consumers challenging influencer endorsements and sponsored ads, as a real brand advocate the face-to-face opportunity retail staff have with shoppers is unprecedented.

Why it works?

Welcoming, engaged and passionate, we received a level of service in Lush beyond our experience in most retailer sectors- including luxury. We saw no phones being used (a Dr Retail bug bear!), no distracted staff, instead a friendly team who cared about the experience of each shopper. The tricky part always comes when scaling, maintaining training standards and performance across international store estates can be challenging. Although Dr Retail can confirm that in each of the Lush stores we visited, staff came out smelling of roses.

‘Leaving the world Lusher than we found it’

Lush have a long-term commitment to become ‘a fully circular business, producing nothing that cannot be circled back through biological or available technical cycles.’

Their constant innovation and commitment to reducing packaging has saved over 4200 tons of plastic, whilst leading the industry in change to create products based on end use, how the consumer uses the product and what happens to the packaging after consumption. The creation of ‘Naked’ products completely eliminates the need for packaging, innovating further to create a fully bio degradable potato based starch to wrap bath bombs to avoid plastic use.

Lush Labs, through a feature called Lush Lens augments both the experience and effect of a bath bomb dropping into water, saving water waste whilst displaying information digitally that would normally appear on packaging. It works using object recognition technology through a phone camera, identifying which bomb the customer is interested in and providing the relevent information. Lush Lens also works on printed material and screens, further enriching the experience away from the physical store.

Over two-thirds of products sold by Lush does not involve plastic packaging, although interestingly tests in half a dozen fully ‘Naked’ stores did not prove popular, proving there is still a way to go in consumer mindset. But with encouragement for customers to re-use and refill by incentivising through cost savings- a 50p discount for all tubs returned, Lush are committed to the cause.

Why it works?

Delivering on environmental commitments alongside listening to the shopper is key to achieving the successful adoption of environmental ambitions. Lush thinks outside the box to accomplish both environmental and sales targets. For example, its recycled polyester fabric gift wraps not only eliminate the need for disposable gift packaging, but encourages basket size and multi buy purchases. By reducing the need for packaging across product ranges cuts costs, allowing greater margin for product development. Not only is this approach good for the planet, it’s good for the bottom line.

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