Monday April 30, 2012
By Emily Perry, Marketing Manager
For those who read my blogs regularly, on here and the hotcatUK networking forum site, you’ll know that I love inspirational companies like Apple, Virgin, SouthWest Airlines and since my visit at the weekend, Lush.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept of Lush, although I’m pretty sure most people would recognise the distinctive smell wafting across the high street, they produce fresh, natural handmade cosmetics with vegetarian products and are headquartered in Poole, Dorset – that’s big tick number one, British business retaining it roots. Since its creation in 1995 from the tiny Poole branch, the company has grown and now has more than 600 shops in 43 countries. Aside from creating exciting products, they also fight tirelessly against animal testing (as a result none of their products or ingredients are tested on animals; suppliers have to sign up to this agreement as well), for animal protection, human rights and environmental issues (that’s another few ticks).
You may now be agreeing that they are clearly a good company, yet wondering how they rank aside the businesses of Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, in my mind, after just one visit. Quite simply, they wowed me with their customer experience. For me this is made up of three core areas:
- their values; what they stand for,
- their marketing,
- their ‘selling’ skills.
Aside from the fantastic bath bombs, face masks and shampoo bars, they are probably one of the most value-centric organisations I have come across. Like the companies I have already mentioned, they have a very clear set of values which everyone lives and breathes every day.
Values include making fresh, organic products, no animal testing, use no or recycled packaging, should make a profit and the customer is always right.
When it comes to Lush you can see these values everywhere. On the paper bags you take home, across the website and in their newsletter. The main place though is in their people. They talk about their values when engaging in conversation with you. And they aren’t doing so to pay lip service, each and every employee really believes in the Lush culture and values and wants you to be part of it as well. This passion enhances the customer experience and so won ‘wow’ point number one.
My visit to Lush was, in reality, a mystery shop. I am currently studying the company as part of my marketing course and wanted to know how they speak to their target audience. It surprised me that actually, in comparison to their competitors, they spend very little on marketing. Instead they rely on in-store communications, word of mouth, PR and their website.
It’s the in-store marketing which secured ‘wow’ point number two. They create a powerful experience through your senses. First there is the aroma; you know when you are near a Lush shop because you can smell it – one of their most powerful marketing tools. This entices customers into an environment which is brightly coloured with products laid out like food, on wooden trays, ice, even leaves! Each product is brightly coloured and without packaging you are encouraged to look, pick up and feel the texture; smelling the individual scent. It’s a very clever concept, and one which brings customers back time and time again.
I write selling in inverted commas because for me they didn’t sell. Although I ended up walking out spending more money than I had planned to, I did not feel ‘sold to’. And this is what achieved ‘wow’ point number three and made sure I would return again.
Lush recruit their people on values and cultural fit, that much is obvious. They then develop their people in the art of selling. For them, what is most important is recognising the customer need and solving it. So instead of being met with a barrage of products and a shop assistant telling me I needed this, that and the other, I had an interesting and insightful conversation which lasted well over 25 minutes.
My helper asked lots of questions about my beauty regime and the issues I was having. He asked about products I’d previously used and the experiences I’d had with them. Then he led me towards the demonstration area where he advised I had a range of options which would ‘benefit my regime and resolve my issues’. He took time to test the products on me, explaining the benefits of each and the outcomes I would see as a result. He threw in personal stories about how he and his family use the products, he talked about the freshness, organic nature of the product and how it isn’t tested on animals (referring back to the values). And cleverly along the way managed to upsell, so instead of purchasing just the face mask I wanted, I left with a moisturiser, cleanser and toner...
This for me is the future of selling – relationship selling. Where the aim is not for the customer to walk out having spent large sums of money, instead to develop a relationship based on that individual’s needs, offering them the best advice, best solution and ensuring they will return. It’s about the long-term gain rather than the short-term goals. The best companies do it – Apple, Virgin, SouthWest, learnpurple (!)– and that is why Lush, for me, sits on the same mantel.
What do you do to make your values live every day? Is there anything you could learn from these inspirational companies?