What’s next for ‘high-touch’ brands?

I’ve recently started a new gig at Bobbi Brown and in only a couple of months I’ve learnt a ton about the elevated world of ‘high-touch’ brands; how they drive their point of difference and the challenges they face in today’s retail landscape.

 “Touch your customer, and your half-way there” Estée Lauder

In my very first week I was exposed to the concept of ‘high-touch’, which I find fascinating. It’s all about an emphasis on delivering outstanding service and education with a human touch; a level of personalization that creates a strong emotional bond and memorable experience to set a brand apart from others.

Estée loved touching the faces of her customers to help them try on her products, believing that getting close was the best way to help customers use the product properly. It continues to be a foundational attribute we are encouraged to embed in how we develop everything we do on brands in the Estée Lauder Companies.

“Knowing what you can do at any given time to look and feel better is pretty powerful” Bobbi Brown

At Bobbi Brown the ‘high-touch’ concept is particularly important. The Bobbi Brown brand story was founded by the insight that there was no one approaching make-up as something that can enhance a woman’s natural beauty as opposed to ‘putting on a mask’ to become someone else. As a skilled make-up artist, Bobbi knew that there was power in not just developing a product to meet that insight, she also knew that there was power in sharing and educating others on her skills. As I am learning fast, achieving a flawless ‘no make-up make-up’ look is not easy. The experience someone gets ‘in the chair’, learning tips and techniques is a fundamental part of the brand experience.

“Customers don’t value channels, they value experiences” Jamie Nordstrom  

With challenges that face ‘brick & mortar’ retail stores nowadays, perhaps leaning in to the concept of ‘high-touch’ is also the secret sauce that helps revive sales for department stores, where people experience such ‘high-touch’ brands. Nordstrom just launched a new New York flagship store and they’ve upped the game in terms of services and experiences in this new concept store. A face gym, a conveyer belt for shoes, a Burberry ‘café’, and a suite of online book-able services. Department stores like this have a unique opportunity to offer a physical experience unlike others.

“Welcome to a new era of brand and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it” Brian Solis

The reality is that while Department Stores are one way to experience a ‘high-touch’ brand, it’s not the only place. Just as people are more agile nowadays in where they work, so too are brands.

From pop-up shops to brand activations, many brands are on a quest today to explore ways to offer an ‘experience’ to consumers, something that propels them to mean more to consumers. For ‘high-touch’ brands, the experience is ‘built-in’ to their dna – the challenge is how to extend the reach of the experience to people, where they are.

In this vein, it was super exciting for me to be part of the team enabling a partnership between Bobbi Brown and WeWork over the past month. Busy, hardworking people in today’s world are often striving for the right balance when it comes making time for self-care and are open to new ways to seek that out in a convenient way for them. This partnership provided an on-demand beauty service to WeWork members with an opportunity to have the ‘high-touch’ Bobbi Brown experience. Going to their ‘hub’ of work provided them the benefit of convenience, and the added ‘human’ touch from the artist made for a powerful experience for everyone that got involved.

The collaboration garnered a lot of engagement and interest from WeWork members. For me, it seems like this marks the start of something for the future of ‘high-touch’ brands. A ‘high-touch’ brand in today’s world needs to seek out new ways in which it can ‘touch’ consumers. The paradox of consumers wanting quick, convenient digitally-led solutions that still provide a rich human connection is both a challenge and an opportunity for brands. New collaborations and new technologies are required for brands to seek out those opportunities. Whether it be partnering with retail partners on innovative experience in traditional stores or whether it be seeking out new places to provide the brand experience through collaborations like WeWork. ‘High-touch’ is not going away and there are so many ways to bring it to consumers. Bring it on!

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