How this Bay Area Boutique Beauty business has grown over the last decade

The boom in direct consumerism among the big box stores has outlets and indie traders working overtime to differentiate themselves in a constantly changing market. I spoke with CEO Dara Kennedy and founder of Ayla to better understand how boutique beauty retailers are growing today; An indie aesthetic with a loyal following of worship for over 10 years. In my conversation with Dara, I find the keys to staying competitive in the indie beauty industry and retaining long-term clients.

Gary Drenik: Thinking about the change in online shopping over the last decade, what are some of the key factors that have made it possible for you to move forward in your real life showcase over the last decade and stay in business? What is a “secret sauce”?

Dara Kennedy: I think one of our advantages was that we started as an online business, then expanded offline as a result of customer demand; this gave us a very clear view of what we had to offer in this in-store experience and the desire to get the most out of it. When you shop with us, whether you’re online or offline, you think you’re really important. Our Drivers team’s ability to connect with each person is tremendous, and that extends throughout the experience, however if you’re shopping with us, you’re doing a video consultation, you’re receiving a facial, you’re getting a personalized Bach Flower remedy. to find a handwritten note from someone you interacted with before opening your submission.

Drain: How do you see yourself continuing to be competitive as an independent retailer in the face of growing competition, both from other online retailers and from brand DTC efforts?

Kennedy: I think what we offer is significantly different in the world of beauty. The way the products are cared for is very precise; it is a distinctive way to assist each client in their personal journey; our relationships with our partners are special; the way we care for the environment is intentional. We also know through a new Prosper Insights & Analytics Survey that in the last 6 months women have been focusing on becoming more environmentally conscious in their daily lives; this includes the way we shop, and our customers know that they can trust our environmental ethos. And I think all of these things have a lasting appeal to a particular type of buyer. In a crowded market, it’s important to find what you’re good at and give it a go.

Drain: Do you anticipate that traders will be “there for the future”? Why?

Kennedy: I do! In a world full of more opportunities than ever before, I think we all appreciate trusted curators, and if you combine that with a great shopping experience that fits your needs, it will make your life a lot easier. When you think about it all the time, we spend a lot of time shopping, cross-referencing, and reading reviews. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics Survey, we know that women of all ages are changing the way they shop to focus on local shopping; According to a survey conducted in the last 6 months, about 10% of Millennials and Gen-X women are focusing more than ever on local shopping. This information shows us that retailers are there to stay!

Drain: What can boutique retailers do to promote in-store shopping as a distinction between online and real life?

Kennedy: More than ever, store merchants need to give their customers a reason to come, which will vary depending on the specific offerings of each retailer. I think you need to focus on the basics: make it easy to shop in person, highlight what makes you different and why it’s important, and make sure every experience is great.

Drain: If we had three tips for boutique retailers, what would you share?

Kennedy: I would recommend doing the following:

  1. Listen to your customers because your ability to do it personally is gold. Every time I talk to a customer in person or on the phone, I learn something interesting; you can pick up nuances you’ve never been able to in a survey in these interactions. And I think the real perspectives often come from those nuances.
  2. After these interactions, continue. Everyone wants to feel seen and heard, and showing how much you care about what your customers have said shows how much you care.
  3. If the customer seems excited about more engagement, don’t let the relationship end there. Boutique retailers have a unique ability to build real relationships, and our community is what our team loves most about Aila. We learn a lot from our old customers and we love to evolve with them.

Drain: Thank you Dara for your competitive beauty retail space, what you need to differentiate between retail experiences for customers, and your tips for successful long-term boutique sales.

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