As any savvy beauty retailer knows, selling customers skincare products is about more than just reducing pores and clearing surface-level blemishes, but boosting their self-esteem, health and wellbeing. And in the current climate, when many customers are in lockdown and hiding behind a face mask, skincare is one of the most popular categories in retail right now. We chat with Mecca skincare education manager Lucy Shaw, about what she’s learnt from customers as a skincare expert and how beauty
ty standards are evolving. Tell us about your role and what it involves. I am the skincare education manager here at Mecca. My team and I look after any category-related education initiatives across brands, newness, services, and the in-store customer experience. We work closely with our brand partners, the people team, retail team and, of course, our Mecca store teams. Our main education customer is the skin specialists, as they are the individuals in-store flying the category flag. The team and I work hard on designing education programs that best prepare our teams to deliver on services and exceptional experiences for our customers. We have a digital learning platform called Meccaversity and a fleet of education partners who work out in-field delivering face-to-face training. You’ve been at Mecca for quite a few years now. What has that journey been like and how did you become a skincare specialist?It has been quite a while! I started my career at Mecca almost nine years ago, when I worked in the Camberwell Cosmetica store as a casual makeup artist, while I was studying to become a beauty therapist at Elly Lukas. I was always obsessed with product and how it can impact the skin and the way that we feel. I had my own issues with acne growing up so this really sparked a fascination with skin physiology, hence why I decided to study beauty therapy. Working at Mecca on the shop floor really made me fall in love with customers. I am fascinated by people and, of course, I’m interested in their skin and individual concerns. After developing this keen interest in skincare and product, I got into education where I can share my knowledge and passion with others. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel overseas and all over Australia, work closely with our broader business departments on driving the skincare category at Mecca and ensuring that the educational and experiential service model that we provide in-store is mirrored in other channels, such as digital and marketing. I also work closely with the Mecca product development team on new skincare innovations, building protocols with the services team and, of course, learning from all the incredible brand founders and industry experts that we have access to. Why do you think beauty businesses like Mecca require someone who specialises specifically in skincare education these days?Now that beauty is so expansive and technology is advancing at a rapid rate – from wellness, ingestibles, body care, devices and beyond – we need to ensure that our store teams are the absolute experts and are armed with all the subject matter expertise and knowledge to deliver an outstanding in store experience. There is so much to learn when it comes to skin from physiology, ingredients and concerns, and our education team is structured by category so that we can truly specialise our content. It’s also important to ensure that the team building and creating education content have come from the shop floor, so that we can embed this deep understanding of our customers into everything that we do. What are some of the interesting things that you’ve learnt about consumers and skincare while working at Mecca?There is no one-size-fits-all approach to skincare. It’s important to understand your customer and their lifestyle so that you can tailor the approach – this is what Mecca does best, we listen and get to know our customers. Education and making skincare fun are also important. Now that we have Google and Instagram, customers do their own research, so we need to ensure that we are up to date, particularly on emerging trends and topics. Marketing has dramatically changed over the years, too. When I started out in the beauty industry, there was a lot of mass marketing focussing on the ‘result’ or the ‘brand image’. Now, brands are talking about their supply chain, ingredients, formulations and values. This is what customers truly connect with, they want to align their product choices to their own personal values. They also expect a lot from their beauty products. In recent times, I’ve also learnt that skincare and beauty hold the power to dramatically transform the way that we feel, our confidence and our wellbeing, this cannot be underestimated. Mecca has just launched its own skincare range. Tell me about how that was developed. What was that process like?From the very beginning and inception of the Mecca Max skincare range, education worked closely with our product development team. We started out with a list of non-negotiables around price, ingredients, packaging, and formulation. We gathered insights directly from our store team on what customers are looking and asking for. We gathered as much information as possible before briefing in the labs, rigorously testing samples, and ensuring that each product was going to be simple, deliver on its promises and most importantly: be accessible to everybody. It was really rewarding to see how impressed and excited our team were when we hosted the training. If the Mecca skin specialists approve, you know it’s a winner! I know Mecca’s new range is affordable and is aimed at teens, which seems like a demographic rather under-served by many beauty retailers. What are your thoughts on that?I completely agree, skincare has typically always been created for customers who have disposable incomes and can access skincare easily, including their skin needs, which can be totally different to a first-time skincare user or beauty newbie. We felt a responsibility to teach our younger customers how to look after their skin and educate them on the importance of skincare. This could include things like the order to use your products in, how often to use them, which ingredients will suit a concern, or which formulation suits a specific skin type. This is something that I personally did not have growing up (without Google and social media), I was totally clueless until one day I walked into a Mecca store and spoke with a skin specialist who approached me with empathy and kindness and gave me advice that helped me care for my acne prone and blemished skin. We identified that we were starting to capture a younger customer, so we wanted to ensure that we are bringing them the right products, so that they can go on a skincare journey with us for life. What are some of the interesting trends that you’re seeing in skincare right now?There are so many exciting things happening in skincare right now! Firstly, the blurring of lines between skin and overall health and wellbeing. The research that is happening around microbiome, gut health and the link between sleep, hormones and nutrition is fascinating. I think that a skincare routine in the future will be so much more than cleanse, tone and moisturise. It will include: a health supplement, a sleep boosting pillow spray, blemish patches and an LED mask! There are also brands out there that are working hard to create a new narrative in the skincare industry, that there actually is no such thing as ‘perfect skin’. For years this has given customers unrealistic expectations and made completely normal everyday concerns feel like something that is not normal. By banishing words such as ‘poreless’, ‘anti-aging’ and ‘anti-acne’ they are slowly dissolving these unrealistic beauty ideals, rewriting the narrative and creating a safe and inclusive space for everybody – it is such an exciting time to be in beauty.