A Peek Into Japan’s Futuristic Retail Scene
Uncover unique and transformative retail solutions for beauty brands
Japan’s Beauty Retail Scene
July 2022 – Our Head of Retail Technology, Robert Brockman, recently took a trip to Tokyo, Japan, and experienced a whole new world of beauty. Japan is recognized as the second largest retail market in Asia, ranking just after China.
China is known for its complex and revolutionary retail scene – dubbed ‘New Retail’ by Alibaba founder Jack Ma. New Retail is a concept that integrates online and offline commerce through digitalization, offering a seamless and experiential retail journey. While prominent in China, this radical concept is still in the infancy stage, with variants of New Retail being adopted sporadically. However, Japan is not far behind in implementing such innovative advances into its business operations. The country is transforming the retail landscape into a class of its own, especially with the unique spirit of Omotenashi. While often translated as “Japanese hospitality”, a more accurate translation of it would be “other-awareness”. The culture of Omotenashi is Japan’s distinctive approach to hospitality – providing excellent service that anticipates and exceeds the expectations of customers.
Fusing their innovative drive with the Omotenashi spirit, Japan’s flourishing beauty landscape has become the destination of choice for brands to establish their flagship stores. This is particularly true in Tokyo, where the vibrant retail beauty scene is now home to large global brands such as Louis Vuitton, @Cosme, Gucci, Levi’s, and many more, with impressive flagship stores to match.
Known for their innovative, futuristic, and digital surprises, shoppers are in for an experiential journey the moment they step foot in Tokyo. Japan’s beauty and personal care market sits at USD$15.8 billion in 2022 and is forecasted to be at USD$21.39 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 6.25%. With the pandemic serving as a catalyst for digital transformation throughout all industries, many companies in Japan have accelerated automation and digitalization in-store to boost efficiency and enhance the customer experience.
Beauty Retail Stores We Visited
As a retail solutions provider in the beauty landscape, we are excited to have had the opportunity to physically visit some of these beauty stores in Tokyo and witness the unique manifestation of New Retail.
Shiseido Global Flagship Store – Founded in Ginza, Tokyo in 1872, Shiseido is a brand that focuses on beauty innovations and wellness experiences. It is no wonder then, that the brand decided to establish its largest global store right in Ginza, a district known for being a thriving hub of innovation and upmarket shopping, and an area that epitomised the concept of East-meets-West.
Upon entering the Shiseido store in Ginza, each consumer is given a ‘S connect’ smart bracelet – allowing for a hands-free seamless shopping experience. This bracelet can record the digital content experience of the consumer and they can add the desired products to their virtual shopping cart. At checkout, consumers can simply swipe the bracelet to collect and purchase their items. As we continue exploring the store, we realised digitalization is woven into all aspects of the shopping experience. From touchless testers and lift-and-learn displays, to a foundation bar where the digital tester can detect the exact foundation shade of a consumer. Another centerpiece is the ‘Make Me Up’ navigator that showcases detailed information about the products when it is placed in front of it. The navigator also has a virtual try-on function to simulate how the product would look on consumers. Despite the fast-moving shopping journey, consumers who wish for an even faster experience can head directly to the ‘Ultimune to-go’ vending machine for instant purchase.
Encapsulating Shiseido’s philosophy of being “ALIVE with beauty”, this store offers a whole basement level where shoppers can unwind in their Somadome technology-enabled meditation pods. This program is designed to stimulate the 5 senses using magnet therapy, light and colour immersion, and binaural beats, which promises to rejuvenate one’s mind, spirit and body. On the second floor, consumers can experience makeup and skincare lessons by professionals. Personalised services such as engraving or gift-wrapping are also available for those who wish to make a mark.
Consumers who have visited this Shiseido store in Ginza have compared it to visiting a luxurious spa or wellness centre – with the smart bracelet, top-notch service, digital technologies, and immersive sensory experience.
YSL Store – The Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) store in Omotesando spans 3 levels with sleek and minimalistic designs. As YSL is usually distributed in Japan through departmental stores, this retail store is a substantial developmental win for the French luxury fashion brand.
Besides YSL full line of clothing and accessories, and its aesthetically pleasing interior, what amazed us the most were their personalised packaging for their fragrance and lipstick ranges. Consumers are encouraged to ‘make it yours’ by engraving, having atelier paintings, and gift wrapping their lipstick or fragrance packaging – a huge nod to their Omotenashi spirit.
Shu Uemura Flagship Store – Another household name that situated its global flagship store in Tokyo is Shu Uemura. Located at the cross junction of Omotesando – a popular luxurious shopping destination in Tokyo – Shu Uemura’s maximized their corner-facing store with an enveloped architecture that represents a giant makeup box. This beauty store offers an extensive range of skincare and cosmetics, as well as exclusive limited-edition products.
Shoppers are greeted with an interactive digital table once they step foot into this beauty box. Consumers can create their own pigment from scratch according to their mood or by colour. After fine-tuning their preferred colour from over 1,000 colour patterns and customising their finish, they can head to the pigment atelier room on the 2nd floor where a makeup artist will guide them thereafter. On top of that, consumers can utilise a 3D styling atelier where they will learn the know-how of applying makeup according to their respective face shapes and features.
@Cosme Tokyo Flagship – @Cosme has broken out of the internet and entered the physical retail realm in recent years, albeit bringing along digital innovations to enhance the store. Its largest flagship store is located in Tokyo, with 3 levels of beauty that are conceptualised to bring its web portal to life – merging online and offline commerce.
The focal point of the store is their ‘Tester Bar’ – a section dedicated to consumers to test products for themselves. Smart lockers are provided for consumers to store their belongings before trying out the various products. The Tester Bar also includes interactive displays to increase the engagement of the shopper’s journey. Another highlight of the store would be their striking ‘Best Cosmetics Award Tower’ – a towering collection of items that displays past cosmetic awards with cosmetic trends in Japan. The store is further segmented into other sections to emulate the characteristic of a web portal – @Cosme weekly ranking, Tokyo sales ranking, etc.
The Future of Beauty Retail
Although the pandemic greatly affected the beauty retail industry and brought about the fear of the retail apocalypse, the industry has remained resilient. Reports from Coresight research in December 2021 have indicated that for the first time in 5 years, store openings are outpacing store closure. Many countries, including Japan, are already seeing their local retail scene blossom, signifying that the pendulum is swinging in favor of retail. However, to prevent an oscillation back, retailers must quickly infuse elements of digitalization and innovation into their business operations, securing their relevance in this shifting market.
Ultimately, the digital transformation of the future does not have to be radically disruptive. Instead, it can transform the core of the retail value chain by the gradual incorporation of digital tools and through capturing new opportunities enabled by innovative methods. By focusing on the needs of consumers, and incrementally bridging emerging technologies with market needs, beauty retailers will be well prepared for the future of beauty.
If you need some inspiration, take a trip to Japan for a preview of the future.