5 Things I Learned From Julie Thibault, Global Fragrance and Beauty Innovation Lead at CHANEL about the future of retail

In Posted November 11, 2019

Here’s a short summary of my chat with Julie from the prehype podcast. Check out the episode here!

There’s no question landscape of retail is changing, and avenues to building a consumer connection are more prolific than ever. But are consumer shopping and spending habits really changing with the times? With all of these new ways to shop and discover, what’s really driving behavior?

That’s where my conversation with Julie Thibault, Global Fragrance and Beauty Innovation Lead at CHANEL, kicks off (well, it actually kicks off near an ice cream cereal bar in New York’s Little Italy). In her thirteen years at CHANEL, Julie has spent time looking for new ways to create experiences with their fragrance and beauty products. Here are 5 memorable moments from our conversation.

You can check out the episode here!

Experiencing things is really the reason that you have physical environments anymore.”

Julie discussed a key challenge in working at CHANEL, particularly in luxury: How do you get people to understand what’s special about your products? And throughout our chat, it became apparent that it starts with real-life, human-to-human experiences — whether that’s creating an interactive shopping experience, hiring a great customer service team, or simply a great retail employee. Technology can be a tool, but it’s just a backdrop for human-to-human interactions.

Brand status is becoming less about external validation, and more about personal achievement.

One thing Julie said really struck me: “I used to think that [buying CHANEL products] were about external status as a primary driver. More and more what we’re seeing is a lot of interest in products like foundation, which nobody but you would ever really know is Chanel.” No longer are people buying products specifically for status — the brand story and product quality are now at the forefront of the connection.

“A good experience is never shopping.”

Rather, a good experience typically takes place in a restaurant or a hotel, right? Julie and I agreed that people rarely think of their retail experience as memorable. But when they do, it’s because of one thing: people. One thing I keep in mind in my experience is that in this craze for personalization, people have forgotten about personal. Julie adds that when an expert can interpret your personal data and put together the qualitative and quantitative in real life, in real-time — that’s when shopping is a great experience.

I believe that experience is the new sales. And a community is the new marketing.”

Julie hit the nail on the head. I won’t get into it here, but she used the Napa Valley experience as well as Warby Parker as perfect examples, and I discussed a specific way Bark is creating a community to bring dog people together.

“If you don’t feel in your heart the “why” behind where you’re working or what you’re selling or what you’re doing, your customers won’t either.”

Throughout the episode, we spoke about the shift in employee relationships, the growing interest in flexible scheduling, and why “brand ambassadors” could make your otherwise great retail experience miss the mark.

There’s so much more to share — listen to the entire episode right here.

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