H Beauty MK & the fightback for customer intimacy on the shop floor

May 17, 2021

As the beauty industry resurfaces after the devastating COVID months, we take a look at some of the more adventurous and bold shop floor experiences that have been designed to regain customer trust and intimacy.

The global beauty industry (comprising of fragrance, personal care, skin care and cosmetics) has been stunned by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Mckinsey’s report, the first-quarter sales of 2021 have been weak, and there have been widespread store closures. The industry has responded positively to the crisis, with brands switching their manufacturing to produce hand sanitizers and cleaning agents and offering free beauty services for frontline response workers. At the same time, the industry’s leaders have a responsibility to do their best to ensure that their companies survive. The global beauty industry generates $500 billion in sales a year and accounts for millions of jobs, directly and indirectly. Lives come first, but livelihoods also matter.  

2020 RECAP

While the health and beauty industry may be in a relatively greater position than other consumer categories, 2020 will have been marked as one of the most unsuccessful years that was endured. Many of us believe however, that the industry will remain appealing in the long run, especially with the rise of technology and innovation that is at our fingertips. Trends were already shaping the market and the way in which we shop. Perhaps the COVID-19 crisis is likely to accelerate the innovation of consumer commerce.

The impact of lockdowns and restrictions impacted on our day to day lives, In particular, it shifted the way in which we portrayed ourselves and the ways in which we ultimately behaved. Many of us weren’t mindful by our self-image and purchasing makeup to try out new products, was at the back of our minds. Many of us had nowhere to go or to have been seen (except maybe taking part in those dreaded Zoom meetings!) and as a result the beauty and cosmetic industry sales suffered.


In Q2 of the pandemic it became apparent that the ‘Do it yourself’ makeover was upon us. We were craving a haircut, yearning for a pampering beauty treatment, right down to even getting our nails done. Beauty brands shifted their marketing strategies to cater for those stuck indoors giving rise to the hair dye home boxes and nail and manicure kits to many of us starting our own beauty businesses.

Natalie James, 30, from Wanstead in East London works in fashion PR. Although she continued working through lockdown from home, she didn't like the fact that she wasn't able to pamper herself with her favourite beauty products as all the shops were shut.

Realising "a lot of other people felt the same", she decided to start a £10-a-month subscription box service called Tingle, which offers a curated selection of beauty, makeup and skincare products sent to your door. 


Brands were heavily under pressure even before the Pandemic to overhaul their product-innovation. Now, the desire to be ahead of their competitors is even greater.

Pivotal has been walking the shop floor to gain a more focal insight into how consumers respond to the new normal when shopping for beauty and cosmetic products. In a short series of ‘back in-store’ articles we take a look at how the physical shopping environment is shaping up to maximise real life human interactions and brand experiences that both compete and support the dominant ecommerce platform.

In this first instalment we take a look at the recently opened Harrods Beauty emporium in Milton Keynes to observe and gain some experience exclusives planned for shoppers through 2021 and beyond.

Harrods opens its second largest H Beauty store, expanding its beauty branch into the heart of Milton Keynes. The ultimate playground to discover luxurious brands within skincare, cosmetics, fragrance and makeup.

The new 29,000sq ft store also doubles up as the biggest H Beauty branch yet, following the debut site that opened at Intu’s Lakeside shopping centre last September.

Engaging with customers has been the biggest up and coming struggle for many and whilst brands are still thinking of innovative ways to get the shopper involved, H Beauty have perhaps nailed it. To next generation newcomers, to pioneering and legacy names – the enjoyment and experience of H Beauty does not stop at product shopping. This store has so much more to offer for customers!

Harrods’ H Beauty fascia offers a range of premium and luxury brands under one roof and includes onsite treatments, consultations, and demonstrations.

“The latest H Beauty opening in Milton Keynes marks another significant addition to the UK’s beauty retail landscape and I am absolutely delighted to be creating an exciting new destination for our beauty community,”

Harrods beauty Director Annalise Fard.

In store, you can experience Playtables, the H Beauty Cam, Sampling Stations, a Skincare Station, click and collect, interactive and virtual try-ons as well as indulging yourself with a glass of bubbly in their exclusive Champagne Bar.

There are two Playtables where shoppers can experiment with dry hair styling, makeup demonstrations and product testing. Each brand ambassador can be there to explain the benefits, the product evolution, and its ingredients – making sure that this product will be curated perfectly for your skin type.

Meanwhile a special in-store Skincare Station offers bespoke consultations and treatments, whilst promising there is an effective and enriching product for every customer’s skin concern and daily routine, regardless of budget.

The high end and lavish interior styling, fixtures, fittings and displays are like no other. You truly immerse yourself in a new way of shopping and grasping that the customer experience is the highest priority for Harrods Beauty.

Harrods expression:

“A new beauty experience”

H Beauty has been described as a paradise for beauty lovers – even if that means visiting and getting a photo taken with their pink Reduced Polygon bear sculptor, proudly sat in the middle of the store.

Harrods buying team, led by Annalise Fard and Mia Collins, has curated a spectacular offering that empowers the H beauty community to explore and "celebrate their self-identity through beauty".

Most click and collect services are primarily a zone in store where shoppers can quickly nip in and collect their online orders without the hassle of in store shopping. Due to Harrods insights and feedback from their customers, it shows that they have truly took on board their thoughts and comments. H Beauty MK now features a beautiful dressing room at the back of their click and collect till – this gives the customer an opportunity to try on their online purchase and have the chance to either keep or refund their items there and then in store with no trouble. 

At the entrance of the store features the H Beauty interactive camera, featuring a stunning pink and white acrylic LED backdrop – giving the customers an exciting and memorable time in store. The freestanding interactive skin allows the customer to select a countdown for the photo, and if approving of the moving image, you can send this to yourself on email to keep for free!

This area will then transform into a new dedicated beauty brand section (to find out who will be featured here, subscribe to our insights located in the ‘Get the material’ portal)

H Beauty features extremely influential high-end brands such as Estee Lauder, Dior, Gucci, Huda Beauty and more. The luxurious and impactful displays speak for themselves, inclusive of delicate and intricate details are highly appreciated by customers, ultimately impacting their overall shopping experience.

Estee Lauder –

Gucci -

Dior -


Tec led innovation has become the biggest rivalry for brands’ marketing budgets. The way in which customer choose to engage with products and brands - it’s vital that the engagement is both tactile and interactive with products. Good design makes your product self-explanatory.

For instance, Virtual Try-ons have become the biggest way in which we can ‘try and test’ a product without the physical touch and feel.

Estee Lauder, for example, exploited a Virtual Try-on touch point on their concession in the H Beauty store.

7 Best Virtual Make Up Tools

Source: harpersbazaar

Chanel Lip Scanner

Chanel has made the 'virtual try-on' concept a completely slick experience with the launch of its new Lipscanner app, which allows you to find the Chanel lip product that matches any source of visual inspiration.

Scan your handbag, an Instagram post, a page from a magazine or even your friend's lips, and the app will identify not only the matching shade but lead you to the correct texture too – be it high-shine gloss or a long-lasting matte.

Once you're found your perfect match, use the 'virtual try-on' feature to test out the product, snapping a selfie for future reference. VR has never been so chic.

L’Oreal Paris Virtual Makeup Tool

Experience L’Oréal Paris make-up and hair colour the virtual way. Whether you fancy changing up your hair with zero commitment or trying the latest launch, L’Oréal's new virtual tool allows you to choose from over 100 shades by either using the 'Live' application button, or by uploading a photo of yourself to apply virtual makeup to.

Maybelline Virtual Makeover

Discover Maybelline's virtual makeover and online make-up application tools to help find the most suitable shades for you. The brand offers a virtual try-on tool, as well as a foundation shade finder. Find the perfect 'no make-up, make-up', or try a bold new look.

bareMinerals virtual try on

bareMinerals recently released its new Mineralist Hydra-Smoothing Lipstick, alongside an exclusive virtual try-on so that you can experiment with all 25 shades from the comfort of your own home - including colours modelled by Hailey Bieber, such as Grace and Wisdom. All the shades are mineral-infused and vegan.

Mac Virtual Try on

MAC Cosmetics has just launched its new Virtual Try On Tool, which allows you to test out more than 200 shades of lipstick or eyeshadow in three easy steps. MAC has said of its latest foray into digital: "Now you can continue to try a new shade or product, even while at home."

Bobbi Brown virtual try on

Bobbi Brown recently launched a Virtual Try On functionality for the brand's eye and lip shades. The tool uses accurate facial mapping technology for a true-to-life virtual makeover. You can try on different shades by using the live camera, uploading a selfie or selecting a model’s image.

RedKEn Virtual hue finder

Whether you're dealing with unwanted roots or fading colour, we know everyone is eagerly awaiting to be reunited with their hairdresser (there has been a 950 per cent rise in searches relating to salons reopening). Redken’s new virtual hair colour tool couldn't come at a better time; it allows you to find the perfect hue for your locks and book a digital consultation with one of the Redken team.

With Virtual makeup and beauty related tec being the big boom, it makes you wonder what brands do not currently offer this. There is a space in the market to become bigger and better with creativity, and whilst we understand its a competitive market – why wait?

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