For Lush, ‘handmade’ is more than just a name

RCC Store 2022 Insights: Lush + Zipline

June 2, 2022

Since 1995, Lush has been a trailblazer in the cosmetics industry: from inventing bath bombs and creating new, innovative products to fighting animal testing and ethical campaigning. Today, there are 269 Lush shops in North America, all supported by head offices, factories, and distribution facilities in Vancouver and Toronto.

With a massive global reach and platform, Lush has created a strong following of customer advocates eager to engage with their brand. At the same time, the retailer recently took a controversial stance on social media by deactivating their global accounts, limiting the ways Lush can engage with their customer community.

The innovative solution? Lush Parties – a truly handmade, hands-on way for customers to interact with the Lush brand in-store and for individual shops to grow their community influence and business.

At RCC Store 2022, Zipline CEO and Co-founder, Melissa Wong sat down with Carmen Ip, Communications and Operations and Meaghan Flaherty, LUSH Store Manager to unpack how Lush has elevated experiences, brought the brand to life, and created a strong following of customer advocates- all authentically. 

The Genesis of Lush Parties

“As communicators, our roles have really evolved over the past two years,” says Carmen. “I can certainly say that one of my favorite parts of my job is being able to communicate with our 259-shop (and growing) fleet in North America. I get to have a two-way dialogue with our managers, and we have over 1000 full and part-time sales associates that I have the honor of being able to communicate with.”

Meaghan has been with Lush since 2015 (coming on 8 Christmases and a pandemic, if you’re using retail cycles to measure time). She climbed her way to store manager of the Toronto Eaton Centre Lush location all day the way from a sales ambassador in Ottawa. Meaghan’s daily role involves managing the retail staff team, internal development and growth, brand and product training, and internal management. 

So what are the Lush parties? Lush Parties are a 90-minute, hand-tailored, in-store retail experience filled with demos, activities, exclusive in-store goodies, and the chance to make your own bath bomb!

“We really want customers to know that ‘fresh’ and ‘handmade’ is so much more than just part of our name. It really is who we are,” says Carmen. “Every product you see on our shelves is lovingly handmade fresh every day. How do you convey that with fleeting customers who are just popping in to pick up an online order? Retail parties give us the opportunity to sit down with customers, get to know them, and not only offer a fun experience but allow customers to step right into the shoes of our manufacturing staff.”

With the relaunch of the Lush Parties, the most significant change has been truly tailoring the experiences. “The party itself is just as handmade as the bath bomb that you’re going to get to make with us,” says Meaghan. “What we’re able to do is utilize our skills as sales ambassadors in the retail field and get to know the person we’re hosting this party for.”

The Renaissance of In-Person Retail

These Lush Parties are poised perfectly in the midst of an industry-wide retail renaissance… one where in-person shopping is reserved for the most deserving experiences. Customer behaviors in a Covid-shaped reality call for brands to offer truly valuable shopping journeys that spark joy and provide human connection. That’s one reason why Lush is already ahead of the curve.

“Our retail team is highly trained,” says Meaghan. “ Our focus has always been about the personal connection that we make with our customers. We’re not just brand and product experts. We’re people experts.”

When it comes to in-person shopping, Lush stores prioritize that connection. Lush associates are known for their ability to connect with all types of people from all walks of life so that when anyone walks in to any Lush, no matter who they are, they are are getting the experience they’re looking for “That translates so beautifully into this tailored party that we’re bringing back to help rejuvenate the in-store experience in this COVID world” says Meaghan.

Growing and Glowing 🌱

Just like with everything else the brand builds, Lush thoughtfully builds their customer journey from the inside out (and only with fresh, natural ingredients, of course)!

From transforming their communications during the global pandemic, to ramping up for their next wave of ambitious growth, the brand has constantly been prioritizing customer engagement… and they believe that begins with empowering employees.

“Through Zipline, we essentially have all of our tools in one place, says Meaghan. “So we have a library in Zipline where we can access what we need, be it visual merchandising, covid safety guidelines, you name it, there’s a library for it! One of those is a party folder, operational guidelines for how to book a party,  the specific asks the company has of each of us, and the responsibilities of every single staff member. We’re all expected to sell the parties, to be able to speak to them, to be able to book them in the moment, as well as run the parties themselves. Whether you’re a key holder, a manager, or a sales ambassador, you can do everything in regards to the parties, and you have access to the Zipline Library for support if needed. All of the answers are right there at their fingertips, as well as a reminder of how to talk to it, how to sell it, how to tailor it.” 

“As with rolling any large retail initiative out to over 250 stores, you can imagine the magnitude of communications, tools, resources, people involved.” Says Carmen. “It’s really complex. We also have stores in very unique markets in all corners of North America. There is noone-size-fits-alll for communication for parties, and the same goes for executing. So how do you roll something out like this in a consistent way so that customers have a consistent experience, but empower managers to take information and apply it uniquely in their community? Zipline has allowed us to really communicate the information when we need it, have the tools and resources available for a 100 shop staff fleet to be able to login and access when they want, how they want, and have it all in one place.”

Another key piece of scaling initiatives is two-way communication. Getting real-time insights, fostering ongoing dialogue, and generating competition is a huge part of retooling and releasing any complex organizational effort.

“We don’t just roll something out and say ‘see you later, good luck!’ ” says Carmen. “Zipline gives us two-way dialogue, so we are able to pilot this large retail initiative in 10 shops, take photos, videos, and best practices and share that with the rest of the shop fleet – because there’s nothing like hearing from your peers. [With Zipline], we can survey our staff to see how things are going and what things need to change… We can host contests and directly highlight team efforts in Zipline.”

And there are countless more ways that Lush leverages technology for store efficiencies. The platform has been crucial throughout the pandemic and in an ongoing Covid-shaped reality. “Before Covid, roles were very siloed,” says Meaghan. “Now, everybody knows a bit of everything and they have all of the tools accessible to them to meet expectations through Zipline.”

And Covid has certainly impacted the way retail employees work, for good. “If there are any communicators in this audience, I think we can attest that every communication we’ve sent out in the past two years has been ‘urgent.’ We had to do it right away, we’re constantly evolving with protocols and everything,” says Carmen. “We have witnessed that we are extremely agile. Over the past year, we’ve hired 2000 new retail staff, which is a lot of new folks to onboard. How do we do that in a very Lush way without burdening managers to take that all on? We’ve certainly seen that alignment and communication, and staff being enrolled in your brand is so important for retention and delivering brand messages to customers that walk into your store. We’re going to continue to see that workforce evolve.”

Measuring (and highlighting) success along the way

“For us, success is a fine balance between operational excellence and employee engagement,” says Carmen. 

And as for Lush Parties? Since March 1st, the brand has hosted 726 parties and 5422 party guests in North America. The brand has seen increased engagement and excitement from the retail fleet and HQ alike, and store teams have more personal connections with people. 

“With Zipline, our team will read something and get excited. To me, that is really powerful,” says Meaghan. “They’re reading a message that is sent to them on their platform, and they’re engaging with that and getting excited about things.”

That excitement is due to individual empowerment and opportunities to self-train, with growth and development available for whatever pace retail employees need or desire. 

“[Zipline is] not only a communication tool, but it’s also a store communication and task management tool,” says Carmen. “We are really all sunshine and roses at Lush, but we also need to get stuff done. It is a fine balance between engagement and store operational excellence. It helps us hold our teams accountable. We’re able to see who we need to follow up with and develop. Gone are the days where we would send an email and print out an action sheet, [Zipline] is one place to communicate important brand messaging, things we need to get done, rollout initiatives, and it’s a really great tool for accountability.”

And sure enough, by aligning their entire fleet, Lush ensures those powerful brand values can be reflected at every level of their organization. 

At Zipline, we’re dedicated to providing resources to socially-minded brands that are innovating solutions and scale for maximum impact.  Whether your cause is saving the planet, creating a culture of unity and inclusion, or social activism, start making an impact today.
Want to watch the whole session? Check it out here!

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