Nicolas Krafft Discusses What Amazon Salon Means for the Future of the Hair Salon Industry
Amazon is expanding into the salon business – and technology will be front and center. In late April, the tech giant announced on their blog that they are launching Amazon Salon in London, in a more than 1,500-square foot space on Brushfield Street in London’s trendy Spitalfields. At its first (and likely only) in-person salon, Amazon plans to do more than offer stylish haircuts and salon services. The space will be a venue for pushing the merger of technology and hair care, including augmented reality technology which will allow salon-goers to visualize themselves with different hair colors before committing. At Amazon Salon, customers will also be able to utilize point-and-learn technology, where they can point to various products on the shelf, learn all about them, and make purchases from their devices by scanning a QR code.
Although the potential for this to expand into something much larger is there, notes former L’Oreal executive Nicolas Krafft, one of the more interesting aspects of Amazon Salon is that they don’t have plans to create salons elsewhere. Instead, Krafft says, Amazon appears to want to use the London location as a kind of testing ground — or, as the company calls it, “experiential venue” — to see how technology might be better integrated into the real world salon experience, and better utilized to drive purchasing decisions and customer satisfaction. Initially the salon will just be open to Amazon employees, before expanding to the public in coming months.
Amazon is a proven disruptor. The company has completely changed the way consumers shop for everything from books to clothing to furniture. Getting inside the salon experience offers Amazon a way to reimagine the online shopping experience when it comes to haircare and personal care products, says Nicolas Krafft. In a salon, a customer benefits from the advice and guidance of the salon professional who can recommend various products. With a built-in online shopping experience, salon owners don’t need to carry a massive amount of products. Rather, they will serve as a testing ground, using various products on customers and allowing customers to purchase the products they like directly (and precisely when they are feeling most motivated). Ultimately, says Krafft, Amazon sees a way to better integrate the physical and online spaces, so that one feeds the other.
It’s safe to say that Amazon is collecting data from this experiment, says Nicolas Krafft, although it is less clear exactly what the company plans to do with that data. He added that Amazon did tell a TechCrunch reporter that it did not intend to collect data from customers’ AR experience. Although Amazon may not be gathering personal data, Krafft says, they are certainly interested in using Amazon Salon to better understand consumer behavior and how purchasing decisions are shaped by the salon experience.
As they learn from their tech-immersive salon, expect Amazon to take those learnings to other industries to disrupt traditional models of doing business and pave the way for seamless shopping, Krafft says. It’s only fitting that the company would want to disrupt the salon—and salon shopping—experience as part of its ever-growing portfolio.
He notes that Amazon has already begun to transform the in-person shopping experience through its Amazon Go stores, checkout-free stores located in 26 locations across the U.S. and in London where shoppers simply load their carts and take items out of the store without checkout lines.
There is also Amazon’s foray into fresh foods, via Amazon Fresh, which opened its first brick and mortar stores in fall 2020 and utilizes the Amazon Go cashier-free technology.
Last but not least Amazon recently expanded into the luxury goods market with Luxury Stores, offering a high tech platform, including 360-degree images, for luxury brands to sell their goods in a dedicated more exclusive space.
To provide hair care for Amazon Salon, the company turned to Elena Lavagni, owner of Neville Hair & Beauty, an independent salon based in London. Lavagni is experienced in cutting-edge hair care and has provided hairdressing services for major events like Paris Fashion Week and the Cannes Film Festival.
What Salons Can Learn from Amazon’s “Experiment”
So what is the underlying purpose of this latest venture from Amazon and what could it mean for the future of hair care, sales of hair care products, and brick and mortar salons? Former L’Oreal executive Nicolas Krafft says that Amazon Salon is certainly, for now, a means for the company to expand sales of hair care products on its platform and to test the ways that the offline salon experience might drive those purchases using the latest technology. At Amazon Salon, for instance, each station will include an Amazon Fire tablet and there will be a dedicated “creative area” for photo taking. Then, of course, they are introducing a new way for customers to learn about products and purchase them without requiring the stylist to act as an intermediary.
Amazon wants its Amazon Salon to provide a direct connection to its Amazon Professional Beauty Store on its UK site, where salon owners can purchase thousands of salon and spa products, including professional hair coloring and styling, professional tools and appliances, professional nail care, barber shop supplies, professional skincare, and salon furnishings and supplies.
“We have designed this salon for customers to come and experience some of the best technology, hair care products and stylists in the industry,” said John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager for Amazon, said in a statement. “We want this unique venue to bring us one step closer to customers, and it will be a place where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies.”
In what ways will the in-salon experience influence customers’ purchasing decisions? And how can technology help facilitate a more immersive 360-degree experience that ties together with shopping and social media? These are the questions that salon owners should be asking themselves, says Nicolas Krafft, as they closely follow what Amazon Salon is doing and what it might mean for the future of the industry. Amazon Salon is a look at the salon of the future, notes Krafft, and, the most cutting-edge salons, the industry leaders, will need to incorporate many of these tech elements to stay competitive.
It’s likely that salon owners will come to adopt many of the technology tools that Amazon is introducing — with AR technology in particular providing a new way for customers to envision themselves in new hair styles and colors.
Customers are already coming into salons with smartphones in hand, asking their stylist to replicate a particular cut, or style, or color, says Nicolas Krafft. They are using their phones to pay at the register. And after they leave the salon, they are almost certainly snapping selfies and posting them on social media. And salon owners are already using social media to showcase their services and advertise special promotions.
The Amazon Salon model builds on the way customers — and owners — already interact with the world and communicate using their devices and more fully integrates that model into the salon experience.
We can expect many more tech-savvy salons adopting the approach of the Amazon Salon in the future, says former L’Oreal executive Nicolas Krafft. He advises salon owners to keep a close eye on the Amazon experiment and to think about how they might incorporate some of these technologies into their own salon experiences now — to get out in front of a trend that looks poised to transform the industry.
About Nicolas Krafft
Nicolas Krafft is a career beauty executive with over 20 years of experience with one of the largest cosmetic companies in the world, L’Oréal. Nicolas Krafft’s career spanned more than a decade at L’Oréal brands. Starting as a product manager at L’Oréal Professional, Krafft moved through the company’s ranks to become VP of Global Business Development and later the International General Manager for the Pulp Riot brand under the direction of Founder and CEO David Thurston. His successes included launching new product lines, growing market share in challenging economic environments, and developing an international presence for L’Oreal-owned brands like Kérastase, Matrix, and Biolage. Nicolas recently worked at Columbia University in New York City teaching Digital Business Leadership.
Born in Switzerland, Krafft is fluent in French, German, and English and is truly a global citizen. He has also lived in Canada, the United States, France, Latvia, Romania, and Germany. This has led Nicolas Krafft to better understand the cultures of the world through his work and personal life. He loves working with people in ways that help them develop and grow as employees and people. He has found success across borders, building, and maintaining relationships with people of all cultures and backgrounds.