How Sally Beauty revamped employee training for the personalized personal care era

The company’s virtual color expert program will expand to roughly 60 locations by early fiscal 2023.
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· 4 min read

In a world with too many options, shoppers want to cut through the noise and find what best fits their vibe. This is especially true in the beauty and personal care industries, where a number of brands have angled their services to deliver on that customized journey.

Sally Beauty is looking to keep up with its contemporaries through recruitment and training processes that equip prospective, new, and longtime employees with the resources and knowledge to help customers along.

For example, earlier this year, the company started a pilot program for “virtual color experts”—licensed professionals that in-store customers connect with to work through their hair care needs like correcting hair-dye errors or product recommendations—and these experts go through a training program designed to familiarize them with Sally’s product SKUs and store layouts.

  • A customer shopping in a physical store connects with the virtual color expert via iPad.
  • The program is currently available at 45 locations, with another 25 set to come online early fiscal year 2023.
  • Sally Beauty says its virtual color expert stores deliver a 30% higher average order size compared to control stores.

“If we are truly this destination for this DIY customer, then we need to always provide that information for them,” Brenda Rutenber, group VP at Sally Beauty, told Retail Brew. “We have 2,700 stores, so taking something across that number [of] stores, we want to make sure we maintain the customer experience and we continue to have that strong, positive reaction from the customers.”

Rutenber said the program has driven sales at the participating stores, and the company is seeing a high net promoter score, which is a survey metric that determines how likely a shopper is to recommend a company, product, or service.

  • Also, a 2023 expansion of the program will allow users of Sally’s website and app to use the service.

Some virtual color experts are hired internally and some externally, but Rutenber said all go through in-depth training that includes…

  • Making sure the experts know about every product sold at Sally Beauty
  • Understanding the store lay out and where products are kept
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“Even though they are professionals, they come in and we put them through a robust training plan, so that they have a chance to create that consistent experience for our customers,” she said.

However, a robust and thorough training program is also necessary for all Sally Beauty staff. While virtual color experts are already licensed professionals whose training involves knowledge of Sally’s products and stores, other employees’ training hits a number of different areas.

Rutenber said the company’s program is at least a month long, and it recently introduced a virtual training platform where employees move across different touchpoints in the store experience in a game-like structure.

  • Additionally, hair care color training, both beginner and advanced, has been in place for a while, “so that we’re constantly building that foundation,” Rutenber said.
  • Sally Beauty also recently introduced a certified color-consultation program where associates go through even more in-depth training that prepares them to help not only customers, but also other employees.

“We know it can’t just be through the virtual learning or through the manager,” Rutenber said. “We really need to build the strength in our team so that we have layers of knowledge in our stores.”

Zoom out: The heightened demand on the part of consumers for personalized products and services has remained steady more than two years after the start of the pandemic, particularly in younger cohorts. Roughly 49% of Zoomers and 37% of Millennials said they have a strong preference for products, services, or apps that use personal data to personalize the consumer experience, according to a McKinsey & Co. survey.

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