Lush isn’t one of those places you suddenly decide to pop in to for some bubble bath.

It seems you’re either a Lush devotee, or you tend to give its (rather odoriferous stores) a wide berth. As someone who falls in the latter category, I felt like a bit like a fish out of water at the Lush Creative Showcase this week.

Described as a ‘kaleidoscope of imagination, invention and innovation, with four spheres of creativity spanning music, product, film and technology’ – it’s essentially a chance for employees and fans from around the world to celebrate all things Lush.

There were people sliding into foam baths, girls dressed as bath bombs, and Queen guitarist Brian May talking about animal rights. Yes, it was pretty bonkers, but I happened to learn a few interesting things about the brand and its continued focus on improving the customer experience. Here’s a run-down of the day.

Experience is everything

The first thing that struck me about the Creative Showcase was that it felt very much like an immersive event – sort of like Disney-land for Lush fans - and definitely not a bog-standard retail launch. It was in a huge event space in London, filled to the brim with themed installations, stages, pop-up stalls and so on. The design detail was particularly impressive.

Last year was the first time the brand made the event open to the public, mainly in order to capitalise on the huge hype that already surrounds new product range launches. It’s now also a chance for Lush to deliver even more of a hands-on consumer experience – something that its younger shoppers are said to crave.

One key feature in its stores is product demonstrations, with staff very keen to test out products on shoppers. This was ramped up during the Creative Showcase, allowing visitors to learn how new ranges are made, their ingredients, and what they do – all in a much more immersive fashion.

There was a wobbly stage to showcase its similarly wobbly shower jelly, a giant sink to demonstrate the new bubble spinners, and literal showers so that people could try its new naked shower gel. The people were not naked, I hasten to add.

Obviously, the event itself also provided Lush with digital content for its own channels, with the whole day being filmed and live-streamed on social. All in all, it has created an opportunity for the brand to better connect with fans, and become a source of entertainment as well as a retail brand.

Shoppers are searching in new ways

Alongside new product ranges, Lush uses the Creative Showcase to unveil new experiments and innovations in technology. Two of the most interesting new features it showcased were centred around enhancing the customer experience, as well as making employee’s roles much more streamlined.

The first is the Lush Lens – a new visual search tool similar to Pinterest Lens or the recent example from ASOS. Essentially, it will allow consumers to instantly bring up information and content about a product simply from a photo, either with or without packaging. 

The second innovation is Lush Concierge – a virtual assistant which allows users to ask anything by voice. For instance, it can be used instead of manually searching to see whether a product is in stock in a particular store, or where the nearest Lush is.

Arguably, both these features (which will eventually be integrated into the Lush app) could potentially mean employees have less to do. But then again, its people are central to the customer experience, so I doubt new technology will affect the amount the brand employs – for the time being at least. 

On the flip side, it will certainly help streamline the in-store and online experience, making it even easier for its digitally-savvy audience to interact with the brand wherever they are.

It’s more than a consumer brand

One of the oddest aspects of the Creative Showcase was that it featured two big name speakers – Brian May and Jeremy Corbyn.

But what have these two public figures got to do with bath bombs, you ask? Very little (as far as I know), but they’ve got a lot to do with social issues like animal welfare and human rights – which Lush has famously championed. 

This is one of the most interesting things about Lush. Naturally, the brand appeals to people who care about its charitable endeavours, but at the same time, it is also loved by younger shoppers who might not even consider environmental or social factors.

This fact was evident by the diversity seen at the Creative Showcase, with people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying different elements of the event. This shows that Lush is more than just your average consumer brand – its strong brand values and dedication to equality and fairness mean that it feels warm and friendly to all consumers. And I mean this literally, too. Employees are purposely picked for their personalities, with being happy and smiley a stipulation rather than an option. In turn, its fans feel like they are also part of the Lush family.

It’s unafraid of reinvention

As well as its over-arching brand, another thing that the Creative Showcase highlighted was Lush’s product innovation, and its ability to keep customers hooked.

Recently, the brand announced that it is to discontinue 45 of its iconic products – some of which have been around from the very beginning. However, the reason it has done so is in order to make way for new and even more creative inventions. From ‘naked’ shower gel to ‘toothy tabs’ (which is basically a chewable mouthwash), the brand’s continued innovation helps to keep shoppers interested and excited. 

One example from the Creative Showcase is how designers are experimenting with 3D printers to create product moulds. Elsewhere, the brand has recently announced that it is to launch a Lush subscription service in the UK – delivering products to shoppers every one, three or six months.

While it is focused on reinvention, that’s not to say the brand doesn’t capitalise on the cult status of certain products. Its Christmas and Halloween product ranges are eagerly anticipated each year, with this informing Lush’s social and digital activity in the run up.

What’s most important is that it does not lose sight of its customer-centric approach. Whether in-store or online, it’s focused on delivering exactly what its audience wants – and maybe what they never even knew they wanted. 

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Nikki Gilliland

Published 6 September, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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