Placing its second New York City store next to Sephora and right across from Bloomingdale’s on Lexington Avenue might seem like a tall order for a retailer still trying to break into the U.S. market, but South Korean beauty brand Innisfree is unafraid to compete with big name retailers to drive traffic from Millennial and Gen Z audiences.
Why does the brand feel so confident? It comes down to the company’s ability to tell authentic stories based on its unique origins, create a digitally driven store with powerful visuals and rally around sustainability-related causes, all without relying on traditional marketing campaigns. The South Korean beauty brand doesn’t have promotional signage on its shelves, instead focusing on the simplicity of the products, their skincare functionality and the story behind them. Overall, the retailer sells 900 different skincare and beauty products that include naturally derived ingredients such as green tea, volcanic clusters, tangerine, orchid and bija tree.
In a recent tour of the store, which opened in October 2018, Julien Bouzitat, General Manager and VP of AmorePacific/Innisfree noted that while the location has beauty advisors who are trained on the background of the ingredients and story behind the products, many Innisfree shoppers are interested in learning about the products on their own.
“Our main franchises in skincare our displayed in a more experiential way,” Bouzitat said during the tour. “When we do want to interact with consumers, we can operate a play station where they can interact with the textures and the formulas. The storytelling is stronger. Self-education is completely built in the merchandising and the staging of the brand.”
Creative Realities Delivers LED Screen To Capture Audiences Outside The Store
Mapos Architects designed the store’s look and feel, and contracted Creative Realities to design, deploy and maintain the digital elements for the store.
One of the most noticeable technologies within the store is the massive NanoLumens ENGAGE LED display that measures nearly 17 feet tall above the store’s landscape, so that it is easily seen by passersby on the street. The display showcases vibrant video footage of the four seasons in a way designed to capture the quietness of Korean life.
The Creative Realities team determined that an existing interior wall would be an ideal location to mount a large LED display since the retailer can leverage the tech to improve foot traffic, extend browsing times or increase purchase value for both the front and the back of the store. The display is placed above a counter of iPads where customers can sign up to be Innisfree members to track their purchase history and receive special offers from the brand.
Brand Story Comes From Island-Based Roots
Despite being Korean in origin, the brand’s name “Innisfree” comes from an Irish poem called “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” which evokes the feeling of escaping a busy life to a desert island. Tying together the island theme, Innisfree sources 80% of its product ingredients from Jeju Island, located off the coast of South Korea. In the 1940s, the founder of AmorePacific identified this land as an area of opportunity with the perfect climate and conditions to grow green tea, according to Bouzitat. Designated by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage, World Biosphere Reserve and Global Geopark site, Jeju Island remains a protected property.
“We own our own green tea field, which is the third largest green tea plantation in the world,” Bouzitat said. “We actually provide green tea for Starbucks. We have full expertise in green tea, and the product is now a main franchise and a big part of our business. From the story of green tea on Jeju Island began the full Innisfree brand positioning of where we bring you the best of nature’s ingredients sustainably sourced from Jeju.”
Jeju Island is a major point of pride for the Innisfree brand, as it represents the sustainability efforts the company strives to uphold. In fact, the center table in the front of the store that showcases many of the skincare products is shaped similarly to Jeju Island, with the products surrounded by foliage native to the area.
“Our storytelling is not just marketing BS,” Bouzitat said. “We have a true physical location that exists. This story of Jeju is the canvas of everything at Innisfree.” The story extends to the Innisfree e-Commerce site, where shoppers can learn more about the history of the brand, it’s connection with Jeju Island and the sourcing of the ingredients including sea salt, camellia and canola honey.
As part of the company’s commitment to sustainability, the store displays a column inside the island table suggesting consumers to “Be Green And Get Innisfree Rewards Points.” For every empty plastic bottle returned to the Innisfree, shoppers will receive 50 rewards points. Shoppers can return five empty bottles to the store per month, which will be “upcycled” into new materials.
Innisfree Plans 12 North American Store Openings
Beth Warren, SVP Experience Planning and Design at Creative Realities, noted that Innisfree plans to scale to 12 freestanding stores across North America — 10 in U.S. and two in Canada. In May, Innisfree opened its most recent store in Santa Monica, Calif., which serves as a testing ground for the retailer’s mobile location-based targeting initiatives. Presently, the brand is available in 1,800 total stores globally.
“We’ve been able to help Innisfree procure the same digital experiences that would then be integrated based on the footprint and the unique characteristics of each store’s local environment,” Warren said. “That shows that digital plays a fundamental role, and can coexist with a nature-based experience. Our clients are often afraid of tech when it comes to sensorial types of experiences.”