Role of Japan’s Beauty Goods Sales Staff Undergoing Change

Jiji Press
Kao sales staff recommend products during an online demonstration in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, in December.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The role of beauty goods sales staff at department stores and other shops in Japan is evolving from interacting face-to-face with customers to being beauty “evangelists” who also use digital technology to spread information.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, beauty sales staff were tasked with assessing customers’ skin, sometimes by directly touching it, to suggest the most suitable cosmetics for them. Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, however, demand for interactions that are not face-to-face has increased, and the staff have faced competition from influencers who use social media to spread beauty information.

Kao Corp. plans to train some 5,500 beauty sales staff to be able to serve customers both in-store and online by 2025.

“’Evangelists’ will transcend the divide between online and offline, and embody our brand,” the company said.

The cosmetics maker is introducing devices at about 1,250 store counters that can be used for posting videos. It hopes to develop its brand by having staff engage in sending information, as well as serving store customers.

Shiseido Co. , which calls its some 7,000 beauty sales staff customer “partners,” scrapped its uniforms for them and began allowing them to freely mix and match their personal clothes with set items such as jackets and one-piece dresses from October last year.

The initiative reflects Shiseido’s strategy to focus on creating long-term relationships with customers by utilizing beauty sales staff’s individual personalities.

“We expect to see expanded conversations with customers,” Yuka Yokota, head of the beauty sales strategy at unit Shiseido Japan Co., said. “We hope to be able to make the best suggestions.”

There are also efforts to transform how staff members work. Fancl Corp. introduced a flexible work shift system that enables the company to increase staff during hours with many customers.

“We are offering various working styles so that employees can continue to work for a long time,” a Fancl public relations representative said.

At Kose Corp., about 30 employees work exclusively for an online customer service of its mainstay Cosme Decorte brand. Staff can work from home on days when they are exchanging online messages with customers, making it easier for them to balance their work with child-rearing and other activities.