Adapt or Die

By Lori Turner-Wilson

It’s an undeniable truth in business. If you fail to adapt to the changing marketplace or the changing needs of your customer, your business will die. It can be tough to face this reality and venture into the unknown once you get comfortable with tried and true strategies that used to work without fail.

Businesses that open themselves up to the changing times, taking calculated risks along the way, have a higher likelihood of remaining relevant with consumers and maintaining or growing market share. Take cosmetic giant, Estée Lauder, as a case in point.

Recognizing the company’s once market leader – the Clinique brand – was losing share to more hip consumer-friendly brands like Mac and beauty product chain Sephora, Estée Lauder dissected its neolithic brand. Through substantial consumer research, they gained critical insight into what prospective buyers want in a cosmetic experience today. What they discovered precipitated the turning of this 40-year-old brand on its veritable ear.

Not surprisingly, consumers want to experience the brand on their terms. That’s why the entire Clinique counter has had an extreme makeover of sorts, all focused on the customer experience.

Clinique learned cosmetic customers often dread interacting with perceived “snooty sales staff” – a contributing factor to that perception was no doubt the us-versus-them wall of counters, separating staff from customers. Today, newly retrofitted Clinique counters are islands you can walk around, where customers and staff share space. If they prefer, buyers can grab their favorite products without assistance as product is no longer locked away and inaccessible.

Recognizing shoppers have a variety of needs, Clinique introduced a concept called “Service As You Like It.” The brand allows customers to self identify their needs in the moment for a personalized experience. When arriving, customers can choose one of three wristbands. A green band lets the staff know you’re interested in a consultation and advice. White means you want to buy quickly, and pink says you’re just there to browse without interference.

Customers interested in a consultation are taken through a high-tech diagnosis via an in-store iPad with custom Clinique app. Consultants lead customers through a series of questions about their skin type, lifestyle, physical activity and sun exposure, allowing for personalized cosmetic recommendations.

This was no doubt a significant capital investment for the brand, but a necessary change to ensure future brand relevancy. Brand leadership appreciated that they must adapt or die. While a risk, it was a calculated one grounded in market research.

If you’re concerned your brand is no longer innovating and adapting to the changing market and your future generation of customer, you’re probably right. You might consider a third party, more removed than those who live and breathe your business each day, to guide you through the process of identifying your blind spots and paving the way to change.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and Founder/CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing, You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (