Esalon, the direct-to-consumer, customized hair color brand, has entered retail. Earlier this month, eSalon began offering their Hair Color StarterKits at 1,500 CVS stores nationwide. The eSalon kit sells for $15.99, and includes an access code redeemable for a single custom hair color order, a precision match wheel and a step-by-step guide to ordering custom color, all from the comfort of a consumer’s own home. This selling model presents a unique opportunity for consumers: unlimited color options in a single SKU. For retailers, the kit all but eliminates out-of-stock issues and the need to forecast sales per shade. Beauty Insider recently spoke with eSalon founder, Francisco Gimenez, on entering brick and mortar and how his company is prepared to take on more of the masses.

Beauty Insider: Talk about why you decided to place eSalon in a mass channel?

Francisco Gimenez: More than 70% of the people who complete a profile with us are coloring their hair at home, which means that they’re already shopping in mass. From the beginning, it’s been our goal to marry the quality and personalization of the salon with the accessibility and convenience of boxed dye. Launching in the mass market enables us to do something we’ve never been able to do before, which is to address many of the common pain points of home color where the dilemma occurs: the hair color aisle.

We know that the number one purchase driver for hair color buyers is shade availability and selection. And with limited retail space, brick and mortar stores struggle to compete with the breadth and choice available online. Now, with the Hair Color Starter Kit, we’re able to provide shoppers with unlimited colors in a single SKU–along with a personal colorist to help guide and support them every step of the way.

BI: Where will it be merchandised in the store?

FG: Our custom Hair Color Starter Kit will be merchandised in the hair color aisle on the top shelf right next to the incumbent conglomerates. We’re really excited about this, it’s prime real estate in the store, and we’re incredibly grateful for CVS’ partnership and support in securing the space.

BI: How will you communicate this new offering to consumers? What is your marketing/ad plan?

FG: Part of our marketing strategy is with the package itself, and also with the on-shelf merchandising space that we have in stores. Our packaging was designed to be very disruptive–we’ve broken the visual code of boxed dye, which systematically has the same information: a model, a shade name, and a breakdown of the technology inside. Instead, we’ve opted for a clear package that showcases the level of customization that you get as a client. Our merchandising unit articulates our key differentiators with an explanation of how it works, so it’s well understood that what you are buying isn’t just the starter kit alone. It includes a unique access code redeemable for a full Custom Color Set on our site, a Precision Match Wheel, a new innovation that helps our colorists determine your current hair color, and a step-by-step guide to ordering your color. And once they complete their profile, they’ll receive a made-to-order color, colorist-selected developer, an accessories kit that includes a stain remover, stain guard, shampoo and conditioner packettes, two pairs of non-latex gloves and a set of personalized instructions.

BI: Talk about how eSalon is equipped to sustain the mass distribution it is about to take on, yet retain its personalization element.
FG: Our launch in the mass market comes at a pivotal time of growth for us, and internally, we’ve been ramping up our operations to scale. At the end of 2017, we moved to a new 39,000 square foot headquarters in El Segundo, where we’re able to produce up to 40,000 custom color orders a day. As part of this, we engineered a new manufacturing system that we’ve dubbed “Polly Chrome” (meaning “many colors”) that is calibrated by weight instead of volume, which enables us to be more precise than ever before, down to one tenth of a gram. So not only have we increased our capacity, but we’ve given our colorists better tools to formulate with greater control and to deliver the exact tone that a client may have always wanted, but possibly never achieved—until now.