Nicole Cracraft Of ‘My Cosmetic Counter’ On The Supply Chain and The Future of Retail
… I don’t feel there’s much most business owners can do about the actual disruption of the supply chain. I do think we can examine it and ask how we can avoid it from affecting us if it happens again. That goes back to when I said be aware of where all your inventory is coming from, and don’t rely solely on international products. Try to find a mix of outlets to purchase your inventory.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Cracraft.
Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Nicole is the Owner/CEO of MyCosmeticCounter.com, an online makeup store. After earning her B.S. in Education at Youngstown State University, she spent several years teaching at-risk youth before deciding to stay at home with her children. During this time, her interest in makeup artistry grew into a passion that led to her opening of My Cosmetic Counter.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Shortly after having our first child, my husband and I decided we wanted one of us to stay home with him. Financially, it made more sense for it to be me. Shortly after, we had our second child, which delayed me even further from going back to teaching. So, I needed a way to generate some income while still being able to be home with our children. I’ve always had a passion for makeup since I was young, so I wanted to incorporate it in some way. I had a friend who owned a dropship company, but I knew that wouldn’t have been fulfilling enough for me. I loved the idea of opening a boutique, but that would require long hours away from home. I merged the two ideas to create my online store, and that is how My Cosmetic Counter got started.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Being an online business, you don’t really get to interact personally with your customers. I recently had a chance to go into a local salon and hold a class for their Makeup Artists. I was able to not only discuss our products but demonstrate and apply them on one of their clients. I’m hoping this is something that I will be able to do more of in the future.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes, I am! We recently just published our first blog on our site. We are planning on this being the first of many more blogs and videos to come. We want to educate our customers about our products, how to use them, makeup tips, and videos. The videos will include applying our products on women of multiple skin tones, which, being bi-racial is important to me. A lot of times you only get to see the products on one or two skin tones. I want to ensure that a wide variety of complexions are included in the demos. This will provide a more realistic idea of what our products will look like on a much wider range of skin tones.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am truly grateful for Deanna Hinsz of Carbon Silk. I hit a point where I was stuck, I had no clue where to start to drive traffic to my site. I saw her ad for a digital marketing conference she was leading and reached out to hire her. She said “Sure. You can pay me to run your ads, or you can pay me to learn how to run your own ads”. I learned so much I signed up for her goal setting program. When it was finished I knew she knew I still had more to learn. She messaged me and said she believed in my business, and she believed in me, and enrolled me in her digital marketing series. With her coaching and support, I received the knowledge to increase website traffic & sales.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We recently finished our first fundraiser for the Erie Shriners hospital for children, where my daughter was a patient. Now I am in the works of organizing a drive for local survivors of human trafficking. Unfortunately, Ohio has the high activity of human trafficking, and social media is making it easier than ever for these predators. Survivor centers are in desperate need of basic items such as socks, undergarments, toiletries, and hygiene products for their rescued victims. During this drive, I’m hoping to raise awareness of the situation, along with providing red flags to help women protect themselves & their children.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Some retailers are offering conveniences such as curbside pick up, or site to store pickup. For me, I’m solely online, so I had to think differently. I wanted a way to differentiate my store from other makeup ones. We have a rewards program to earn free makeup & we just added an affiliate program. We’ve been working with our partner brands to offer bonus gifts with purchases, and designed makeup bundles for the store. One unique feature at our site is the Secret Stash. Our Secret Stash is a whole page of carefully chosen overstock products. It’s full of cult favorites, but at a fraction of the price.
The supply chain crisis is another outgrowth of the pandemic. Can you share a few examples of what retailers are doing to pivot because of the bottlenecks caused by the supply chain crisis?
I’m fortunate because I haven’t really been affected by the supply chain. All of the companies that I’m partnered with are all based in the U.S., as well as the factories. That’s an advantage for us , as well as the other retailers whose products are primarily from the U.S. Until the supply chain gets back to normal, I feel it’s smart for retailers to offer products made readily available in the country that you operate. Possibly even looking to different small businesses for new or additional inventory.
How do you think we should reimagine our supply chain to prevent this from happening again in the future?
I don’t feel there’s much most business owners can do about the actual disruption of the supply chain. I do think we can examine it and ask how we can avoid it from affecting us if it happens again. That goes back to when I said be aware of where all your inventory is coming from, and don’t rely solely on international products. Try to find a mix of outlets to purchase your inventory.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
I think that there will always be a need for brick and mortar stores, even as online shopping becomes more popular. Many consumers still want to see, touch, try on the items they are purchasing. A great benefit of a physical retail store is that customers can purchase and have their items right on the spot.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
I believe some of the more successful companies built their business with more long-term goals rather than just trying to earn quick money. I’ve seen brands fizzle out because they sacrificed quality for profit. Naturally, consumers took their business elsewhere. In every business right now, competition is stiff. Some of these more profitable retailers offer their customers products at lower prices than their competitors. They may not make the same profit per item, but their larger, loyal customer base more than makes up for it.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than U.S. and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
I think a lot of us online stores feel the pressure from Amazon. They have the ability to deliver items in a day or two, which is something that not all of us e-commerce stores can do. Our store’s goal is to have our orders shipped within the first two days so that our customers can enjoy them as soon as possible. We want to send the message that we care, and want to provide a speedy delivery, and it’s faster than waiting for an item from overseas. Another advantage is without all of the extra Amazon seller fees, we have more flexibility on our prices. We can hold sales and create bundles to give you savings you can’t find on Amazon.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Quality Products — I think it’s extremely important to offer products that you stand behind to your customers. The main reason I chose to sell makeup was because it is something I was interested in, knew a lot about, and was willing to continue to learn more about. This knowledge is important when it comes to choosing the brands and products for my store. This helps ensure I’m offering the best products I can to keep my customers happy.
- Pleasant/Easy Shopping Experience — There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to find what you’re looking for on a website. I try to keep mine as visually appealing & user-friendly as possible. Every now and then I like to ask somebody to browse the site and send me feedback.
- Pricing — At the moment, finances are tight and consumers are being more selective on where and what to spend their money. Retailers should have realistic pricing for their products. In my situation, the prices are already set for me, so along with regular sales, I’ll create bundles exclusive to our site.
- Incentive/Rewards — Nothing says thank you to loyal customers better than getting rewarded for shopping! Our site offers a free rewards program where you earn points on all of your purchases to redeem on later purchases.
- Integrity — I think integrity is one of the most important things a person needs to have when running a business. You’re asking people to spend their money at your store. Customers need to feel confident they can trust you, especially in e-commerce.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I love doing random acts of kindness and think it is something that would be fulfilling for others who do it. It feels really good to put a smile on somebody’s face, especially during these times. You never know what someone was going through, and how you may completely turn around their day.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!