Welcome to Eat Takeaway! In this series, we hear from brand and marketing leaders on their ambitions and challenges this year and beyond. We explore their day-to-day and what lessons they have for brand teams and marketers in the fast-changing and sometimes overwhelming worlds of brand experience and delivering for customers. Check-out our three take-aways at the end.
In this episode, Eat Creative’s Head of Growth Robert Costelloe sits down with Cédric Wesner, the Global Luxe Retail Customer Experience Director for French beauty and care giant L’Oréal.
Please note this interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Robert Costelloe: Thank you for taking part in our Eat Takeaway series Cédric. First up, tell us about your day to day and what’s taking up your time.
Cédric Wesner: I love to be challenged. My mission is to think about our customers - where they are today, how they are shopping, and what the situation will be tomorrow. I’m always trying to be steps ahead and so through that am responsible for developing and delivering many areas of the customer experience.
What drives me is really to be customer centric – defining what we need to be to the customer and how we put the customer at the centre of everything we do. We have one group which is critical in our organisation – our beauty advisors who are in daily contact with our customers and are delivering the best experience. Covid really accelerated the way consumers behave, the way they shop, and how they interact with brands. As a consumer, if we are shopping online or offline, we expect to have the same level of experience in both worlds. Therefore we have to make sure that those two worlds are tightly coordinated. We don’t want to think about channels but about consumers.
What drives me is really to be customer centric – defining what we need to be to the customer and how we put the customer at the centre of everything we do.
When customers are coming to our brands, they are expecting something different, they expect to have memorable experiences that they can leave with and share. And we want to prolong that experience after they visit one of our stores. Our beauty advisors are essential to that. They are the ones that create a human link between our brands and our customers, which is particularly important in a more virtual world.
RC: And with a global role, is it a challenge balancing the global brand needs versus local market needs from an experience perspective?
CW: I'm dealing with all markets, so taking into account the differences in behaviour while really trying to bring a consistent experience around the world for each brand. But on top of that, we need to be differentiated through the experiences we deliver. Each brand in the L’Oréal portfolio has a different DNA and different stories to tell so we want to engage our customers in a different way. We work very closely with our markets, with our zone leaders to understand how to leverage different aspects of the customer experience.
Personalisation is really key in our strategy and so we think a lot about beauty tech. This is the most powerful and advanced change in how we are approaching our customers. It means today we are offering even more expertise. We want to combine our beauty advisors’ expertise with tech which can give even more knowledge, analysis and expertise to our customers. It’s very complimentary. We have ‘augmented beauty’, combined with the human relationship through our beauty advisors.
This is very powerful as it can provide an even deeper understanding of our customer and what they expect. The world is changing and this is what customers are expecting but of course, depending on the region of the world, we may adjust how localised the strategy needs to be to meet the customer needs.
RC: What’s the role of L’Oréal as both a brand in its own right but also as a parent organisation overseeing a large portfolio of brands?
CW: The power of L’Oreal today is to have a portfolio of brands which meet different needs, desires and are very complimentary to each other. We are all ourselves customers and use different brands, and ultimately this is the magic of our organisation. Many luxury brands have this group organisation but it’s really about making sure you create synergies between the brands. These brands can learn from each other and figure out how and where to always be one step ahead. One brand may test a new experience or product, or may have a very specific relationship with a customer group or region. And so learning from that, all the brands can benefit each other. That’s really the power of the portfolio.
The power of L’Oreal today is to have a portfolio of brands which meet different needs, desires and are very complimentary to each other.
We can meet all kinds of customer needs and expectations, from Gen Z, to more mature audiences, to generations coming up and so many other groups across society. Our goal is to create beauty that moves the world. Beauty has a mission that can help people. Help people be more comfortable and more confident with themselves. And that’s really the magic of all these brands.
Our goal is to create beauty that moves the world. Beauty has a mission that can help people. Help people be more comfortable and more confident with themselves. And that’s really the magic of all these brands.
RC: So with your view across the industry and the organisation, what are you seeing as the biggest changes coming down the line?
CW: I think things change very quickly. Asia has always been a step ahead in terms of digitisation of the experience and the way the new generations are shopping and communicating with each other. Gen Z is really influencing behaviour, not only in their own groups but also with other generations. This is fascinating and means we need to adapt but also be super agile in how we develop new products and deliver experiences.
We have a strong research and innovation department at L’Oréal, not only on the product side but also in terms of consumer behaviour – analysing emerging trends and what the next opportunities are for us to jump into. And since we are all working together in the same direction, this makes us super strong. We always need to make sure we meet our customer’s expectations, whatever the generation or group may be, whilst always being inspired by the new technologies and channels coming down the line as well.
The world is complex as we know. Living so much in a virtual world can mean forgetting about reality. But people still want to have a connection, they want to have memories, sensoriality, authenticity and create their own experiences. How we are developing our commercial teams today is really aligned with this. We train our beauty advisors, upskilling them to be more customer centric and having personalisation top of mind. It’s not really about transactions anymore. It’s really about relationships and experiences. We could have thought that with online and social media channels becoming so massive that people would forget about the human connection. In fact it has meant the reverse with people being more and more willing to come back to our stores and to have this unique moment with our brands.
Living so much in a virtual world can mean forgetting about reality. But people still want to have a connection, they want to have memories, sensoriality, authenticity and create their own experiences.
RC: What does this mean for the store or physical space today and tomorrow?
CW: Today we don’t talk about stores or point of sales. We talk about point of experience. And that’s a big shift in how we think about and create our retail environments. It’s not about features that display our testers and products. That’s the past. Today, it’s this customer centric mindset that is really changing the way we create the new points of experience.
We want to have spaces that the customer is super comfortable in and wants to come back to, be it alone or with friends. We want to have spaces where the person is at the centre. For example, by creating consultation areas that are super comfortable for the customer but also for the beauty advisors. We add in beauty tech to provide more service and expertise and deep dive into our customer’s beauty goals. And of course to make sure that the experience is unique. It’s also about bringing some of these experiences to the digital environment as that is how we can further build loyalty and make sure our customers are coming back.
There are so many beautiful brands, with amazing products and storytelling. What I want you to have are these unique, memorable moments that are created by the beauty advisors, by the retail environments, alongside our products. This is the new mindset. It’s certainly not a static environment anymore. It’s about creating an environment that is welcoming, in which you will get the best beauty consultancy and experience and in which you want to come back. So ultimately the physical space is a mix of different things which is evolving today.
RC: And looking ahead, what’s exciting you in the year or years ahead? How are you defining success?
CW: My focus is on our customers. But at L’Oréal the way I really challenge myself is to make sure that our brand ambassadors, our beauty advisors, are the most important people in our organisation. What I would like to hear from one of my beauty advisors is “what you are doing is saving me time, it’s giving me greater expertise, it’s allowing me to have a seamless experience with my customer”. Everything I do is for them because I know the impact will be on the customer. That’s what drives me every day – to have my teams of brand ambassadors be the best in the best environment and be equipped with the best tools. That’s definitely my ambition. But also continuously pushing on how the offline and online worlds are linked. It’s not a competition between the two. It’s really about building a seamless world in which we evolve ourselves.
The way I really challenge myself is to make sure that our brand ambassadors, our beauty advisors, are the most important people in our organisation.
The Eat Take-Away
Online is not everything: As digital channels have pervaded so much into our everyday lives, with too much noise for any single brand to stand out, delivering a powerful, authentic physical experience can be a tremendous driver of brand loyalty and price premium. A space where customers can return time and time again, developing relationships with brand representatives and turning your customers into your own brand advocates.
Uncover your brand champions: Your brand champions are those who have a deep understanding of who you are and what you stand for as a brand and are committed in delivering that internally and externally. Take time to identify your brand champions as these are the individuals who can galvanise and motivate employees internally and will be the strongest advocates for brand and purpose-led evolution of your organisation.
Get to know your customers: Be it through offline or online interactions, investing the time and capital to build a picture of your customer wants and needs not only streamlines capital expenditure moving forward, it also clarifies and accelerates decision making. Too many brands are operating blind with no understanding of how their brand or product is perceived by customers beyond just raw sales data – a perilous position as customer expectations continue to climb and competition is fierce.