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Historically, in terms of communication, luxury beauty brands have based their identity on exclusivity, prestige, and impeccable service. They’ve prided themselves on being a discerning choice and keeping a distance between them and their customers.
Luxury beauty today, needs to engage directly with consumers – to gain insights into changing behaviour, to define new trends and to enable advocacy. The challenge for luxury beauty is to strike a balance between embracing omnichannel without compromising their brand values or expression, while retaining exclusivity and desirability.
We apply 3 “Barometers of Beauty” to track the rapid evolution of luxury beauty brands in APAC:
- E-commerce collaborations – from TMall’s Luxury Pavilion to Farfetch’s JD.com alliance, we follow the VIP brands that hold their ranks, and how that mix is changing.
- Privilege programs – once only for those big spenders invited with discretion, member programs now drive differentiation and marketing integrity. We monitor newly established programs and how they’re different.
- New Wave bricks and mortar – there is a slew of new wave Beauty roadshows and Luxe pop-ups across Asia. We benchmark the best breakthroughs that retain brand authenticity.
The combination of these 3 Beauty Barometers is a powerful mix that brings a wealth of insight into changing consumer behaviour (how to introduce new products, adjust ingredients, expand colour palettes) and where the new spheres of influence are coming from; to keep pace with this rapidly shifting landscape.
1. E-commerce collaborations
Farfetch’s recent merger with JD.com, to provide the ‘Premier Luxury Gateway to China’ for luxury brands illustrates a step-change in luxury beauty in Asia. This will mean Chinese customers are getting 700 luxury brands with JD’s same-day delivery speeds and highly professional service. This also means luxury brands with a local retail presence (Saint Laurent, Balenciaga), will also have access to world-class omnichannel capabilities (i.e. click & collect and in-store returns), connecting the brands’ physical retail stores in China to consumers.
Alibaba’s Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion aims to bring the same brand exclusivity and tailored shopping experience to the world of e-commerce. In 2018, the brands invited to participate were global beauty icons such as Burberry, Giorgio Armani and La Mer. In 2019 it added Chanel (previously only sold offline and via its own online store).
Importantly, this year Pavilion has also introduced South Korean brands Sulwhasoo and the History of Whoo, reinforcing that they are in the same playing field as European luxury powerhouses. Sulwhasoo, though being a Korean home brand, is shifting from the hypes of K-beauty to A-beauty, where A refers to Asian. Slathering its website with mentions of “Asian wisdom” and “natural harmony,” Sulwhasoo continues to strive to appeal to its biggest Asian market, China.
Tmall said the brands on the platform would be able to access the same tools to engage consumers that many of the brands selling through Tmall have put to use over the past year, such as virtual reality and augmented reality. They will also have at their disposal omnichannel solutions that integrate online and offline commerce.
2. Privilege programs
With Chanel’s online expansion (above), it now offers real-time consultation by online beauty advisors, and a membership program providing members with exclusive new product samples and invites to attend offline events. The continuous integration of online and offline marketing mix builds a stronger network for members to experience first-hand offerings by Chanel, improving brand loyalty.
As brands continue to adopt exclusivity to grow brand loyalty, the innovation of products strengthens the bond between members and brands while recruiting a wider group of customers to be part of the committee.
Shiseido’s recent launch of personalised skincare subscription service, Optune, takes personal care to the next level combining technology and daily regime into one package. The paid subscription model exclusive to Japan creates a new dimension of customised skincare practice daily with a personalised formula twice a day. This illustrates that Shiseido’s innovation allows for developing a unique program to build a niche community of personal care activists.
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The future of membership programs is tapping on technological advances that the beauty industry is innovating to premiumise the service and create a closed knit of membership program to maximise the efforts to provide best-in-class offers for members. J&J sees one such example.
J&J’s 3D printed personalised face mask in Asia (due to launch 2020), beginning with China. The product, MaskiD, is a tool that meets the needs of customers who are looking out for products that are beyond the one-size-fits-all category. The individualised solution creates a community that opts for privileged offers to meet their sophisticated demands.
3. New Wave Bricks & Mortar
We’re seeing beauty luxury brands unleash their creativity in Asia – pushing their brands in entirely fresh ways to drive social media exposure via pop-ups and new takes on bricks and mortar. What we see across Asia, is a movement from ‘masstige’ to ‘massclusivity’ – about making them truly exclusive available to everyday consumers.
Following the success of Clarins’ Ice Cream Bar, from a number of years ago, we’ve seen similar success with Clarins’ Garden. Play an augmented reality game, where you ‘catch’ the plant extract ingredients that go into Clarins’ Double Serum with your phone. Explore ‘washing machines’ with materials hidden within for you to touch and experience, which depict the different textures of their cleansers. And enter the Beauty Kitchen for a personalised recipe card following a skincare analysis.
Coco Game Centre (by Chanel) kicked off in Tokyo, and it generated so much social media buzz, that reservations were booked out a week before it arrived in Shanghai the following month. The game-themed pop-up stimulated fans to record their experiences and post them on social media, creating authentic content for brand reach without the need for paid promotion. This helps to reach out to the younger consumers expanding the brand’s customer base and improving sales.
It is imperative for luxury beauty brands to adopt and apply the above mentioned beauty barometers to keep abreast of industrial changes influenced by consumers. E-commerce retail collaborations, privileged offers and new zone of interactive channels are ways on how luxury businesses can address beauty trends and embrace exclusivity and inclusivity.
About the author: Kathryn Sloane has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Melbourne. With 20+ years of experience (6 in Europe. 14 in Asia) in brand strategy, design strategy, workflow optimisation and change management. Kathryn has partnered the likes of J&J, Coty, P&G, Unilever, Beiersdorf, Mary Kay, Martha Tilaar and Watsons.
Kathryn sits on the APAC’s leadership team, helping drive growth in APAC, through creating, building, and protecting brands across channels, markets and sectors.