Creativity, quality, and service define luxury beauty today, says CEW panel
In a discussion led by Jenny Fine, executive beauty editor at WDD and EIC of Beauty Inc, Alexandre Choueiri, president of international designer collections at L’Oréal USA; Terry Darland, president of parfums at Christian Dior NA; Kristen Kjaer Weis, CEO of Kjaer Weis; and Tomoko Yamagishi-Dressler, SVP of marketing and sales for Shiseido Americas’ luxury portfolio shared insights into their current and future business strategies.
Together the businesses led by these executives amount to 25% of the luxury beauty sector’s revenue share, almost $5bn in sales, as Carlotta Jacobson, CEW president pointed out in her opening remarks.
Much of their conversation addressed how the industry is adapting to meet the needs of millennials and younger consumers as well as the challenges of marketing and retailing luxury online.
As Choueiri sees it, the task of prestige beauty brands today is to shift the meaning of luxury from “difficult to get” to “a special experience.” He shared several examples of how his team is doing this for brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Armani Beauty.
By envisioning the YSL e-commerce site as a flagship shopping destination with a bit of startup edge, the YSL team offered shoppers complementary custom engraved lipsticks. This holiday season, the brand has a pop-up shop in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood on the corner of Broadway and Broome that is engraving lipstick tubes and offering consumers otherwise unique shopping and purchase experiences.
Choueiri points to the launch of Black Opium here in the States as another creative project. By initially offering the fragrance online only with the tag line ‘too scandalous for stores’, the company sold enough product and created sufficient demand that retailers who initially were reluctant to carry the scent, were asking to stock it.
The quality and craftsmanship of luxury products, packaging, and messaging goes a long way to set luxury brands apart in the marketplace.
Yamagishi-Dressler believes that developing the skills and proficiency to formulate luxury-grade products takes years and that the formulation process itself is more demanding than it is in other beauty sectors. For Clé de Peau Beauté innovation comes carefully, over time, and necessitates top-tier ingredients.
Telling the story of quality matters too. Kjaer Weis uses Instagram as a digital story telling tool, posting photos of not only the brand’s luxury, natural products but also to show what’s important to the brand, what Kjaer Weis and Kjaer Weis consumers interests are.
Yamagishi-Dressler credits Clé de Peau Beauté’s “exceptional client service” with the brand’s success. Clé de Peau Beauté is, as she points out, the number one brand in Japan and “one of the fastest growing prestige brands worldwide.”
And Yamagishi-Dressler says that the brand will leverage their learnings in Asia, that level of service (as well as the brand’s quality and influencer strategies), to continue growing the brand globally, especially in the US.
Service is also of the utmost importance for Dior customers as well, says Darland. She believes that a seamless luxury service experience is necessary to maintain brand status.
Choueiri believes that the lines between influencers, micro influencers, and consumers are blurring and that most consumers want to be treated like influencers, with access to the same sort of launch events and limited edition product.