Beauty Tech Live: Building e-commerce in all its forms

L'Oréal Chief Digital Officer Lubomira Rochet

In the second keynote address at Beauty Tech Live this morning, L’Oréal Chief Digital Officer Lubomira Rochet discussed the changing landscape for e-commerce given the strong growth in the channel over the past year and how different forms of online sales are set to evolve.

Rochet said that while brick-and-mortar has been impacted by the pandemic, the channel’s online operations have also “tremendously accelerated” since COVID-19.

She added that many retailers have adopted marketplace strategies, like Target or Walmart, which has helped them to increase their offering. Additionally, these marketplaces command large membership bases and have strong membership programs that can be leveraged online, noted Rochet.

However, while there has been a strong growth in marketplaces, consumers are also looking for more curated shopping experiences, given that these sites can sometimes overwhelm shoppers.

When asked whether L’Oréal would set up its own online marketplace for its brand and possibly including competing brands, Rochet said that L’Oréal’s SalonCentric already operates a US marketplace for professional haircare and professional beauty and added that this has served as a a pilot from which the group could potentially learn from for other initiatives in this area.

Livestreaming and gaming

On how successful livestreaming will become in the West, Rochet said the model will depend on the development of social-media platforms driving the livestreaming model from a commerce point of view.

“When platforms go big and it’s a fully enabled livestream shopping experience then it will take off for real in the West,” she commented.

Beyond audience-building, livestreaming also offers a direct way to speak with consumers and a notion of instant gratification.

Rochet pointed out that when it comes to livestreaming, brands and retailers need to find qualified hosts and presenters and manage the content and audience.

Gaming also offers opportunities. However, Rochet underlined that gaming platforms are just beginning to see a commercial side emerge and brands and retailers need to tread carefully in the space.

Social commerce trends and predictions

When it comes to social commerce, Rochet said the “two worlds are colliding.”

“Now brands can build on Amazon and more social platforms want to integrate a frictionless shopping experience,” she added. “Now it is more of a question of fixing the experiences on the social network as they are not yet there because commerce is not their native business model. But when it’s fixed, I don’t see any barriers for buying on Instagram or YouTube.”

Last December L’Oréal acquired a minority stake in US social-selling platform Replika Software, a move it said was part its e-commerce acceleration strategy.

Rochet says the company sees the platform as social commerce’s more peer-to-peer, door-to-door kind of experiences. Beauty advisors can play a key role and become influencers and advocates online. Last year beauty advisors from brands like Kiehl’s or Lancôme in China were active online and were able to turn their followers into buyers.

Additionally, Rochet noted there has been strong growth of Facebook groups enabling that peer-to-peer model and said that WhatsApp is a potentially strong platform to host that model.

Among other trending social-media networks, Rochet said, that TikTok will be a “massive e-commerce player in the coming years.”

Many TikTokers that review products on the platform already push to Amazon and other players, so it is already in the DNA of the platform, she noted. Once e-commerce capabilities are fully integrated and smooth, it will go further in terms of e-commerce.

Online and offline

Despite the online growth and the potential negative impact on brick-and-mortar retail, Rochet pointed out that brands and retailers “cannot be just online play, [it] has to be really an online and offline play,” Rochet noted.

E-tailers have been a happy surprise during the pandemic, she continued, as some have accelerated tremendously, understanding their strength in their ability to be an alliance between online and offline.

Rochet notes that technology in beauty needs to be used to empower the consumer’s beauty shopping experience. She pointed to tools like online diagnostics or virtual try-ons which allow consumers to try out products or receive consultations when in-person is not possible. Summing up she said: “Now the key is to make the junction between the online and offline world and recreate human relationship.”