How one beauty brand is predicting intent to drive growth

Alessio Rossi, global chief digital officer at Shiseido, says that to truly grow, brands must stop reacting to customer intent and start anticipating it.

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Beauty shoppers today are passionate and curious. They spend hours researching product benefits and reading reviews before deciding what to buy. Even product aspects that were once low consideration, such as ingredients, now generate hours of research time.

Given how research-obsessed people are, we, as marketers, can’t afford to just react to in-the-moment behaviours. That would leave us one step behind. We have to anticipate what people might need and deliver it to them in meaningful ways.

At Shiseido, we’ve built our business around anticipating our customers’ needs, because it’s the best way to deliver strong results. Here’s what we’ve learned along the way.

Give people “the right amount of wrong”

Customer insights are our No.1 business asset. We care deeply about data-driven storytelling and reaching individual customers in their key moments of intent. But we’ve also learned the dangers of over personalisation. Early on, we were doing such a great job of customising content that, while conversion and checkout rates increased, the average revenue per visit went down. Customers got exactly what they needed, but we weren’t helping them discover anything new.

People can’t tell you exactly what they might want next, so we take cues from past actions to predict future intentions. We call it showing people “the right amount of wrong".

We realised that we also needed to predict what other kinds of products might excite them. People can’t tell you exactly what they might want next, so we take cues from past actions to predict future intentions. We call it showing people “the right amount of wrong". We may not always get it right, but we will continue to learn and provide value as we nurture these relationships.

Give value to get value

Our customers are willing to provide information about their preferences because we give them value in return. And the more information we have about our customers, the better we can infer their needs. As soon as we stop providing that value, we lose their trust. So we take this relationship seriously. 

Our BareMinerals Made-2-Fit app is a perfect example of this. It’s an acquisition tool, helping us retain important information about customers so that we can customise our marketing and deliver relevant messages.

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But the app also meets a strong customer need: it helps a beauty shopper find the perfect foundation to match their skin tone at any point in the year or their life – something we know our customers have struggled with. We know that people are reluctant to purchase foundation without being assured of a perfect shade match. The app is about creating a lifetime of value for our customers, so they’ll give a lifetime of value back.

Customers are digitally literate. We should be too

At Shiseido, we’ve set a goal to digitise our entire organisation by 2020. We created the Shiseido+ Digital Academy program to increase digital literacy across the company. Participants in the course learned from real-world examples and case studies. It’s about giving our teams visibility into new trends and industry changes so they can stay ahead of market standards.

As a result of this program, we can see innovation at every level within our organisation. For example, we recently reimagined our global CRM program through a collaborative effort involving a diverse group of perspectives. We worked together to create a system that is more efficient, effective, and keeps us better in touch with our customers.

Prioritise the customer experience

Anticipating what our customers need is important, but we also need to deliver a great customer experience. A huge part of our success at Shiseido stems from our organisation-wide alignment on a few customer experience priorities: standardising our e-commerce platform; deploying our web analytics platform with Google Marketing Platform; and moving to a full-funnel, integrated media approach with standardised KPIs and benchmarks.

With these priorities, we can now do things better and quicker than we ever thought possible. Our time-to-market for a new website is three times faster than it used to be.

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Most exciting for me is the overhaul of our media mix. We’ve integrated all digital touchpoints – across brands, regions and devices – into a single platform. This makes it possible to have cohesive and meaningful conversations with our customers regardless of product, device or location.

At Shiseido, customers are our guiding light. And to meet them where they are, we need to do more than just respond to their intent signals. We need to start anticipating them.

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