L’Oréal’s chief digital officer tells Sophie Curtis how innovations in technology are impacting the beauty industry
Technology and beauty may seem like unlikely bedfellows, as most people like to smell a perfume or try on a lipstick before making a purchase, but L’Oréal, the largest cosmetics and beauty company in the world, believes they are a perfect match.
Over the past few years, the company has undergone a major digital transformation, investing 5.7pc of its 2014 global media spend in digital. E-commerce accounted for 3.5pc of its turnover during the period, and the company has launched a range of digital initiatives to help drive sales and loyalty across its brands.
“Digital is really transformative in the way companies operate today. It has a big impact on business, it has a big impact on the way you interface with consumers, but you have to have the full support of the executive committee and of the CEO,” said Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s chief digital officer.
“It’s a question of investment; it’s a question of talent; and digital is hot right now – it’s precious, there’s a lot of turnover – so you have to recruit them, retain them, make them dream about your company. That’s really important.”
Ms Rochet is a French-Bulgarian national, economist by training and graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Sciences Po Paris and College of Europe in Bruges. The role of chief digital officer was created for her, after she worked on a project for L’Oréal while at digital marketing agency Valtech, where she was deputy chief executive.
As a young woman she had her heart set on becoming a European civil servant, but after moving to San Francisco to study at Berkeley, she was seduced by the Silicon Valley lifestyle.
“I was this Bulgarian girl, grown up in France, wanting to go and work in the European Commission, and then suddenly I met these guys, 18 years old, raising millions for crazy ideas, wearing flip flops in the office. All this ecosystem really fascinated me,” she said.
Ms Rochet ended up getting a job as director of strategy and development at IT services company Capgemini in 2003. Five years later she joined Microsoft to manage its relationships with start-ups and the innovation ecosystem, through its BizSpark initiative, and two years after that she moved to Valtech.
Ms Rochet joined L’Oréal in 2014. As well as spearheading the compay’s digital transformation, she is also a member of the executive committee, which she claims has really helped her drive home the importance of digital throughout the different brands.
“Many companies have chief digital officers, but often they are not positioned at the executive committee,” she said. “We thought it was a good way to really accelerate the transformation and to embed digital in all the visions, brands, country zones, and also functions in L’Oreal, because we believe it’s really a transversal game changer.”
Since her appointment, Ms Rochet has been involved in rolling out a broad range of digital initiatives across L’Oréal’s 32 international brands, spanning the areas of content marketing, personalisation and data, and e-commerce.
L’Oréal Paris has launched a beauty app called Makeup Genius that transforms the front-facing camera of an iPhone or iPad into a virtual mirror where users can ‘try on’ products virtually. The app uses advanced facial mapping technology that has previously only been used in Hollywood and in the gaming industry to overlay products like lipstick and eyeliner onto the user’s face.
The app has been a huge global success, with over 11 million downloads. The company is now hoping to bring out versions for hair colour, hair stying and skincare.
Meanwhile, professional makeup artist Lisa Eldridge has been appointed creative director for makeup at Lancôme . Ms Eldridge, who has a huge social media following, engages her 239,000 Instagram followers and 1 million YouTube followers in the process of creating products and collections for the brand.
American makeup brand Nyx, which was acquired by L’Oréal in 2014 and relaunched in the UK earlier this year, relies entirely on digital media for its marketing. Using social networks and grassroots campaigns, it has become one of the fastest growing colour cosmetics brands in the United States.
Nyx runs an online makeup artistry competition on Instagram called the Face Awards, where entrants are invited to complete a series of technical challenges through the medium of 15-second videos. The winner is crowned ‘Beauty Vlogger of the Year’, receiving a £10,000 cash prize.
Elsewhere, L’Oréal brands that sell products for sensitive or problematic skin, such as Vichy and La Roche Posay, have been using live chat to help guide consumers on the best products for their skin concerns. These brands also offer online skincare diagnostics, and customers can consult dermatologists on their particular concerns.
“We are perpetually listening and watching what’s happening out there, and we are testing a lot of things,” said Ms Rochet.
“Right now we are very interested in everything to do with video, like Periscope and Twicer; everything that links to Instant Messaging, so we have lots of experiments going on with WhatsApp for example; and then all the new social networks that are coming up. We did an amazing experiment with Pinterest in the US, using branded pins.”
She sees digital as being central to L’Oréal’s evolution. In the future, she said, the Makeup Genius technology will be integrated into bathroom mirrors, giving users access to everyday coaching and advice from beauty professionals in their homes.
There will also be improved sensors that will measure lifestyle habits, skin tone, sleeping patterns, stress, activity, pollution and sun exposure, and combine all this data to offer customers personalised beauty advice.
L’Oréal is currently working with the University of Illinois on flexible wearable electronics, designed to collect and transmit data from the body, and has also partnered with bioprinting start-up Organovo to look at the potential of 3D-printed skin production to test products for toxicity and efficacy.
“There is a such a big offering in beauty that sometime people can have trouble detecting the right skincare product, the right tone for a foundation, the right colour for lipstick or their hair, and it’s really our role as a leader in industry to provide them with those services,” she said.
Meanwhile, L’Oréal is using data and analytics to help identify beauty trends early. Ms Rochet gave the example of dip-dyed hair, which emerged as a search term on Google Trends long before it became a popular trend.
“We could see the figures grow and we thought, maybe there’s something there. So we created a full product called Préférence Les Ombrés and it sold 50m in the first two years,” she said.
However, Ms Rochet admits that beauty is as much an art as a science, and personal recommendations from friends, as well as advice from beauty assistants, dermatologists and hairdressers will continue to play an important role, alongside digital innovations.
“Nothing replaces a great event where you can connect to other beauty junkies and other makeup addicts, and then of course they will take lots of pictures and put them on Instagram, so it works both ways,” she said. “So for me online and offline are not opposite at all, they are complimentary.”
This article was written by Sophie Curtis from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.