Eileen Zong is brand general manager of L’Oréal Paris in China. In a recent interview with Alizila, she explained L’Oréal Paris preparations for 11.11 and how the brand is using Alibaba’s ecosystem to create new products, gain traction among male shoppers and expand their business into China’s lower-tier areas, which have become a huge source of consumption growth in the country. The interview was edited for clarity and length.
What is L’Oréal doing for 11.11?
The first thing we are doing with Alibaba this year is to introduce La Maison L’Oréal Paris. La Maison is our beauty channel in Paris, where products are crafted under the strictest standards by the most passionate craftsmen. We wanted to use 11.11 to bring that to China, so consumers can see how those products are made. They will be able to go through La Maison to discover how the products are produced, how they traveled on the production line and into consumers’ hands. We are bringing the whole La Maison idea from Paris to China together with Alibaba. 11.11 is the biggest shopping festival in the world, with millions of consumers engaging with our brand. So we thought this was the perfect opportunity to go behind the scenes in La Maison to show Chinese consumers.
Why is it important to create new products for Chinese consumers?
First of all, Chinese consumers are super demanding. Not only do they look for quantities, now it’s really the era when they look for the best quality. They look at packaging, look at the ingredients, look at the technology. Chinese consumers are actually very keen to understand the stories behind a product. In order to fulfill this demand, we are actually creating products by connecting our international product lab and local lab to work together to find the right products for this market. I think this is very different from a couple of years ago when consumers were OK with whatever the products were available in the market. As the number-one beauty brand in China and globally, we are really putting a lot of effort into understanding the consumers’ true needs.
How are you tapping into the Alibaba ecosystem for product innovation?
We bring in different internal teams, including marketing, commercial, our research lab and product development. Then we partner with the Tmall Innovation Center and the Tmall sourcing team to look at our current portfolio and identity the products that we don’t already have that will best satisfy the needs of Chinese consumers at the moment. We did this when we co-created a filler cream with Tmall. We used Tmall’s analytics to figure out if consumers wanted something that focused on dryness or oiliness, what price point was the right one and so on. We also look at different consumer groups to see which make the most likely buyers of what we want to create, and how to design the product pages for them. With help from Tmall, we can really test for a winning concept.
Livestreaming in e-commerce is huge in China right now, and so are key opinion leaders (KOLs) to reach consumers. How are you leveraging these things to engage your customers on Alibaba’s platforms?
These days, all consumers can use their phones to go live. But two years ago, when we were discussing strategy with Alibaba, they asked if we could bring our L’Oréal beauty advisors online for the benefit of Chinese consumers as a way to lead the online and offline integration that was revving up at the time. So, we were actually the first brand to, in partnership with Alibaba, get beauty adviser KOLs livestreaming on Alibaba’s platforms from our stores. We trained them to be KOLs, to sell products and help make livestreaming popular among consumers. For this year’s 11.11, we expanded our KOL team so we could livestream for the full 24 hours nonstop.
WATCH: L’Oréal Paris Uses Alibaba, 11.11 to Reach Chinese Consumers
I think that’s also something I’d like to give Alibaba credit for. The Tmall team is constantly coming to us to discuss new opportunities to co-create. These days, the platform and the brand can co-create the different innovations, leveraging each other’s strengths, this is how our businesses can be taken to the next level.
How are you reaching new consumers in China?
In the Alibaba ecosystem, there are a lot of ways to reach different kinds of consumers. We have our flagship store, we use Tmall Supermarket. What we do is to work with Alibaba very closely to identify which channels or which part of the ecosystem is best for different targets or different segments of consumers.
For instance, for men. We have our specific male flagship store, which is targeting males who are buying for themselves and also the products who are bought by woman for their husbands or boyfriends. We are the number-one brand on Tmall for males. We are constantly testing different versions of the products, now we are able to differentiate the different product pages and the flagship store’s look for men.
We also have different products tailored to different parts of the ecosystem, targeting different types of consumers. We give consumers in lower-tier cities different offers than those in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, such as more-affordable products. These are good-quality products that were created by our sophisticated labs, but we deliver them in a way that these consumers can easily understand.
How has your brand evolved over your years on Alibaba’s platforms and what are you planning for the future?
First of all, we’ve got a lot of new consumers, a lot of young consumers. As a brand that has been in China for 21 years, recruiting new consumers is extremely important for us, and I think Tmall really has played a very important role in this. The second thing is, I think Tmall is not only a sales platform, it’s also a consumer-engagement platform. We are able to engage with our consumers to show them our new products. We do a lot of new-product launches and consumer engagement with Tmall. I also think Tmall is not only online, it’s the online plus offline. We do a lot of pop-up stores, as well as offline consumer engagement events with the platform.