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Q&A With Charlotte Burrows of Estée Lauder

The director of online at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. U.K. and Ireland sat down with WWD’s London bureau chief Samantha Conti.

Charlotte Burrows, Estée Lauder Cos. WWD’s London bureau chief Samantha Conti sat down with Charlotte Burrows, director of online at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. U.K. and Ireland, for a Q&A session that touched on the importance of mobile commerce, social media and targeting an “ageless” consumer.

On the importance of social media: “We understand that it forms part of the customer journey, and we believe that we have to be there because of that. Whether it’s driving sales or not is a different question, and that’s not really a priority for us at all. We look at it as brand awareness and a place for brands to tell a story. There are stats out there that say a brand is 71 percent more trusted if they interact with their consumers on social channels.”

On purchasing beauty products online: “[With brands] such as MAC, we have about 50 new collections every year that go online every month. There are new collaborations — it might be a lipstick color with Rihanna — and [customers] will buy that online without having seen it or touched it. That comes down, we think, to the social channel — people talking about it before they buy.”

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On mobile commerce: “For us, it’s mobile first, absolutely. It’s a channel that we don’t see going downhill at all. In fiscal 2012, we had about 6 percent of visitors for sales coming through mobile, and that increased in fiscal 2013 to 38 percent. The two main differences we notice on mobile over our PC sites are people looking at store locations on their mobiles and they’re looking at videos. [And] we’re seeing people are purchasing a little bit more on iPads than they are on iPhones. But the big question for 2014 is working out how to make that journey on mobile a little bit easier for our customers. It’s making sure that if a customer wants to purchase on a mobile device, can they get there as quickly as possible and get through to checkout?”

On what MAC is teaching other Estée Lauder brands about engagement: “There’s a lot of customer engagement on the new [MAC] products through YouTube. We launch a week earlier online than we do in-store, so there’s a lot of buzz that gets created around products online. We can see a real lift in-store on that. Online is obviously such a big channel for Estée Lauder in general. It’s a place where you can create that buzz, you can get people talking about the products.”

On the demographic focus of Estée Lauder’s online marketing: “We try and focus on everyone, [but] ‘ageless’ — [customers over 50 are] a big focus for us — they are the fastest growing group online. We’ve always talked about the Millennials in the social channels, but we need to start looking at what the ageless population and what they’re doing online. But we can see from customer data that more people are purchasing in that age group online.”