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Jane Lauder on Data and ‘Aspirational Intelligence’

The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.'s newly appointed chief data officer talks "connecting the dots to find something that's desirable and aspirational for consumers."

For Jane Lauder, it’s not about the data, but what you do with it.

The newly appointed executive vice president, chief data officer at The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. spoke at WWD’s Digital Beauty Forum, where she shared her thoughts on data and what she called “aspirational intelligence.”

Within the past six months, Lauder created “an infinity loop” meant to streamline internal information-sharing. Half of the loop “is how all of our employees get information to be able to do everything from product innovation to supply management, demand planning to finance,” she said. The other half involves “the entire consumer experience,” encompassing “the creativity, the media, the high-touch experiences you have in store, online.”

At the center of the loop is data and aspirational intelligence, which Lauder described as “connecting the dots to find something that’s desirable and aspirational for consumers.”

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Lauder gave an example of her late grandmother, Estée Lauder, who used to “go into people’s bathrooms,” observe the colors and finishings — doorknobs, for example — and apply her findings to the creation of her brand’s packaging.

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Data-sharing at The Estée Lauder Cos. involves “self-serve,” aka allowing teams to view “syndicated data” to understand what’s working — or not — in a given market, Lauder said.

“We also have content drops — being able to send out reports and information,” she said. “The last is live-sharing [of] best practices, what we’re seeing around the world. We’re lucky we have people on the ground in so many different markets who can share with us what they’re seeing, trends before they get big. Having that competitive intelligence is critical.”

The company applies findings such as trending ingredients and desired benefits to product development, Lauder said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated The Estee Lauder Cos.’ brands’ e-commerce strategies, with online sales driving growth. Though Millennials and members of Generation Z were “early adopters” of digital, “more mature consumers” have been shopping online during the pandemic “and are loving it,” according to Lauder.

“A slight difference is that the older consumer is much more interested in live chat and speaking to someone live,” she said. “A younger Gen Z or Millennial might use virtual try-on tools first before [asking] for help.”

In response to an audience question for her thoughts on virtual try-on tools, Lauder said they have “gotten better” over the past several years.

“When I started on the journey at Clinique to do Clinical Reality with the team, we were like, how do we show before and after?” Lauder said. “With skin care, you’re hoping that the results you’re being told are clinically proven you can see on your face. How great to be able to see that immediately.

“Virtual try-on is there to help solve the pain points, whether it’s finding the right shade, the right skincare, et cetera,” she continued. “I think it’s going to be more broadly adopted as we think about the consumers and those pain points and solve for them.”

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