L’Oréal USA isn’t allowing fear of failure to slow down its push for innovation.

This story first appeared in the October 8, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In her presentation, Jessica Drapiza, associate vice president of digital innovation and content, detailed how the company’s strategic marketing team, of which she’s a member, implements experiments designed to drive new business, enlists the help of “brand champions” from each of the 30 brands at the company and embarks on trials to test hypotheses.

While the brands compete to be the guinea pigs in these experiments, the results — along with possible adjustments that might serve to improve the results — are shared with the marketing teams for each brand in published case studies meant to inform key personnel throughout the company.

“We analyze if something is successful, but it’s also critical to understand why it didn’t work or why it did work because those are the elements you need to replicate success,” she said of the “NEXT” — New, Experimental, Transversal — program.

Two years ago, she noted, nearly all the tasks undertaken were aimed at making L’Oréal’s brands more competitive in the rapidly expanding mobile market, but recent projects have been directed at a range of business issues, including brick-and-mortar.

Drapiza cited a test undertaken for the Kiehl’s brand in which it looked for an in-store approach to register ratings and reviews from customers based on the success of such programs in an online environment, where they’re known to “kick ass when it comes to converting consumers.”

L’Oréal attempted to bring the technique in-store but used two-dimensional bar (or “QR”) tags mounted on the shelves of a store.

“It didn’t work,” Drapiza said, noting that shoppers were reluctant to take the time to download the software necessary to participate and that uncertain Wi-Fi reception might have worked against the objective. However, a revised game plan that employed the consumer using texts to opt in for a review met little resistance.

“Massive conversion to sale,” she reported.

L’Oréal also tried to build a new point-of-sale opportunity for the L’Oréal Paris brand with interactive vending machines, placed in New York subway stations, that used a “virtual mirror” to analyze a customer’s outfit and make makeup recommendations that would “match or clash” with them. But it faced a series of limitations — the relatively short amount of time riders spend at subway stations, poor lighting and the need to lock down the apparatus when a subway station had no attendants on duty.

The idea resurfaced, however, as a pilot program, available in airports, for Essie nail polish where it’s shown solid potential.

In closing, Drapiza turned to a quote from Mark Twain that she felt summarized the L’Oréal approach: “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.”

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