Adopting a digital-first approach can be a major challenge, regardless of the industry. This challenge is compounded when you’re dealing with a legacy brand with an established or unorthodox business model.
Looking at Avon, the 137-year-old cosmetics giant, it might be hard to envision them as a digital leader. From their humble beginnings with “Avon ladies”, they’ve always had a unique B2B2C, consultative business model that, at first glance, might seem difficult to transition to the digital era.
Yet, as Perfect Corp. Senior Vice President and GM Wayne Liu says, “When you think about beauty, you think about Avon.” Their foray into beauty tech has created new selling channels, appealed to younger audiences, and reformed their original business model for a new generation.
In a recent Master Series installment, Liu sat down with Avon’s Chief Marketing Officer Kristof Neirynck to discuss how the integration of beauty tech has not only revolutionized Avon’s consultative approach to selling, but has yielded unprecedented ROI.
Watch the full episode below
Evolving and Modernizing a Storied, Legacy Brand
One of Avon’s strengths that has sustained it for 137 years has been its unique selling approach. Throughout the company’s lifetime, they’ve had a unique B2B2C model, where consultants have personalized meetings with clients where they try on products and then choose which items work best.
Obviously, this model was upended during the pandemic, where face-to-face meetings couldn’t take place. Even without the pandemic, however, the hands-on selling model is logistically difficult to execute, and can be supplemented and adapted using modern beauty tech tools. The question Neirynck and Avon faced was, “How do we enhance the customer journey” and adapt it to evolving times and sensibilities.
“Think about the overall digitization of the beauty industry where maybe in the past consumers only wanted to buy a product that they had actually physically tried on,” Neirynck says. “Now consumers are much more comfortable with virtual try on technologies and actually they want that product immediately and that immediate gratification and the lack of friction in the purchase process have been key elements that have been evolving.”
Why Avon is Uniquely Suited for Our Current Moment
While Avon is a 137-year-old brand, their business model has a surprising parallel with modern selling. The so-called “Avon ladies” were iconic precursors to the influencer model of today. These consultants were looked at as experts in the field of beauty and cosmetics in a way many consumers look at TikTok or Instagram makeup influencers today.
“You had that representative going into the consumer’s house, getting to know the consumer and then actually giving a personal recommendation from the representative,” Neirynck says. “This is probably the product that is right for you based on what I know of you. That need for personalized recommendations and that need for influencing has always been part of the DNA of Avon.”
Now, with the emergence of augmented reality and virtual try-on technology, representatives are able to incorporate these digital tools into their consultative approach. They’re able to show customers a wider range of makeup options without having a vast catalog of products on hand. This virtual consultation can also be done remotely, enabling customers to view a wide range of options without a representative needing to go to them.
What’s more, when a customer finds a product that works for them, they can purchase it immediately through Avon’s digital selling channels.
“Of course we need to do [personalized consultation] now in a more digital world and that's really the journey that we have been under,” Neirynck says. “Because whether it's from a representative, ratings and reviews, influencers, beauty AR/VR, all of that now becomes part of that ecosystem. And so that's why we're really evolving this kind of traditional door-to-door selling model to a truly fully Omni channel approach where we allow customers and enable customers to shop in the way they want to shop.”
Seeing Success With a Digital-First Approach
One of the many challenges in incorporating a digital-first mentality in such an established brand is getting buy-in from not only new customers, but long-established ones. Instituting virtual try-on and other AR and VR beauty tech solutions can be a major investment, and if customers aren’t engaging with it, the return on investment can be a minefield for the business. Thankfully, once Avon rolled out these new digital offerings, they were immediately rewarded.
“Thanks to the try-on technology, we were hoping to see a better conversion rate and that's actually what we saw, because we saw a 320% increase in the conversion rate,” Neirynck says. “We also saw an increase of 33% in the average order value. We saw a 94% increase in the average number of product views. We saw that on average a customer would have tried five lip shades per session before they actually made a decision to purchase.”
Not only has this integration of cutting-edge beauty tech had a significant business impact, but it’s also setting Avon up for success into the future. As Neirynck notes, 20-25 percent of new Avon representatives are Gen Z, and their comfortability with these digital tools is leading to a whole new era.
Looking to the future, Avon is only beginning to scratch the surface of beauty tech. With the emergence of predictive AI, Neirynck sees a path for more integrations for more products, leaning into the omnichannel experience that has seen so much success so far.
Watch the full session to learn more about Avon’s evolution here.
Get expert advice from Perfect Corp. and be part of the beauty tech trend. Contact us for details on beauty tech solutions trusted by 600+ brands globally.
Read our “Beauty Tech: The Complete Guide” to unlock powerful ROI secrets.