L’Oréal on Playing the Long Game

An interview with Yvahn Martin, Director of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing for L’Oréal, Decléor and Carita brands

Author: Maria Minsker

March 17, 2017

Even as the economy recovers, brands know they have to offer deep discounts to compete with digital marketplaces like Amazon. But can too many price cuts actually hurt a brand’s image in the long run? Yvahn Martin, director of ecommerce and digital marketing for L’Oréal’s Decléor and Carita brands, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about relationship building in a tough economic climate.

eMarketer: L’Oréal is an industry veteran. What challenges does that present when it comes to using digital channels?

Yvahn Martin: I come from a background of having worked for a large retail company as well as a startup, and there’s a marked difference between the way the two approach digital. The former requires a complete restructuring of how the organization does business, while the latter was just born digital. Veteran companies have to take into consideration a new ecosystem of tools and learn how each of those tools can be applied to the business.

eMarketer: L’Oréal is made up of a number of brands. How does that complicate the digital transformation?

Martin: Every brand is unique. Every product line is unique. The assumptions we had about our product lines before digital tools became accessible to us could change, depending on what data tells us once we start looking into different channels and trying to engage with customers digitally.

“It comes down to building relationships and connecting with consumers throughout the journey.”

eMarketer: How has the growth of ecommerce shaken up the way you conduct business?

Martin: Selling directly to the consumer is one thing, but there are so many other routes now. There’s Amazon, but there are also marketplaces like Spring or flash sale sites like Gilt. How do we stand out? It comes down to building relationships and connecting with consumers throughout the journey—showing up on their mobile phones, showing up in their email and showing up with social content that speaks to what’s important to them.

On average, consumers interact with a brand 13 times before they convert. What does that mean for brands? It means they have to fill their funnel from the top down. They can’t just slide in with a sudden promotion and get a new customer. Even if that works, that’s not going to be the best customer for the brand.

eMarketer: It sounds like you’re suggesting brands think more long-term. Can you elaborate?

Martin: It means brands should focus on growing the digital business slower, but more profitably. When the economy was struggling, there was a “put everything on sale all the time” mentality, and that made it difficult to recover to full-price selling.

There is an element of brand recognition and trust for a legacy brand, but that trust can be lost—especially when established brands go through periods of deep discounting. Why would the consumer want a product at full price after that? You’ve already broken their trust and shown them it’s worth less.

“When the economy was struggling, there was a ‘put everything on sale all the time’ mentality, and that made it difficult to recover to full-price selling.”

eMarketer: What’s top of mind for L’Oréal’s marketing team moving forward?

Martin: L’Oréal continues to invest heavily in figuring out digital. You don’t often hear about innovation in the makeup space, but L’Oréal is an incumbent that also strives to be at the forefront. The team just rolled out a smart hairbrush at CES [Consumer Electronics Show], for example.

Beauty, in general, is a marketing-driven industry. It’s all marketing, and it’s all about how you present it. Creating good content is our top priority, because marketing comes back to storytelling. If you don’t have a story to tell, and all you’re talking about is the product, then nobody cares.

eMarketer: Are you experimenting with new channels?

Martin: Yes, absolutely. For Decléor and Carita specifically, we want to build a digital presence at our spa partners, but we’re still figuring out how best to do it. We’re also going to launch content on Pinterest this year. 

Photo credit: L’Oréal