Inside L’Oréal’s CX makeover with Salesforce

Image courtesy of Peter Kalonji.

The cosmetics industry has always been grounded on personalised experiences. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for people — not when it concerns beauty.

This is why global beauty giant L’Oréal, which operates 36 different brands, such as Kiehl’s, Lancôme, and Maybelline New York, has never underestimated the power of human touch in their physical shops, mall kiosks, and beauty salons.

However, with the continuous growth of e-commerce, customers also need to feel that products and services are tailored to their unique needs, even at the comfort of their own homes. Here, technology lends a helping hand.

During a fireside chat at a recent online Salesforce event, Anil Chilla, Digital Director (CX, Platforms & Services) for South Asia Pacific Middle East and North Africa (SAPMENA) at L’Oréal, discussed how the personal care company addressed its digital limitations and the significant role artificial intelligence is playing in its ongoing business transformation.

Reconciling differences

For L’Oréal’s SAPMENA business, recognising and reconciling differences between customers isn’t enough; it also has to harmonise its operations across 13 different time zones.

Anil Chilla, Digital Director (CX, Platforms & Services) for South Asia Pacific Middle East and North Africa (SAPMENA), L’Oréal. Image courtesy of L’Oréal.

“We need to be able to use solutions that help standardise, and that we can scale easily across the many geographies, many brands that we have, and many markets that we have — all while being able to localise to the relevant market or the local market context,” Chilla explained.

To address these concerns, the personal care company is leveraging Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud solutions.

“From our perspective, it really starts with the consumers. What consumer needs are we trying to address? What problem are we solving for the consumer? How do we improve the experience and satisfaction of the consumer with our products and services? It really starts from observing and understanding — not only the consumer — but our partners and distributors with whom we work quite extensively,” the executive added.

One strategy the company rolled out for its e-commerce presence is an assisted commerce capability to capture the essence of a face-to-face conversation with a beauty consultant onsite. 

“When a consumer comes to our site, she can have a consultation with a real-life person, not an avatar, because what we have seen is that we like engaging with real-life people versus a digital equivalent, and through that experience, be able to address the questions that the consumer might have, and provide the right sort of product and regimen for her to be able to use, which is suited to her personal requirements,” Chilla said.

AI and AR insights

While a human touch is clearly invaluable in the beauty industry, there are other areas where technology, such as AI and augmented reality (AR), could make positive strides.

One example is the virtual try-on feature, powered by AR, where a customer could test the suitability of various products online before making a purchase.

“In a typical physical store, a consumer would typically try about six to eight shades of lipstick before making a purchase. In the digital realm, with the virtual try-on experience, we’ve observed consumers trying on approximately 15 to 16 shades. We’ve also noted that consumer satisfaction is generally higher and more positive compared to offline experiences,” the L’Oréal executive remarked.

Chilla also pointed out that the conversion rate is typically double for consumers who have used the virtual try-on experience compared to those who haven’t.

For skincare products, like facial wash, toner, and moisturiser, customers are more discerning, because an incorrect choice could lead to skin irritation or worse. To address this, the company has utilised AI, especially for its La Roche Posay brand. A feature known as Spotscan helps individuals with acne in finding the suitable product for their condition.

“It just requires three selfies to analyse. It has a database of thousands of people who have used it as the basis for product recommendations to help with their acne condition. All of these services are available from the convenience of their home, in a very frictionless manner on our digital platforms, as well as in our stores,” he explained.

Step-by-step approach

Though many enterprises have incorporated AI into their operations, Chilla underscored the importance of its responsible application due to the technology’s potential for misuse.

“As an organisation, we need to approach this really carefully, and use a test-and-learn approach, especially with robust governance, to make sure that the risks inherent in this area are minimised. It really helps in making a lot of the activities that we’re doing, a lot of the experiences that we are making much more efficient and effective, especially around augmented consumer care, the use of chatbots, the ability to answer questions from a consumer perspective at any time,” he said.

Sujith Abraham, Senior Vice President & General Manager of ASEAN, Salesforce. Image courtesy of Salesforce.

Sujith Abraham, Senior Vice President & General Manager of ASEAN, Salesforce, likewise agreed.

“AI is one of the most significant technology shifts of our generation. It will change the way we live and the way we work. It has the potential to unlock a whole new level of productivity, augmenting humans producing low-value tasks, driving hyper personalisation and highly accurate predictions. But this is only possible with good data; AI needs to work on vast data sets amalgamated from various sources. It needs to operate with trust and within ethical guidelines,” he said.

The Salesforce executive also noted that CRM data alone is insufficient to build a solid foundation for AI.

“Companies need to break down silos and unlock the vast quantities of trapped data sitting in databases, data management systems, transactional systems, and legacy systems. This needs to be combined with unstructured data and unify it to provide a complete view of your customer,” he concluded.