Interview Spotlight: How to Bring the Luxury Customer Experience to Ecommerce
Lucy Hirom, Head of Digital Marketing at Liberty London
Panel speaker at Trend Beauty, November 2017
Lucy has worked in the digital world of luxury fashion and beauty for over 10 years. Her marketing campaigns have covered 5 continents and she has called Los Angeles, New York, Geneva and London ‘home.’ She is passionate about the end-to-end customer experience and digital innovation.
Lucy has led digital marketing strategy at Ralph Lauren, Selfridges and now Liberty London. Arriving in Europe in 2013, Lucy led a digital transformation within Ralph Lauren’s wholesale organisation and grew the e-commerce business significantly through partnerships and localised marketing strategies.
Lucy spent the last two years consulting pure play and multichannel retailers leading digital marketing strategies and e-commerce growth plans. Most notably, she spent a year at Selfridges where she took on the role of Interim Head of Digital Marketing, leading performance marketing, social media, email and CRM. She is now in a similar role at Liberty London where she plans to grow their e-commerce traffic and revenue through targeted and brand-led digital marketing strategies.
Some of the key challenges she has helped brands and retailers address are: how to bring the luxury customer experience to e-commerce and digital content, how to forge digital transformation within established organisations and most recently, helping early-stage digital adaptors and start-ups to prioritise and set winning e-commerce strategies.
Mantra: ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’ (read in a New York accent)
- Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you start in eCommerce?
I started my career in a central role in the marketing and communications department at Ralph Lauren on Madison Avenue in New York City in 2006. I gained a wealth of knowledge about how to manage a brand, communicate with customers and host gorgeous events. The one channel that stuck out from the beginning was digital. I was interested in measuring the impact of my efforts and could tell that direct mail, events and advertising in the NY Times were activities of great interest to management, but were very hard to measure. That’s what appealed to me about digital: you can track everything and it has only got better since then.
- Having been in digital marketing for over 10 years, what would you say has been the biggest challenge you’ve seen companies face?
There’s been one major challenge that I keep coming across: digital transformation. Many organisations operate in silos, which increases expertise within verticals, but makes communications across departments particularly difficult. I’ve seen a lot of developments in organisational structures and efforts to increase communications across departments and channels, but still, this issue keeps kicking around.
I’ve found that it’s particularly a problem for digital teams: they are underrepresented at the board level and often not very well understood across the organisation. One of my main principles in my work life is transparency. I believe in open communication and sharing insights and results from the digital realm with the rest of the business.
I’ve never received the kind of enthusiasm about GA and customer insight as I did from a brand director who saw the GA interface for the first time. So much of the data that we take for granted in digital is highly relevant and useful for the rest of the organisation. Don’t forget it!
- How do department stores choose which beauty brands to collaborate with?
It’s mostly down to sales and customer interest. Department stores are really lucky in that they have a broad choice of brands and categories to promote at any given time. In my experience, it’s the niche brands, key product launches and consumer interest that drive the real estate that they can get on home pages and emails. Those key factors usually will help drive revenue for the business as well.
A secondary point of interest would be the content that can be delivered through a collaboration between retailer and beauty brand. Is there an influencer or vlogger who can get involved and drive additional exposure for the brand and the retailer? Are there exclusive brand assets that the retailer can showcase to the world through their media channels? Any unique hook is always an added bonus in negotiating exposure with a retail partner.
- From a digital marketing perspective. How do you see online consumer’s behaviour evolving? What are habits and which brands do they prefer?
Social media and influencers are huge for beauty (and fashion, too!), but the customer journey to purchase isn’t necessarily always easy. I see content and commerce merging more seamlessly over the next year or two. There are a few companies who are helping retailers improve their shoppable content and path to conversion that I’m interested in working with.
I think the main customer habit to call out is that she’s fickle! Some even say ‘promiscuous.’ Newness counts for a lot in beauty. Advances in beauty and skincare formulas are coming onto the market at such a rapid rate, so the newest and best product always comes centre stage. However, there is an element of a strong brand and product loyalty when your customer is happy with what works for her. So it’s a balance, as with all brands: stay true to your core values (and product), but also innovate so that you can surprise and delight your customer.
A huge opportunity for developing a new customer segment lies with a new audience: men. How do you market to them with the right messaging through the right medium? It’s going to be tricky, but it’s also going to be the next stage of men’s grooming.
- Content plays a huge role to improve a brand’s awareness, reputation and ultimately, conversion. What would you advise to new luxury beauty brands to improve online conversion?
I’d recommend starting with the basics!
Understand your unique selling proposition. Your content should add value to the customer or answer a question she might have (ie, ‘how do I…’).
Be consistent in style and quality and publish content often. Make the customer journey as easy as possible…and then give her the ability to direct her own journey.
- From your point of view, how do you think luxury retailers are approaching new technologies such as Augmented Reality? Do you think human touch is absolutely essential?
I do think human touch is essential most of the time… but AR is getting so good that it might help get customers closer to conversion faster. The AR mirrors that a number of beauty brands are using are a great way of previewing the effects of certain types of makeup. However, a big part of makeup is the application itself and how it feels on your skin. That’s where the vloggers and influencers come in. Explaining and describing how it feels for them helps the customer understand a product well enough that they might be willing to buy it to try it out.
However, the beauty counter, if you have the time, and don’t have a fear of crowds, is always going to be there and will continue to be an important part of the trialling approach to makeup. While I am a digital native, I still believe very strongly in a physical experience. Getting your makeup done at the counter, by a professional, is a special treat for most ladies and one of those experiences that’s hard to replicate even with the best-augmented reality.
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