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George-Edouard Dias, head of Digital Business for L’Oréal gave a great example of digital business transformation during his interview at SAPPHIRENOW Madrid at the end of last year. By combining analytics, social, mobile, and the cloud, the company aims to create new customer experiences.

Summary

L’Oréal’s big transformation is to have moved from marketing planned in advance to real-time marketing. The company wants to simplify the life of the customer: it has lots of data, in lots of different databases (customer purchases, unstructured data, data in the cloud, twitter feeds, Nielsen market trends, etc), and it wants to make sense of it in real-time.

L’Oréal needs tools that make decisions in real-time, to help resellers do their job better, and for customers who want direct access to that information. Mobility is also very important, in order to give consumers the information they need to at the “moment of truth” when they are looking at products on the shelf, such as the product reviews of “customers like me”, or what their Facebook friends think of it.

Interview

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Joining me now is George-Edouard Dias, Digital Business at L’Oréal S.A. Welcome to you, thanks for being here today to talk about this transformation you’re doing at L’Oréal.

Thanks for inviting me.

Let’s talk about this digital transformation. What are you working on there?

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I’m trying to really embark L’Oréal into this digital journey. For us, it’s three-fold. It’s really rethinking the way we communicate: a change, transformation of advertising, rethinking the way we sell to people — normally e-commerce, but also transforming retail — and trying to see how digital can help us to create new forms of business we’ve never thought about and new ways of interacting with the customer, which is such an important thing in the world today, where we need to conquer our next billion customers.

Where do you start with a project like this? It sounds like it’s a pretty massive scope.

We’re starting with the observation. I like to take the position of the customer and to start to understand how L’Oréal can be a life-changer. What type of service you can bring to make his life as a customer easier? Where you can streamline the process?

If you think about what we’ve been doing for years, we’ve made beauty life more complex, because we have generated a lot of new products and amongst all these products, it’s difficult to realize which products fit me, which products I need, what is ideal for me. Could L’Oreal simplify my life? I have my beauty goals that I want to achieve, and you are the intermediary to make this happen.

Our goal is to curate all this data, all this information, coming from trends, coming from stores, coming from what we know of the customers habits, what we know about the customer himself. Curate that information, so it makes sense to the customer and we surface it, give them the information they need to take wise decisions and to live their beauty life better.

That sounds like a lot of data points, coming in from all different angles – how do you merge those, how do you keep those all together and make that end product simpler for the end consumer?

Well I think it’s really something that’s a real journey, because we have tons of data. We have, in fact, islands of data, in a lot of different databases, and we want to make sense of this data in real-time. The big transformation, the big change that has happened to marketing these days, is that we’ve moved from a marketing  where we plan in advance – everybody was talking about two-year, three-year, even five year plans – to something which we call real-time marketing.

If marketing is about real-time decision making, so you need to have a tool to make that decision in real-time, a decision that makes sense. So you need to make sense of all these sources of data – unstructured, data on the cloud, twitter feeds, what Nielsen says about the evolution of the market, what I see in the store, the purchases of the customer, the way a product is selling well or not.

I need to sort that information out, and make it make sense, for me as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, but also for my retailer, because I can also help my retailer to do his job better, to serve the customer, and also to my customer, because the customer wants also to have a direct access to that information right now, and that’s where mobility comes to play.

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That goes into my next question. Where have you seen the biggest impact when it comes to technologies, on the customer. Is it mobile, is it the web site, is it advertising?

It’s the one billion smartphones that exist in the world today. Out of six billion cellphone subscriptions worldwide, there are one billion cell phones that are really smart phones. Smart phones mean a very big difference, because it means that we’ve moved from a world where you’re calling and talking to people to a world where you’re pulling data from data sources that is to your benefit.

When you are at this point of decision for a customer, that we call the real moment of truth, where you’re in front of these big shelves and you wonder which product you need, you can pull the data out of our database, out of a retailer’s database, so you make an informed purchase. We help the customer to take that decision at the moment of truth, by really giving them the right information that he needs.

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So, they see this big shelf, with all kinds of products on it, but realistically, if they’re the best customer you have, and you’re doing your job right, the one product that they need the most, they’ll find that quickly and easily.

I always say that we should find the way that product will recognize the customer, not the reverse. And if I can have a tool where I’m just using my camera in my smartphone, and I’m using some form of augmented reality where the product I need is really highlighted it so I can purchase it, that’s exactly what I need. I need technology to make my life simpler. And the way we use technology at L’Oreal is to make the beauty life of our customers simpler, and we think that mobile is certainly the best way – because one thing I’m sure my customers care about, at all times, especially when shopping, traveling, moving around, is the cell phone, because it’s a personal tool, and it carries a lot of personal information, and it can interact with the ecosystem of information which exists in the store and give me the precise information that I need to make my informed purchase.

Can we see that as a possible application for mobile from L’Oréal in the future?

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We’re already been working on this. We have a lot of different applications that we’re putting to the market to try to empower the customer at this moment of decision.

The first thing that we did was, you know on each of the products there’s some sort of code that you can read, so we placed some sort of 3D code or the traditional barcode so that you can read it with your smartphone, and you can access the customer reviews. And for example, why is it important to access customer reviews? Because you know whether this product has been appreciated or not by customers, and it’s not only customer review of all customers, but it’s also you can access the customers that look like you, or have exactly the same problem as you have, the same expectations that you have — or people that are your Facebook friends. So, we’re also going in the direction where we empower the customer with more targeted information. So it’s a way to progress.

So it sounds like technology is definitely making things very exciting for you and what you’re embarking on at L’Oréal. Thank you so much for joining us.

Interested in hearing more? Come to SAPPHIRE NOW / ASUG 2013 in Orlando to see how other organizations are using information and analytics to reinvent the customer experience, with products such as SAP Precision Retailing.

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