During a recent DMAS event on the topic ‘the rise of the bots in marketing’, Avis Easteal was one of the experts on the panel. A great many topics were addressed by the experts but Avis stood out with her view on how vendors should improve the way they engage with clients and prospects. AdAsia approached her for an interview especially focusing on this topic.

Avis Easteal built the bulk of her experience in IT and marketing solutions on the vendor side. Experian brought her to Singapore, where she picked up the role of Regional Delivery Director. Subsequently she moved to Aspire Lifestyle. After a brief return to banking system she returned to marketing automation. But while working in Singapore she asked all her contacts which company would be the best to work for. In that process, she came across Luxasia. She joined Luxasia as Regional Head of Consumer, finding herself at the client side. It is in this capacity she commented on the panel on the many ways vendors try to position and sell themselves during pitches. Given her vendor side experience she certainly has a few things to say about this, but fortunately for us, the interview ended up being actually about a lot more, including transformation and the importance of senior management.

She explains:
“In all the roles I have had there has always been a transformational aspect. I have worked in situations where bureaucracy was growing and needed to be managed, I have had to deal with cost cutting and business turn arounds or growth.”

 

So why is Luxasia a good fit?
“Luxasia has been in the beauty industry for 30+ years. We are active in 11 countries with over 100 standalone stores and 3000 doors. We currently employ 2000 people. But the business of beauty is changing, so Luxasia needs to transform itself as well and we have to do this with a customer centric approach. This suits me very well. The founder and CEO Patrick Chong is behind this change and has hired Wolfgang Baier as Group CEO to manage this.

“I am the head of consumer, which includes CRM, Customer Experience and Brand related stories. This includes how the technical side impacts consumers, so in-store technology, digital marketing solutions and CRM platforms.”

 

How do you run this at Luxasia?
“We look at the whole process both in-store and online and try to take a single customer point of view. Questions that we ask are along the lines of: how will I be able to predict what customers buy next, how do I leverage staff insights? At the same time, the wider Luxasia teams look at every aspect of the customer journey, from pick ‘n’ pack processes and warehousing, via demand planning, to the instore availability of support and information.”

 

So how does the senior management support this?
“Patrick Chong is the visionary entrepreneur. He will set the direction. Wolfgang brings the strategic vision. He has e.g. a clear view on things like the web experience and market places. Combined vision is what keeps Luxasia alive and relevant through the Customer Experience. It won’t surprise you that we are focusing on creating a great service experience and that we ultimately want to manage to product and brand touch moments.”

 

But isn’t that challenging with the diverse set of brands Luxasia distributes or represents?
“We have to distinguish between a brands that needs a productive service experience that is suitable to those that need a service that is high end and indulgent. To cope with this, we put a lot of effort in defining the viable service areas for each brand. We then look at what brands want to add from a global perspective, coming mostly from their international headquarters. This model means that we train our staff in a specific way that is unique to Luxasia.”

 

We wanted also to know more about your view on how vendors can improve their client/prospect relationship? Can you provide us with a few highlights?
“What vendors need to understand first and foremost is that most companies have annual budget-planning cycles. My first recommendation to them is: try your best to understand where the client is in the planning process, specifically with regards to the solution or services you want to sell or position. In my case, I will do my part to make the briefing as clear as possible. If the briefing is not clear or misses out on e.g. that annual budget-planning insight, ask that questions before you even present.

“Secondly, when you present don’t talk for the first 20 minutes about yourself. If you have 60 minutes, there is 20 minutes that you can no longer use to talk about how you add or create value. Best way to keep my attention? Tell me something I don’t already know. Intrigue me with your approach, present compelling data that excites me or that creates a sense of urgency. When we had a presentation from Salesforce last year, they asked upfront for data. Then when they presented, they started with insights and stories. That is compelling.

“I will also never understand why vendors ask so little questions before coming to the presentation.”

 

What else is important?
“Strategic initiatives in most companies have multiyear timescales. Only tactical initiatives can have shorter buying cycles. Technology is a part of many projects but is not the main reason for most those projects. Vendors need to take the buying cycle and the role of technology in projects into account. They have to show value and understand the client buying cycle to succeed.”

 

How does the change management for Luxasia from a retail to an omnichannel business work?
“If you want change, you have to measure it. Technology is important in this story but you have to constantly monitor how you budget for it, and re-check with whom you engage. Lazada is a good example where we get productivity efficiency through our own middleware. Brands also help us to choose the marketplaces they want to engage with because they consider it a good fit for the brand image, or customers go there anyway and they want to be in control of the experience.

“To me online, retail or marketplaces they are or channels but they should not be your strategy. These channels represent the cost of being in business. As we all know just having a website is not going to work. Nothing happens till you market it.”

 

What is important in today’s tech-driven marketing environment?
“Whatever communication format you choose, personalisation is a key element. We are only at the start but we’re definitely focused on improving this. We have a member strategy that takes into account that we have over 100 brands. For each we want to have a newsletter and you need to be able to unsubscribe, so that drives our tech decisions. We work with a combination of SAP, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, In-store technology, tableau and Magento .

“To address brand diversity we have developed templates that can easily be used for each of the different brands.

“In-store we’re getting tech up and running that helps the staff knowing what they should know, and that is a lot by the way, so that they can better focus on the customer and the service quality. The tools will include running a quick consumer survey and scanning products to get the correct information quickly on a screen or tablet. We will have a page that staff is to open in the morning which the details of the day regarding promotions. It also has to help managing the dreaded out of stock experience.”

 

What is your one line of advice to fellow marketers?
“We can only achieve our goals if we meet our consumer’s expectations.”

 

That is a good takeaway in any marketing context. Thank you for the interview.


Editor: Matthieu Vermeulen

 

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