BEAUTY: Hey, Good Look­ing

Wolf­gang Baier, group CEO of Lux­a­sia, is steer­ing Sin­ga­pore’s grand dame of beauty re­tail into a brave new dig­i­tally-en­gaged world, Karen Tee re­ports


Wolf­gang Baier, group CEO of Lux­a­sia, gives his take on why to­day’s up­start beauty brands ex­cel at un­der­stand­ing their con­sumers, and shares how he is steer­ing Sin­ga­pore’s grand dame of beauty re­tail in a brave new dig­i­tally-en­gaged world

The global beauty in­dus­try is fac­ing a water­shed mo­ment. From pop star Ri­hanna’s in­clu­sive Fenty Beauty make-up range to mil­len­nial-friendly beauty brand Glossier, up­starts are muscling in on the busi­ness of look­ing good and rewrit­ing the rules of the beauty busi­ness. In Sin­ga­pore, brand dis­trib­u­tor, re­tailer and e-com­merce com­pany Lux­a­sia has been in­tro­duc­ing some of the finest global beauty brands such as Her­mès, Guer­lain and Prada to the Asia-pa­cific re­gion for the past 32 years. Its cult beauty store, Es­cen­tials, con­tin­ues to stock niche beauty brands such as Byredo, By Terry and Dip­tyque, and launched its e-com­merce site, es­cen­, in 2017. Tra­di­tional re­tail strate­gies may not nec­es­sar­ily work any­more, es­pe­cially among mil­len­nial cus­tomers, says group CEO Wolf­gang Baier. “Mil­len­ni­als are more ex­per­i­men­tal and will­ing to try new brands and prod­ucts.” To stand out, au­then­tic­ity is key, he stresses. “It is no longer about each brand try­ing to out-mar­ket one an­other with broad and gen­eral claims, but about un­der­stand­ing con­sumers to give them what they want, when and where they want it, and keep them com­ing back for more.”

How did Lux­a­sia make the jump into the dig­i­tal space?

Our niche beauty store, Es­cen­tials, started as a unique re­tail con­cept for dis­cern­ing con­sumers. How­ever, given how in­for­ma­tion-savvy con­sumers th­ese days tend to pre­fer do­ing their re­search on­line be­fore they pur­chase, it was clear that we needed a fully equipped e-com­merce site that re­flected the lux­ury fi­nesse of our stores.

What is the key chal­lenge for the beauty in­dus­try?

The big­gest chal­lenge right now is how dig­i­tal has dis­rupted the in­dus­try. With so­cial me­dia and the in­creased rel­e­vance of key opin­ion lead­ers, con­sumers are more likely to chance upon prod­ucts based on the in­flu­encers they fol­low. Brands and com­pa­nies need to be mind­ful of how to en­gage and de­light th­ese key opin­ion lead­ers. That can sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove the reach and speed of brand dis­cov­ery across many mar­kets (though not all), and bring traf­fic back to depart­ment stores where the cus­tomer can en­joy the full brand ex­pe­ri­ence. The next step is to al­low cus­tomers to buy what they want, from wher­ever they are. It is about the om­nichan­nel con­sumer ex­pe­ri­ence.

Have es­tab­lished brands been too slow to en­gage the dig­i­tal space?

While they were slower in adopt­ing dig­i­tal strate­gies, many have now be­come more savvy. It is in­ter­est­ing to see many big beauty play­ers ap­point­ing a chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer, or a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive with a man­date for en­gag­ing the dig­i­tal space. While this is the right spirit, the devil is in the de­tails, and the chal­lenge is in ex­e­cut­ing that trans­for­ma­tion across the en­tire or­gan­i­sa­tion. To not know, or worse, to mis­un­der­stand the mar­ket and its lo­cal con­sumers can lead to dras­ti­cally dam­ag­ing con­se­quences. Es­sen­tially, this is about know­ing your con­sumers well. Bear in mind that con­sumers’ trust is built over time through prod­uct ex­cel­lence. Brand au­then­tic­ity and mar­ket­ing in­tegrity is im­por­tant both on­line and off­line.

What do up­starts like Fenty Beauty and Glossier do well?

They en­gage con­sumers at var­i­ous stages of both the brand ex­pe­ri­ence and the pur­chase de­ci­sion-mak­ing process, across mul­ti­ple plat­forms. They un­der­stand their con­sumers, and they work fast. So­cial me­dia and blogs are the right chan­nels for reach­ing con­sumers, and en­able agility when it comes to re­spond­ing to their de­sires. No longer is it all about build­ing im­pres­sive mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar flag­ship stores. Don’t get me wrong, flag­ship stores are great, and for some brands even nec­es­sary. But they are no longer suf­fi­cient.

How is Lux­a­sia in­tro­duc­ing con­cepts and brands in ways that are rel­e­vant to to­day’s con­sumers?

It is not about over­whelm­ing con­sumers with too many op­tions, but rather en­gag­ing them through novel pop-up con­cepts, with ser­vices such as en­grav­ing, head mas­sages, and even aug­mented re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ences. In the Philip­pines, we re­cently in­tro­duced Freyja, a store that dou­bles as a beauty com­mu­nity hub. En­gag­ing con­sumers there, and through the store’s In­sta­gram ac­count (@beau­ty­byfreyja), are some of the ways we are try­ing to hear from our con­sumers more clearly, so that we can de­light them fur­ther.

“With so­cial me­dia and the in­creased rel­e­vance of key opin­ion lead­ers or in­flu­encers, con­sumers are more likely to chance upon prod­ucts based on the in­flu­encers they fol­low”

RE­THINK­ING RE­TAIL Lux­a­sia’s Es­cen­tials is known for sell­ing niche beauty brands such as Byredo (above), and its e-com­merce site mir­rors the aes­thetic of its re­tail stores. In the Philip­pines, Lux­a­sia launched Freyja (below), a store that dou­bles as a beauty com­mu­nity hub

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