Avon lady booked in for a digital makeover
● The Avon lady is getting a digital makeover in a belated campaign by the beauty company to drag its direct sales business into the 21st century.
Up to a million members of Avon Products’ global army of doorstep sellers are to receive training by the end of the year in how to exploit social networks to promote cosmetics.
Having separated its North America business in 2016, Avon’s largest markets include Brazil, the UK and SA. It is targeting expansion in other countries, including India and China.
The push into tech-driven “social selling” is part of what Avon executives are calling a revolution at the company, founded in 1886 by a door-to-door bookseller.
Yet the initiative is likely to encounter scepticism, given Avon’s long struggle to adapt to the age of e-commerce.
“Over the last number of years we lost our way,” said Jan Zijderveld, who was installed as CEO in February. “But the beauty market is growing, the direct-selling market is growing — the core and essence of what Avon has to offer is still absolutely relevant.”
It is Avon’s latest attempt to reverse a multiyear slide in revenue and an exodus of sales reps. Previous efforts to harness technology have failed to spur a turnround.
Avon, based in West London and listed in New York, has lost to rivals in the booming yet rapidly changing beauty sector. Its market capitalisation has collapsed from 2004 highs of almost $22bn to $1.1bn (R15.6bn).
The digital training forms part of the company’s $300m investment in itself. At the same time it is also planning to cut $400m of costs by 2021.
As part of the shake-up, Zijderveld, who spent 30 years at Unilever, is planning to reduce the number of products Avon offers. “We have a huge tail — many products are selling absolutely minimally,” he said.
He wants Avon representatives, who sell via printed brochures, to also become “e-representatives”, targeting contacts through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Jonathan Myers, a former Procter & Gamble executive who joined last year as COO, said: “If I were to say we need to play catchup in e-commerce, that would be a good example of British understatement.
“What we need to do is actually trigger a revolution inside Avon.”