L’Oreal TRAP on “pushing boundaries” to enhance the customer experience

By Faye Bartle |

Tao Zhang, Managing Director of L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific.

Tao Zhang, Managing Director of L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific brings us up to date on the beauty giant’s strategy for the region, from launching brand-first skincare cabins to record-breaking activations in Hainan and a focus on tailored retail experiences.

L’Oréal Travel Retail made a bold statement at the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference in Singapore in May, with its 500-square-metre duplex pavilion showcasing its portfolio of 19 top beauty brands. TRBusiness had the opportunity to meet with Tao Zhang, Managing Director of L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific, who delved into the upcoming priorities for the company.

A key location that the company is investing in is CDF Haikou International Duty Free Shopping Complex in Hainan, which opened in October 2022.

Dubbed the ‘largest single duty free store on the planet’, it has created a wave of fresh interest in opportunities for brands on the island.

L’Oreal has an impressive 19 boutiques inside the mega mall, which Zhang says is “testament to our strong partnership with China Duty Free Group”.

“We are focused on enhancing the customer experience and committed to providing them with exceptional services,” she said. “Many of the stores include the latest beauty tech innovations, such as skinscreen and modiface, and we have also launched the first-ever skincare cabins for Lancôme, Helena Rubinstein, and SkinCeuticals. All this provides a unique and personalised shopping experience to customers in travel retail.”

L'Oreal TRAP booth at TFWA AP 2023

The L’Oreal Travel retail Asia Pacific booth at the 2023 TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference in Singapore in May.

Haircare is a growing subcategory, with the shopping emporium also home to a duo of firsts for Kérastase.

“The launch of Kérastase’s first-ever retail store and experiential pop-up at CDF Haikou International Free Shopping Complex was a significant achievement, and reports suggest that it was well received by shoppers,” said Zhang.

“Customers appreciated the availability of professional hair styling services on weekends and on public holidays, which added to the overall shopping experience. The brand will continue to expand its footprint with pop-ups and upcoming stores.”

Elsewhere on Hainan, the professional haircare and styling product brand unveiled a Genesis (anti-fall haircare) themed pop-up at CDF Sanya International Duty Free City in June.

Hainan and beyond

Peak occasions throughout the year, for which activities may extend across the region, include Golden Week, as well as 520 (Chinese Valentine’s Day). This year, 520 was celebrated at the end of May, with Ctrip and CDFG via a joint collaboration with Biotherm.

Tao Zhang, Managing Director of L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific

Zhang: “We are focused on enhancing the customer experience and committed to providing them with exceptional services.”

Lunar New Year (LNY) is, of course, another top diary date, with Prada Beauty unveiling its first LNY themed pop-up at CDF Sanya International Duty Free City in February.

There was also the headline-grabbing campaign for Yves Saint Laurent Beauté at CDFG Mova Mall, in partnership with CDFG, which smashed the shopping centre’s Weibo livestream record, attracting 47 million viewers in just one hour. It demonstrates company’s ability to craft and implement successful O+O (Online + Offline) campaigns and to collaborate with high-profile personalities such as Wang Ziyi (a popular Chinese rapper, dancer and singer) to captivate an audience.

“It is always important to put consumer needs first, and tailor the campaign to the audience while showcasing the brand’s identity,” said Zhang. “Partnering with great retail partners are also essential components of an effective O+O campaign in Hainan.

“Together with the star appeal of celebrities or personalities, it helps to amplify our target messaging to the right audience, and they can be highly influential to consumers. Additionally, we presented limited edition products, which are greatly desirable among consumers.

“For the Yves Saint Laurent Beauté LNY campaign, it offered an engaging and memorable experience to our consumers to celebrate the New Year, and they saw it as an ultra-desirable gifting destination. It broke the O+O boundaries by enabling online and offline audiences to be interact real-time via a screen projection, programmed wristbands, and a dedicated mobile web app page as well as many other activations such as gamification, street dance, DJ live, and celebrity performances.”

L'Oreal TRAP booth at TFWA AP 2023

The L’Oreal Travel Retail Asia Pacific booth at the 2023 TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference with Kérastase on the right – haircare is a growing subcategory for the division.

It’s an approach that will endure as international travel from China resumes.

“Our strategy for Hainan now that international travel from China has restarted is to continue our focus on providing exceptional consumer experiences through innovative and tailored offerings, such as personalised beauty consultations, exclusive product launches and digital experiences,” said Zhang.

“We recognise that Hainan is a key market for travel retail and beauty, and will continue to focus on building brand loyalty, as well as engaging with new consumers who are visiting Hainan for the first time.

“As always, our goal is to bring the best of L’Oréal to all travellers and provide them with new and exciting experiences whenever they interact with our brands in Hainan.

Bringing beauty tech to travel retail

L’Oréal is “constantly” exploring new and innovative ways to enhance the customer experience in travel retail – the Lancôme Skin Screen (powered by AI to track 12 clinical skin parameters for accurate skin diagnosis) is a great example of this. And there’s a lot more to come.

Among the innovations in the pipeline are: SkinCeuticals Advanced Skinscope (an AI-driven diagnostic tool for complete skin diagnosis and routine recommendation), which launched in May in Hainan; Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Scent-Sation (the first in-store fragrance finder based on neuroscience) that’s set to launch in travel retail this year; and the Kerastase K-Scan 2.0 (once again powered by AI and with three different lights to help stylists analyse scalp and hair results), which is launching in 2024.

Tao Zhang, Managing Director of L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific

Zhang road tests the Lancôme Skin Screen.

“These are just a few examples,” said Zhang. “We are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology to enhance the customer experience and bring new excitement and innovation to the world of beauty.”

Digital creativity is also shining though, with the collaboration with Urban Decay and China’s virtual human AYAYI at the brand’s first anniversary in Hainan in December 2022. It’s an area that’s ripe for development.

“L’Oréal recognises the importance of digital innovation in the beauty industry, and we are always exploring new ways to connect with consumers through digital platforms,” said Zhang. “Our recent collaboration with Urban Decay and AYAYI is just one example of this. We are exploring several tools and technologies that can help us elevate our digital presence and bring innovative experiences to consumers.

“This includes the Lancôme Renergie activation this year, where we had avatar retailtainment and a virtual store; and during Lunar New Year this year where we had a livestream with the most immersive scenery including the first-ever digital and sustainable digital drone show.

“It is also key that our makeup brands also leverage digital technologies with colour excitement and launches. Brands such as Yves Saint Laurent Beauté and Shu Uemura lead beauty tech innovation that help consumers virtually try the product and enhance online buzz leading to offline engagement.”

READ MORE: L’Oréal Paris promotes Revitalift with Bangkok science lab-themed pop-up

READ MORE: Kérastase unveils debut retail store and pop-up at Haikou duty free complex

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