Florio and Le Gloan Evolve La Prairie's Luxury Position in Retail Universe
In January 2012,, President and CEO of the La Prairie Group, announced that was elevated to Global Brand President, overseeing global marketing and positioning of all La Prairie products within the brand’s 82-country distribution. Mr. Rasquinet also named as La Prairie’s President, Americas and Oceana, responsible for the North and South America, Australia and New Zealand markets, a position he assumed in November 2011.
Beauty Fashion sat down with Ms. Florio and Mr. Le Gloan to learn about their initiatives to maintain the luxury positioning of La Prairie and their plans for continued growth.
“When Patrick Rasquinet joined La Prairie two years ago, he embarked on very big structural changes that would protect the global consistency of the brand,” Ms. Florio explained. “His very clear vision was to make La Prairie one of the world’s leading luxury beauty brands.”
“A strength of La Prairie is that our message has remained the same for the last 35 years,” Ms. Florio affirmed. “We stand for luxury, service, innovation and performance. That message and platform will not change.”
Marketing, Ms. Florio noted, is the first pillar in La Prairie’s globalization. “While some companies separate trade and brand marketing, La Prairie has combined them in a synergistic relationship.”
La Prairie recognized that there are regional differences, so the brand has been set up to be more sensitive to local markets. The company is divided into three regions–Asia, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), the Americas and Oceana (North and South America, Australia and New Zealand). “These regions are headed by Vice Presidents of regions and supported by regional business development units. They act as a filter for what customers need in those local markets. They can come to us with a platform of concise input and direction that will help us to continue to develop products and programs to support our customers.”
Ms. Florio informed that La Prairie strategizes its business not only on a regional basis but also by channels of distribution. “We define those channels as department stores, perfumeries, e-commerce, travel retail and spa. The Americas/Oceana and Asia have a predominantly department store distribution. EMEA has mostly perfumeries, and chains, and travel retail runs the gamut worldwide.”
La Prairie’s regional structure allows the company to customize its marketing strategy to each area. “La Prairie was first launched in the US, so we have a mature channel of retail distribution,” she noted. “We gain market share within this distribution by acquiring new customers and expanding within our existing distribution.”
The channel of distribution has changed in the EMEA, with a tough economy and a changing retail scene. “We are looking closely at our distribution to find the best retail locations to expand our footprint.”
Ms. Florio perceives Asia as the biggest area for expansion. “In Asia, there are two opportunities for growth—distribution and customers.”
Ms. Florio sees the challenge of maintaining price control, programming and customer service as consistent across every channel and region. “And I want to preserve the closeness we have with our customers as we take our opportunities online. With the Beauty Advisor’s close connection to the customer, we have access to her, know what she is all about, what she wants and desires even before she herself knows. The question is how we translate the strength of La Prairie, our Beauty Advisors and our experience at counter, to online.”
“One way is through customization and personalization. We can know the customer’s identity when she signs in online, what she has purchased in the past and other information that used to be driven in-store. One thing we miss online is the customer’s experience with the products at the counter. We have so much success because our products are high performance, luxurious, sensual and textured. Once you try them, you fall in love.”
Ms. Florio credits Asia with spurring the global development of whitening and brightening products as well as BB creams. “Now they are expanding all over the world. Our White Caviar Illuminating Système was developed specifically for Asia, and then we realized that our customers in the US were asking for the same thing.”
In defining the client base in Asia, she finds that they want luxury, texture and texture in their products and expect that a product should provide multiple benefits. “In Korea, the skincare ritual is robust, and customers are happy to apply as many as eleven or twelve products.”
China and Russia, Ms. Florio believes, offer tremendous opportunities for La Prairie. “We need to increase distribution in those two countries. We just [set up] our own affiliate in Russia.”
“In China, they want products that are of top quality and that are exclusive and coveted.” She informed that La Prairie’s installations in China provide a spa experience. “The customer sits across from the Beauty Advisor, where in-depth service protocols are all about taking time with the client.”
La Prairie has spas in Korea and Japan and free-standing stores in Hong Kong. “The spa is the most intimate connection you have with a client. It’s a perfect way to provide a high touch experience and to pamper the customer,” she said.
Ms. Florio maintains that there must be “global consistency on service, product performance and execution with an emphasis on regional uniqueness.” Consumers’ habits have changed, and they use the Web and social media to get a lot of information. “We need to balance how much information we need to provide to a client with how much they actually want to digest.”
The role of the Beauty Advisor is “a very big job,” according to Ms. Florio. “It’s the first contact that a customer has in that retail environment, and our goal is to provide the ultimate consumer experience. We can bring them to the counter digitally with ads and promotions, but the experience at the counter must live up to their expectations. The Beauty Advisor must be able to ‘read’ the customer and find out what it is she wants to hear about—what kind of sampling and follow-up.”
“There may be regional or cultural differences, but there are universal values. People want to be treated with respect,” Ms. Florio declared. “They want to be thanked for their patronage. If a customer comes to our counter and has made a purchase, we have to show our gratefulness for that investment.”
To keep the magic in the La Prairie brand, Ms. Florio noted, “Every day, we recruit, hire and train the best people that we can find to build a brand that has been incredible for 35 years. If we stay true to our customer base, then we will grow as that customer grows. We are backed by Beiersdorf, an amazing company that wants us to maintain our DNA as a company, which offers the best skincare that is sold and serviced in the best level of distribution.”
François Le Gloan
The department store, Mr. Le Gloan believes, is where “La Prairie can express itself properly and where the consumer can fully immerse themselves in the brand and our products.” In the US, there are 220 points of sale, and in Latin America about 100 in a selective distribution of perfumeries and some department stores.
He perceives La Prairie’s US market as mature, but still sees “several opportunities for growth.” With La Prairie ranking #1 in cosmetics at several points of distribution, Mr. Le Gloan will seek to build more business within La Prairie’s existing network by approaching each bricks-and-mortar door as an individual boutique to uncover the full potential within each one.
Another area of growth potential for La Prairie is in e-commerce, according to Mr. Le Gloan, whether it is on laprairie.com or on a retailer’s website. “Since we are carried in about 33 states, half of our Internet sales come from states where we don’t have distribution. The Internet is a wonderful platform for customers to discover and research the brand. The traffic on laprairie.com is also up 70%, so we know it is a very powerful tool and we have an ambitious program to further enhance our brand site,” he noted.
Stating that La Prairie has a robust range of products available at varying price points, “within La Prairie’s universe, we can cater to any skincare need,” Mr. Le Gloan affirmed. “We are quite accessible with the variety of our ranges whether it is the Advanced Marine Biology Collection, which uses potent marine botanicals to target the first signs of aging, the luxurious firming benefits of caviar extracts found in the Skin Caviar Collection or the age-defying benefits of the Platinum Collection powered in part by one of the world’s most precious metals, platinum, to name a few.”
“La Prairie prides itself on the quality of its service. “We are very attentive to the way we recruit and train our Beauty Advisors. They are our first line of communication with our customers, and we continually look at what training we can provide them so they have the tools to be even better. While our Beauty Advisors are very personable and highly skilled in their craft, we will be providing additional techniques and information so they can better understand the consumer and uncover what she is looking for.”
“Part of providing the highest level of service is delivering an experience that is personalized to each consumer’s needs in that moment. If a consumer is already informed about our products, the Beauty Advisor invites them to experience the formulations. If the customer doesn’t wish to buy right away, samples are given so that they can experience them at home. Once they try our products and see the results, they come back and buy.”
Visiting the retailers is a priority for Mr. Le Gloan. “I want to see how the brand is translated at point-of-sale,” he noted. “When I first enter a store, I look for our counter’s space and location. Is it visible and easy to find? In most cases, our space and location are outstanding, but if not, I see how we can gain more visibility.”
“When I arrive at the counter,” he continues, “I am very sensitive to the vibes from the Beauty Advisors. Are they happy to be at the counter? Are they willing to share their experiences with me? If they are new, I like to ask why they joined the brand and about the training they received. I have found that a common thread among our Beauty Advisors is they are eager to share their passion for the brand and its prestige with the customers. They love the brand.”
Mr. Le Gloan is very sensitive to the layout of an installation: “Is it the right environment for the client to experience the brand? I look at how the brand is displayed. I also look for direct feedback from our Beauty Advisors on any new products we have introduced. And I check the installation’s numbers to see how well all of these elements are working together.”
Along with the keys to La Prairie’s success—the products and the Beauty Advisors—Mr. Le Gloan credits the brand’s special relationship with the retailers. “I have worked in Asia and Europe, and did not experience the same close connection I see here with the retailers in the US. The teams at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s are a pleasure to work with.”
He finds that the retailers are very complimentary about La Prairie’s customer retention. “When the retailers measure the number of customers who return for purchases, we always rank very well.” He shares that La Prairie’s current clients are very supportive of the brand and bring their friends to the counter. “Word of mouth is one of the key customer recruitment channels for us.”
Facials are a great asset in allowing the customer to experience La Prairie’s products. “We have an extensive program of facial events throughout the year including our own cabins in about 12 stores for facial services, and,” Mr. Le Gloan added, “our spas, such as the one in New York City’s Ritz-Carlton and our Silver Rain spa in The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, are a wonderful introduction to our products and the brand.”
La Prairie’s challenge, he believes, is to look constantly for innovation. “You cannot rest on your laurels. We strive to continually surprise and delight our customers by introducing high performance, luxurious skincare essentials that our customers need and want, coupled with the highest level of service.”