October 18 2022  |  Fragrances, Cosmetics, Skincare & Haircare

FOREO discusses consumer-led innovation in beauty travel retail

By Laura Shirk

This is a special feature from Global Travel Retail Magazine's 2022 TFWA WE October issue on page 44.

Gary Leong, Global Travel Retail Director at FOREO, shines a light on its leading proof data, trend observation and product development practices

Product innovation at the company comes from two directions: in-house ideas [alongside technology development] and market and trend observation

As one of the largest and most popular beauty tech brands in the world, FOREO has developed a series of cutting-edge products and revolutionized the cosmetics industry. Referred to online as the “TESLA of Skincare” and a champion of TikTok (according to its website, FOREO is the number one most viewed skincare tool on the social media network globally), the Swedish powerhouse cultivates innovation, education and leadership at all levels.

Considering the above, Global Travel Retail Magazine contacted FOREO to learn more about consumer-led innovation and how the beauty category pioneers tech innovation, as a result of its loyal consumer base. According to Gary Leong, Global Travel Retail Director at FOREO, product innovation at the company comes from two directions: in-house ideas (alongside technology development) and market and trend observation.

“[At FOREO] it is crucial that during the development phase we explore all options creatively and acquire proof of feasibility. Proof data is vital for this and we use insights from social media and online shop systems to receive feedback and understand the customer needs and desires. We also rely on our own Customer Care data. At the heart of it, data is the business – and we build based on the data that we have accumulated to perfectly tailor our next product to the desires of the market,” says Leong.

Elaborating on the role that social media plays in the brand’s consumer-led innovation, Leong notes that it goes beyond marketing, sales and customer service. He says social media trends impact FOREO’s product development lifecycle and help to determine which products FOREO believes are necessary for future development. Keeping in mind the fickleness of social media trends, it’s key to in a way, predict future trends.

“With the astounding growth of e-commerce over the last couple of years, catering to a social media-based audience is definitely a profitable avenue. It’s critical to understand how social media is enabling innovation since e-commerce and social media growth complement one another. Then, you can develop solutions to fill in any gaps and increase business value,” explains Leong.

Sourcing activities & phase one innovation

When it comes to processes and guidelines, sourcing activities are a main component of product development at FOREO. The team relies on close communication with designers and engineers so that sourcing experts clearly understand the requirements of core components. Subsequently, Leong says, when purpose and function is fully understood, a wide overview of potential alternatives – or even better – replacements with surplus advantages can be found.

During the first phase of innovation, FOREO establishes a start-up feel, embracing open minds, a high level of creativity and as many different opinions from all levels of employees as possible. Once a concept has been validated, the team moves toward “the conservative route”: proper planning alongside R&D and manufacturing, with all that the modern industrial set-up has to offer – from high-tech design tools to an efficient QM system.

Building a consumer-focused culture

Having noticed an increase in the desire for small, appealing and compact products, Leong points out that consumer-led innovation is even more applicable to the travel retail channel. Without compromising on quality, these product traits are the ones more likely to pique the interest of travel retail customers. Considering this fact, it works well for FOREO that these traits are desirable across the board, translating into a boost in both sales and social media coverage.

When asked how FOREO has evolved from practicing consumer-led innovation to building a consumer-focused culture in travel retail, Leong says this type of culture is key to ensuring a strong customer experience – and a strong customer experience can’t be attained without a culture that is based on the needs of the client.

“A customer-focused culture puts the customer at the center of everything the company does – above profits, margins and sales. A model that prioritizes the needs of the consumer is far more sustainable since it is designed to adapt to their changing preferences.

“In tune with this, FOREO frequently launches travel retail exclusive experiences, sets and discounts that can’t be obtained via the usual retail channels. Combined, these prongs allow us to cater specifically to the travel retail customer and their particular set of requirements. With our headquarters in Shanghai, we are able put our ear to the ground and determine the next trend or the next most desirable item in line with travel retail consumption. By doing so, our travel retail sets are some of the most desired items released each year,” he adds.

In terms of providing experiences for the customer, FOREO recently conducted a close-door beauty masterclass for Lotte Duty Free VIPs. Targeting a demographic directly allowed FOREO to seek out new customers using a grassroots approach, which increases the chance of repeat purchasing. Additionally, the brand regularly experiments with pop-up activations and limited-edition versions of its hero products via the travel retail adding an element of exclusivity.

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