Just three weeks to go before our Forrester's Forum For Marketing Leaders in London kicks off on May 13-14. In addition to industry thought-leaders from William Hill PLC and Intesa Sanpaolo, I am excited we have been able to confirm Amy Nelson-Bennett, CEO and President of Molton Brown Global, the global luxury body & beauty brand based in London, as one of our keynote speakers.
Since joining Molton Brown, shortly after its purchase by the Kao Corporation, Amy has modernised the brand and business operations, particularly in the areas of eCommerce, eCRM, and other digital marketing programmes. She has also successfully leveraged resources across the Kao organisation to help accelerate Molton Brown’s growth outside of the UK home market, and more recently has been working with the other Kao brands to better leverage digital assets and talent within the Kao organisation in EMEA and the Americas.
In the run-up to the Forum, I caught up with Amy and asked her these questions to uncover some of her messages for the marketing leaders attending our London event. Do join us on May 13-14 to hear Amy's full story!
Q: As a well-known British brand with an international footprint and a strong retail presence, how has consumer behaviour in relation to channels changed in your view, and how this has impacted your organization?
There have been three major changes I have observed in my eight years with Molton Brown. First, our luxury consumer is increasingly difficult to define through traditional means: demographics, lifestyle, etc. Omni-channel shopping behaviour means most MB consumers have multiple ‘faces’ that change as their day-to-day needs do, i.e., the way a consumer wants to interact with our brand changes moment by moment. This is a fantastic challenge for us to rise to in the luxury sector where consumers place a particularly high value on personalisation.
Second, how a consumer defines service and value is constantly evolving and therefore the actions we take today to deliver excellence in these areas are quite different from what we would have done five years ago. Functional product excellence and efficient services are a hygiene factor. The emotional connection to the origin of our brand and our products – the quality of the stories we tell– and the aesthetic experience (from purchase to delivery to opening to usage) need to be extremely rich and genuine both in-store and on-line. This is how consumers today are defining quality and value in our sector.
Finally, the consumer has gained a far louder voice in the last couple of years, accelerated by social media and smartphones. The challenges of this are not unique to our brand or luxury. However, for Molton Brown, this actually provides a great opportunity. We have always been lucky to enjoy a large base of extreme loyalists to our brand, and their growing desire for two-way engagement allows us to involve them in areas of our business such as NPD with an ease that wasn’t possible even two years ago. They have strong opinions on our brand and products, and the earlier and harder we listen to those and quicker we respond the more successful I believe we will be.
All of the above has driven large changes in our organisation in culture, investment, training & development, operations, etc. Incentive programmes, for example, have been altered to reward shared results across sales channels to ensure our consumer experiences ‘one Molton Brown’. Another example is our investment in technology, which now far exceeds our marketing budget, a unique business model within the larger Kao organisation of which Molton Brown is a part. No area of our business has really gone untouched by these changes, and I expect the rate of change necessary to meet consumer needs to accelerate.
Q: What are some of the lessons learned by luxury brands such as yours in how to best deliver value to the 21st-century consumers that are relevant for all B2C brands?
Embrace change early. Many luxury brands felt that eCommerce wasn’t relevant to their brand, or more recently that their consumer wasn’t engaging with social media. I still encounter people who assume ‘experience’ can only be delivered in a traditional bricks & mortar environment and that eCommerce is only used for convenience. In fact it is entirely logical that cash-rich, time-poor luxury consumers are digital mavens. They lead and they are demanding, given the price tag attached to the goods & services they seek. They see only Molton Brown, or any other luxury brand, and don’t think in terms of sales channels or media channels. Luxury brands who understand the 21st-century luxury-consumers’ needs for personalisation and utilise the tools available to deliver that regardless of channel will – I believe – thrive commercially while growing brand equity.
Q: When thinking about multichannel orchestration, to what extent is success driven by technology and how much by people and incentives?
Technology is of course a critical enabler, but without the correct culture and incentives in an organisation the customer experience will be suboptimal and investment in technology likely to be wasted, or at least under-optimised. It’s always people first for me. Changing the mindset of an organisation is much a tougher challenge than a complex tech-led project, but the rewards of uniting staff across functions and locations behind a truly common goal has been an immensely powerful alignment tool in a complex business such as ours. It also instils a drive for continuous improvement, and without this – no matter what the investment in technology – no brand will continue to meet its consumers’ needs.
Q: What do you think consumers will expect from the Molton Brown multichannel experience in the 21st century?
The same they expect now: excellence every time they interact with our brand. Our consumers’ definition of excellence, however, varies by individual and continues to change and broaden. We need to rise to this challenge. It is an enormous opportunity for the Molton Brown brand to continue to thrive.