Sales of beauty products are booming in Asia, and it’s now one of the most important global regions for growth and development. Competition for lucrative sales is fierce, and CPM’s mystery shopping experience has proved invaluable to leading beauty company Coty, providing vital market intelligence by increasing Coty’s understanding of customers’ buying behaviour.
Hong Kong (HK) was the first Asian market Coty wanted CPM to focus on as it occupies a critical location as the gateway to the lucrative Chinese market. The CPM team began their mystery shopping programme using criteria which was based on the accepted standard of excellence in beauty customer service. It is focused on a European style service flow involving conversation, developing a relationship with the client and tailoring the service to their needs. The HK market however did not always conform to this accepted practise, shoppers fell into two distinct customer types, the HK local and the Chinese customer. Chinese customers did not want to spend time at the counter, they favoured “get in, get out” fast interaction. Yet they were the bigger spenders, bulk buying for family and friends who valued the prestige of buying exclusive goods in HK.
This presented the CPM team with an interesting problem as initially they were assessing the service of the staff through the accepted international guidelines which has a definite Western lens and does not take into consideration the habits of the Chinese customer. The rise in income of the Chinese middle class and subsequence increase in their international travel has necessitated an adaptation of the mystery shopping measurement criteria. The CPM exercise led to a better understanding of the shopping experience and needs of these customers. CPM and Coty realised that they needed to understand more about what Chinese customers wanted from their time in the retail store.
The learnings from HK became even more valuable when the mystery shopping project was rolled out from HK to Malaysia. A mixed mystery shopping team made up of Malay, Western and Chinese women was recruited to ensure there was a spread of profiles that were truly reflective of Coty’s customers. This local knowledge was applied to several customer service touch points including the Malay wedding gifting custom “hantaran.” The team noted whether the sales assistant offered specific extras for these customers such as special gift wrapping.
The CPM mystery shopping team have skilfully adapted global standards, keeping what is applicable to all markets and modifying where necessary to suit the local market. This is especially important in Asian markets like HK and Malaysia where there is strong customer segmentation. Sharing such useful intelligence gives clients the cutting edge necessary to keep ahead of the competition and has helped Asia to become the biggest contributor to Gucci Beauty sales globally.
Our sense of smell is intimately linked to our emotions, the mere hint of a long forgotten scent can evoke a powerful memory. CPM’s Regional Training Managers educate Beauty Advisors (BAs) in stores across Asia to tap into this emotion and maximise sales of Coty’s impressive stable of iconic perfumes. Their innovative approach has proved to be hugely effective.
So what are their methods? It starts with immersive coaching, both in the classroom and on the shop floor. Like all of us a perfume has a history, personality and family. The CPM team tutor the BAs so they gain a thorough understanding of these principles. The next step is to develop a feeling and connection to the fragrance which can be translated into language. A good example is the limited edition Marc Jacobs, 2017 Daisy KISS collection, which is inspired by the vibrant and electric emotion of a kiss in the spring season. Translating this essence so customers can picture and feel the emotion takes knowledge and confidence. The BAs trained by the CPM team acquire this skill and are able to actively engage with customers using powerful keywords and images to impart the vision. A BA’s confidence improves immeasurably when she sees an active engagement translating into actual sales.
The CPM team also understand how cross cultural differences can influence perfume sales. An interesting example is the Chinese market. Traditionally perfume is not important in Chinese culture but the millennial generation are actively changing this. They love designer brands and are highly aspirational. The CPM team train the BAs to position Coty’s Gucci perfume as an affordable gateway to acquiring the glamour, attitude and personality of the brand. Sales have subsequently increased across the Chinese and Hong Kong market, with Hong Kong having the strongest global sales of the Gucci brand.
Perfume is a sophisticated and complex category. Using CPM’s highly skilled, regional training team to teach in-store BAs to make sense of it and actively engage with customer’s emotions to impart the magic of scent is a crucial step in the sales process.