Founder and CEO of Rodial skincare and make-up, Maria Hatzistefanis, recently told an audience of retail professionals that her global company wants all of its customers to feel that they have that one-to-one relationship with the brand.

Whether shoppers are online or in one of the 2,000 beauty boutiques or department stores where the Rodial range appears, Hatzistefanis is keen to personalise interactions as much as possible.

Talking at a recent event hosted by eCommerce platform Kooomo in central London, she explained how the company has boosted sales by customising emails, newsletters and homepages to customers that have purchased from its ranges before.

“We are using personalisation to segment our VIP list and reach the top 500 customers that spend above a certain level,” she added.

“We’re customising the homepage to have them see the more expensive products. We’ve seen a huge increase in open rates and click-throughs. It’s all about personalisation and customisation that works for us.”

Beauty apps

Hatzistefanis views this style of personalisation as more effective that using augmented reality mobile apps, which seem to be emerging from the beauty industry far more than any other sector.

L’Oreal, Estée Lauder and Rimmel are among the brands that have experimented with these functions on their websites and apps.

Talking after the Kooomo event, she explained: “I do believe in personalisation when it comes to understanding customers’ skin problems or make-up challenges and developing a plan that is personalised to them and something they see when they open the website.

“I have seen apps out there but a lot of them haven’t gained enough traction to actually be able to survive. There are a lot of gimmicks out there that the customer would maybe check once or twice but never go back.”

Rodial had an app that was used in its counter and beauty area at Harvey Nichols in London’s Knightsbridge – the destination considered to be the brand’s flagship ‘store’. People could take a picture of themselves and the app would personalise the products they used for their makeover.

Later, they would receive an email with a picture that highlighted where on their face they should apply the product, as well as recommendations about other products.

“We found it was hard to get the salespeople to prioritise getting the app up to speed. They would much rather focus on the makeover, the personal connection and making the sale… so we decided to drop it.”

Social media

An area where Rodial has experienced success recently is on social media. Hatzistefanis, who founded the brand in 1999 and has overseen its growth to 35 countries, said that revenues from social media have tripled over the last year thanks to the launch of Instagram Stories in August 2016.

The social media channel allows retailers and brands to promote products and special events, and it also comes with a sophisticated advertising platform tool that includes analytics for measuring success of campaigns.

“Years ago there were some super-complicated third-party service providers that you had to go through,” noted Hatzistefanis.

“Instagram would be linked to a website which would forward the link to your own website. The introduction of Instagram Stories where you can actually have a link directly leading to your website and a specific product has cut out the need for third-party operators.”

Instagram is where most of Rodial’s social media efforts go because the CEO sees her company as a very visual brand.

“I find that Instagram is the perfect platform just because we have those visual assets and we communicate to our customers with visuals,” said Hatzistefanis, adding that appearing on Instagram Stories has helped drive impulse buys.

Influencers

Rodial’s presence on Instagram is part of a wider social media focus that includes using influencers in different countries to help spread the brand’s message. Depending on the size of the target country, the beauty company will either deploy one of its own team to identify the most suitable beauty influencers, or employ a third-party agency to build those relationships on its behalf.

Influencer marketing is viewed by Rodial as a key part of entering a new region. Hatzistefanis said: “Before we even think about the platform, we need to create demand in every market. We identify markets we want to grow and look for influencers in every market.”

The company is looking to expand its presence in Asia at present, using Hong Kong as a central hub from which to build the brand in that part of the world.

Innovation

Rodial grew its sales by 20% last year, and the same jump in sales is expected for the current financial year. Last year’s group revenues were approximately £20 million, helped by continuing key wholesale partnerships with the likes of Harvey Nichols, Space NK, John Lewis and Selfridges.

Its 150-strong staff base are continually looking for the next big innovation, it seems, with Hatzistefanis currently keen to improve the product sampling process. As reported in Essential Retail, it’s an area of the beauty industry that is ripe for change.

She said: “There are all sorts of ways to sample through the website but we are looking at ways of automating the sampling process and coming up with a technology that helps us quickly identify the needs of our customers before putting together a personalised pack of samples to send them.

“Finding a way of being more efficient and personalised with sampling is something we are looking at right now.”

Many online and wholesale-only brands have been opening up their own stores in recent years, but there are no imminent plans for any Rodial standalone stores. However, Hatzistefanis acknowledges there could be benefits of opening a physical presence.

“It’s one of those things that always circles in my mind, and I think how amazing it would be to have a home where I can showcase the product in the best possible way,” she remarked.

“But then I’m always considering the challenges that retailers face right now with a lot of people moving to purchasing everything online. Maybe one day it will happen.”