L’Occitane: technology + people = customer

“What does it mean being omnichannel?” Alexis Dusanter, group supply chain eCommerce at L’Occitane, asks delegates in the audience of Manhattan Exchange’s keynote in Barcelona this week.

“The term ‘omnichannel’ did not even exist a few years ago. Now the new term is supposed to be ‘unified commerce’. But what we know is that the term ‘customer’ will always exist and we will always be there to serve the customers.”

Dusanter describes how the French beauty retailer is shifting perceptions internally about the way it runs its various retail channels, including stores, eCommerce, wholesale, B2B (hotels) and spas, to take a more holistic approach. This all started around the time of the brand’s 40th birthday in 2015, when Amazon shook up the retail industry by launching a bricks and mortar proposition.

“What Amazon made us realise was that it would be possible to reach online to offline worlds,” he explains. “We believe our smart, connected and enhanced in-store customer experience is a key way to differentiate. But we also believe our beauty advisors and store associates are the way to bring this human approach to cosmetics, which we are good at.”

But Dusanter says thinking customer first and going “beyond a channels mindset” is easier said than done. It starts with changing the mindset of the overall organisation from the top. “Shifting from a company-centric organisation to a customer-centric organisation – that’s the big shift, and when you look at the way we are structured today, it’s not that easy.”

Customer-first change

He gives the example of incentivising in-store associates to embrace new fulfilment methods. “If you don’t change the way you incentivise people, you won’t be able to prepare orders in store for couriers to pick up – if they don’t believe in it, they will never make it.”

He also describes how retailers need to change from separate reporting structures for eCommerce and in-store retail, to omnichannel reporting, while ensuring customer loyalty schemes work across the various channels L’Occitane offers.

In a bid to transform the internal mind set at L’Occitane, the company devised a digital transformation programme called Spring, which consists of a ‘plug and play’ architecture that can adapt easily to customer needs.

Currently the programme consists of working with partners including Salesforce Commerce Cloud to deliver a personalised online and mobile experience, Adyen to ensure it is up-to-date with all the latest payment methods, and Manhattan to upgrade its supply chain and fulfilment operations.

Leveraging the store estate

L’Occitane believes in leveraging its 3,420 retail stores and 9,000 employees in 90 countries to offer customers fast and convenient delivery solutions to online orders. It is currently in the middle of rolling out the Manhattan’s Active Omni solution, which has enabled the brand to offer ship from store, click & collect, order from store and concierge solutions in North America.

“The goal is to leverage our store footprint as much as possible, add inventories, and to be more reactive to compete with pureplayers like Amazon,” says Dusanter. “With an Amazon Prime membership [customers can receive orders in two hours], we’re not able to compete against that, but if we can take the benefit of our stores, we’ll be closer.”