Avon seeks delivery solutions to help scale its business

Avon is struggling to find a fulfilment solution which can negotiate its network of direct-to-consumer representatives selling beauty products around the world

In an age where next-day and one-hour delivery is the benchmark, the retailer is calling out for fulfilment partners to speed up its complex delivery proposition.

The beauty retailer’s group VP of global order fulfilment and distribution, Graeme Carter, took to the keynote stage at Metapack’s The Delivery Conference in London this week to ask for help from delivery solutions providers.

Carter – who joined Avon 18 months ago following a career at Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Amazon – detailed the 130-year-old brand’s digital transformation. He claims 90% of the world’s population are familiar with Avon – “Ding, dong, Avon calling” being the fondly remembered phrase. The retailer has six million global representatives selling Avon products – 3.2 billion units shipped, at an average value of $2. It is because of this low value-large volume that the business is struggling to keep up with the demand of ever-faster delivery service consumers are used to from the likes of Amazon.

While Avon is considered an iconic British and American brand, the beauty retailer is expanding considerably in Latin America (60% of the business now coming from this region), Russia and Asia. But because the retailer ships products to its representatives to deliver directly to the customer face-to-face, Avon has to consider that a rep in Johannesburg may have a customer over 500km away in Durban, so it needs a fulfilment solution that is flexible enough to allow delivery direct to the consumer if necessary.

Innovation + millennials

One way the retailer has been innovating in fulfilment is by offering two-hour delivery in Brazil and Columbia, where representatives hold a small amount of inventory at their homes so when a customer uses the app requesting speedy delivery, they can fulfil that order within two hours. “We’re getting faster at providing that service so we can attract millennials who think it is key to be online and fast.”

The retailer has also recently launched a customer service chatbot in Poland, a new app for its Italian sales representatives, and a personalised beauty app for customers.

Carter said the business is launching these solutions because it is struggling to attract millennials to the brand – both as representatives and customers. He said the business is declining because the 'Avon ladies' who have been selling the products for many years are retiring and there is a lack of interest from millennials to join the brand.

“And we’re not bringing in the new millennials, how do we reach the new audience?” said Carter, who pointed out that millennials associate the brand with their mothers or grandmothers. “That’s not a success story we’ll have going into 2020 and beyond.”

Avon has been undergoing a dramatic transformation to address these challenges. Calling the transformation a “makeover”, Carter joked that the Avon business needed a bit of “nip and tuck cosmetic surgery” because there is so much to do.

As part of its digital transformation, Avon has seen a huge shake of its executive team in recent months. It has hired a new VP for digital development, Nick Burton, who’s role is to drive the company’s digital sales model, which involves exploring new opportunities for selling online and “e-enabling its representatives”

Vikram Agarwal has also joined as vice president & chief supply chain officer earlier this month, and Gustavo Arnal is set to start his role as executive vice president & chief financial officer later in the spring.  Further underlining its newfound digital credentials, Avon appointed Colin Shenoy as vice president for IT transformation in October last year, and announced a new digital training programme for sales teams, described as its Digital Innovation University to aid eCommerce skills and selling techniques on social media.