Future Lies In Contactless Shopping & Focus On Ecomm: Shikee Agarwal, Kiehl's India

Agarwal takes us through the many fundamental shifts in the skincare and beauty market in the last two years

The skincare market has undergone numerous changes in the past two years. Consumers have been inculcated with the habit of shopping mindfully especially when it comes to skincare. The buzzword of skin minimalism has aided this habit, with products that are only necessary for the skin being used and also listening to one’s skin’s requirements. 

There has also been a rise in the eco-conscious consumer who thinks about the environmental benefits before investing in a product. Shikee Agarwal, AVP, Kiehl's India emphasises that their products come under the Future Made Better Campaign and are made with reusable plastic. The consumers are also encouraged to bring empty containers to the store for special discounts. The newly launched Kiehl’s Creme De Corps Refillable pack ensures the least environmental damage as it has been made with reusable packaging and uses less plastic compared to 4 bottles of Kiehl’s Creme De Corps.

She gives more such interesting insights in a freewheeling conversation.

Excerpts:

Q. Given the massive business disruptions that the pandemic triggered, were you able to see any silver linings in the sector?

The e-commerce sector for skincare has seen a boost during the pandemic. Consumers have given the retail sector a boost to shift the business digitally and also have a more personalised connection with them. The lockdown has led all of us to think about the ramifications of hoarding products and got mindful shopping into play.

Q. There is an increased inclination towards organic and sustainable beauty products. What other key shifts in consumer behavior are observed?

Nature and ethnically sourced products would be the focal point for consumers’ investment in skincare. It is integral to promote this in the brand communication strategy hence at Kiehl’s India we have education programs for the KCRs (Kiehl’s Consumer Representatives) to engage the consumers in spending money on products that are safe for the environment.

There has also been an increased usage in male skincare products during the past two years as the male consumer is now aware of skincare being gender-neutral and a beneficial factor in the longer run. The pandemic has led us to rethink our values of self-care and having a dedicated routine. The male consumer is now often seen investing more in a basic skincare ritual.

Q. People are seen cocooning in homes, leading to losses for the beauty sector. Also, Kiehl's as a brand is not very heavy on ATL advertising. What does your marketing calendar look like now? Any major alterations to your communication strategy post-pandemic?

At Kiehl’s India, we have a digital-focused approach for consumers from interactive social media posts to real-time influencer-based skincare routines. Influencers from categories like wellness, beauty, health, makeup artists are targeted as they help in creating a holistic campaign for the brand. The wellness influencers talk about the soothing effects that skincare has and also help in calming the mind. The health influencers provide useful advice that helps in aiding the skin as it is a reflection of what our diet constitutes. The beauty influencers provide consumers with recommendations for skin problems and also guide them on the best skincare routine for morning and nighttime. Lastly, the makeup artists mentor the consumers to get flawless skin for getting the best of their makeup while stepping out for occasions. The consumers are elated to interact with the brand and are also active participants in the live sessions that take place on the Instagram page of the brand.

The upcoming months are filled with festive edition launches for the upcoming season, followed by the Limited Edition Collection of Essential Oils that were formulated during the initial years of the brand to celebrate the Indian anniversary of the brand as well as the 150 years of its inception. Lastly, the launch of the Limited Edition Holiday Collection Boxes just in time for Christmas celebrations.

Q. How are you looking at spinning your online and offline presence? Where will you bet higher?

At Kiehl’s India, we are focusing on giving the consumer an omnichannel experience, right from the store wherein the consumer steps in and are given a personalised skincare assessment to the end purchase. The driving force of Kiehl’s vision is the ‘try before you buy’ initiative, which allows clients to try products before they purchase and is also available on website purchases. For a digital experience, we have introduced the complimentary virtual consultation from the comfort of your own home. The consultation is purely personalised. One can ask all skincare queries, over one on one format with our coveted skincare experts. 

Also, Kiehl’s Koncierge is a Live Chat feature that provides E-consultations and elevates the online customer experience through complementary and individualised skincare consultations by providing them with tailor-made skins solutions according to the concerns shared with the E-Kiehl’s Customer Representatives. Healthy Routine Finder is another key feature where one can take a quiz to find skincare solutions best suited to their needs.

Q. What trends are anticipated for the coming years?

The skincare industry is expected to boom by 25 per cent in the coming years. Sustainability would still be a key point even in the years to come, as renewable energy resources are on a way of decline, it is our responsibility as global citizens to reduce our carbon footprints and choose brands that care about the environment. The Kiehls Made Better campaign is made keeping in mind the changing consumption patterns as they have now taken a drastic shift towards being more thoughtful about each purchase. Skincare routine is now based on ingredients that are naturally sourced and provide us with benefits that get us positivity and are beneficial in the longer run. Each product from Kiehl’s has one key ingredient that has been sourced from nature, and the list of these ingredients keeps growing with time. Secondly, all of them are derived sustainably and are sourced directly from farmers hence enabling communities to thrive. Thirdly, Kiehl's Recycle and Be Rewarded Program has led to consumers ensuring that they are mindful about the environment and encouraging them to participate. Lastly, products are manufactured by using post-consumer recycled materials wherever possible.

We are currently living in the era of digitalisation and technology, this would further enable us to become more informed about the products we use. The future of the consumer shopping experience lies in contactless shopping and a shift in focus towards e-commerce. The consumer would be able to create customised skincare with a few clicks and get them delivered on the same day.