Odile Mohen, head of Consumer & Market Insight (CMI) at L’Oréal Research, tells us about CMI’s input in Botanicals Fresh Care, the new brand from L’Oréal Paris inspired by nature.
Building a comprehensive view to track new consumer expectations
Working closely with Innovation, CMI builds consumer intelligence and decodes developments in beauty-related habits around the world, both on mature and emerging markets alike. “The idea is to take consumer expectations and turn them into technological and scientific innovations. Botanicals Fresh Care was born from a decade-long information-gathering exercise spanning on every continent”, says Odile.
For Botanicals Fresh Care, CMI performed helicopter analyses that brought together the work of several departments. “Consumer Insight identified different insight areas – development of natural hair care solutions, for example – and carried out cross-cutting studies. Market Insight provided market analyses on topics ranging from sales performance to brand shares, while Foresight spotted key social trends among consumers, such as concerns about chemicals or a stronger need for transparency”, explains Odile. The goal was to gain a comprehensive overview to fully understand consumer needs from every angle, be it cultural, emotional or geographic. “We used web listening techniques to monitor and lead discussions within online communities. We also carried out full-blown ethnographic studies on local markets. To give an example, we asked 1,000 women in nine different countries to film their beauty routines over a two-week period, at home – and not only in the bathroom – and on the go, to really capture their habits. We received more than 30,000 videos, which we are using to get a better insight into consumer practices and expectations all over the world”, says Odile.
Natural, transparent & authentic: increasingly in demand
While they may vary geographically, universal expectations are emerging: “People are on a quest for natural, authentic products and, on a more general note, they want to better control their consumption”.
CMI’s listening work has identified two major social trends with an impact on beauty product consumption. First, there is a growing appetite for the use of natural ingredients. The Foresight department tracked the success of original natural products in Korea, Japan and USA as well as the rise of niche brands in this area. Second, people are seeking to understand products better and want to better control their consumption. “Our web listening activities picked up on a rising interest in DIY solutions. For example, more and more people are using baking soda and other ingredients to create their own shampoos, because they see them as a more natural way to detox their hair and restore its health. By combining these social trends with behavioural observations and market data, we spotted a real groundswell among consumers, suggesting a major potential business opportunity for a new era”, says Odile. According to her, the emphasis on transparency, authenticity and natural products is nothing new but has nonetheless gained ground in recent years. “These trends have crystallised with digitalisation and the accelerated circulation of information. Consumers in different countries can now chat about their interests and negative media coverage quickly crosses borders, as witnessed in Europe with regards to the horse meat scandal. As a result, consumers are more informed and are increasingly talking through these new information and communication channels. This raises a lot of questions: what is the purpose of my consumption? What experience will this product provide? These questions, initially limited to food and household products, gradually spread to cover the entire spectrum of consumer products”, explains Odile.
Guiding research and inspiring innovation: CMI’s input in product development
CMI’s role does not end there. As Odile explains, “We also have to raise awareness about the importance of integrating these new needs to craft the finest product lines”.
To capitalise on this opportunity, CMI distils and shares information with as many divisions of the Group as possible. “We try to share our insights widely through weekly newsletters and presentations, but also by leading regular workshops, to which beauty experts are invited, as well as by taking part in key research meetings.” However, the goal is not to simply share information and intelligence on consumers and their rapidly-changing habits: CMI aims to inspire innovation and product development. “We routinely send analyses to research centre heads, innovation directors and Group brands. We have even made presentations to the Executive Committee”, Odile tells us. During the process of developing Botanicals Fresh Care, CMI shared and discussed its insights with L’Oréal Paris’s research centre, marketing research team and marketers, helping to guide the team’s decision on location selection, sensory preferences and ingredients.
Meeting consumer expectations
“By placing the consumer at the heart of everything we do, we want our research to answer questions left unanswered and meet new needs. Botanicals Fresh Care has been developed to connect with users at a more intimate level and offer a new response to their expectations”, concludes Odile.