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Karli Bruno | E-com & Digital Marketing Manager at Davines

Welcome to the RETHINK Retail Podcast, your go-to weekly podcast where we team up with industry experts to discuss the news, trends, and big ideas that are redefining commerce.

On today’s episode, host Julia Hare speaks with Karli Bruno, e-commerce & digital marketing manager at Davines, a professional haircare brand care-crafted in Italy and focused on sustainable, natural ingredients. Karli shares the personalization journey the brand made after quickly pivoting to e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to joining Davines and focusing on the beauty Industry, Karli was an e-commerce manager at Mood Fabrics and Lord & Taylor, with focus in the retail DTC industry.

This episode is sponsored by Coveo on behalf of today’s guest with professional haircare brand Davines. Use code: RETHINKRETAIL at www.davines.com to receive free Shipping on Davines products. Offer expires May 30, 2022. Thank you to our sponsor Coveo, to learn more about what Coveo’s AI-powered relevance platform can do for you, visit www.coveo.com.

If you enjoyed this episode, please let us know by subscribing to our channel and giving us a 5 star rating us on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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Hosted by Julia Hare
Produced by Gabriella Bock
Edited by Chase Atherton

Post Transcript

Julia Hare: Hello, and welcome back to the Retail Rundown Podcast. I am your host Julia Hare, and today we’re speaking with Retail Executive, Karli Bruno. Karli is the e-commerce and digital marketing manager at Davines, and this is a professional hair care brand. You may have heard of them. Their products are care crafted in Italy, and they focus on sustainable natural ingredients. Julia Hare: And prior to joining, Karli was focused on e-commerce at Mood Fabrics, and Lord & Taylor, and the D2C retail industry. Karli’s from New Jersey, but she’s been living in Manhattan for the last six years. It’s great to have you on the show today, Karli. Karli Bruno: Hey Julia. Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. Julia Hare: So I want to dive in and just have you tell us a little bit about the brand and your role at the company. Karli Bruno: Sure. So like you said, I’m the e-commerce manager and digital marketing manager at Davines here in the US. I oversee North America. So that includes both the US market and the Canadian market. And so like you said, Davines is a professional hair care brand that was care crafted in Parma, Italy. We are a B Corp where we’re known for our sustainability efforts around packaging, our carbon emission shipping, supporting biodiversity, and some more. As the e-commerce and digital marketing manager I oversee pretty much everything soup to nuts on the site. So whether it’s our site merchandising, our copy and images, customer care, user experience from beginning to end, and all of our marketing communication and digital advertising. Karli Bruno: On a regular daily basis, I partner with other e-com managers in other markets, such as London, France, Italy, Mexico, our trade marketing team, our PR team, and even our salon teams as well. Julia Hare: Very cool. Well, it sounds like a lot of responsibility, especially in the era we’re living in now, because the last two years as everyone knows have been greatly impacted by the COVID pandemic and people switched to online in a lot of ways, including even grocery shopping. Julia Hare: So in your view, I mean, the beauty industry has been strong, was strong throughout the pandemic. I mean, you remember seeing different tutorials for eye makeup when you were wearing a mask, so it runs the gamut. What were some trends that you saw? How would you describe the changes and how it impacted your role? Karli Bruno: Yeah, it’s really interesting too, because like you said, in my previous roles, I come from the fashion and the ready to work business like Mood Fabrics and Lord & Taylor. So being now in the beauty industry, it’s a totally new ballgame. Karli Bruno: A little bit of our story is we are mainly known for being a professional hair care brand that’s in salons. So no one really saw the global pandemic coming, but when it did, it forced almost every salon worldwide to shut down. So not only now is there a ton of disposable income from everyone because they’re no longer paying for these intense hair treatments, but they’re kind of bored. And they’re spending a lot more of their time at home and they’re digging into at home treatments and hair care treatments and more luxury products and self care. And that’s really like where the market took off, is more in like wearing comfortable clothes, like athleisure, and makeup, and nail art and hair care, and not really that much into like the ready to wear industry. So it was really a huge opportunity for us and our e-commerce because everyone’s turning to online shopping. They can’t go to stores, they can’t go to salons. So we really had to deliver a best in class experience to all of our in salon customers and still make sure that we’re able to give them the Davines products and the at-home treatments for themselves. Karli Bruno: So it’s a huge, that’s why it’s so important for us to nurture both of our returning customers, but then even build our brand awareness and drive in new customers in their shopping experience. It’s really important for us to mirror that, I want to say an in-store experience, but it’s more like an in-salon experience. And so the way that we’ve really been able to do that this past year was through personalization on the site and making the customer feel that they’re special and that their worth is hair care and that we want to provide them the best in class experience. So that’s been a huge challenge, but also a win for us, I would say in the last few years. Julia Hare: Sure. Because I’m assuming you have a lot of very loyal Davines customers. And so when you were making the switch from not just selling to the salons, but going direct to the consumer, did you already have a lot of data on your end customers? Was that ready to go or did you have to build that up? Karli Bruno: Exactly. I mean, we had some, we did. We have always had an e-commerce site, but it really, really took off and we saw a huge spike in traffic in sales when all this happened. So we almost had to relearn our customer. We had to relearn like, how are they getting to the site? How are they hearing from us? What do they want? Do they want treatments? Do they want a regular hair routine? Are they interested in styling products or do care about our ingredients? Do they know how to use the product? So we really had to dive into that and know who we’re serving and what to give them at the right time. And that’s why even our partnership with Coveo right now has been so crucial because they help us reach the right customer at the right time with the right product. Karli Bruno: It’s like those three pieces that are so important together is you want the right customer and you want to make sure that you’re giving them, you’re reaching them at the right time when they’re ready to purchase. When they’re ready to try something new, when they’re running low on their products. And then what are we going to do? Are we going to give them a new shampoo or a new fun styling product to add into their routine? Or a treatment for shine or for curls and making sure that we’re giving them the right product that will help them. Julia Hare: Excellent. And is that something that’s like zero party data where you’re asking customer about their hair texture and what types of products they like, or how did you get that information so that you could personalize to them? Karli Bruno: Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve put a lot of our efforts into paid advertising in order to attract that traffic. But when we invite them and incentivize them to sign up for our newsletters or our text messages, they have that opportunity to create an account and to let us know what their preferences are. Are you interested in products for curly hair, for fine color, for fine hair, for colored hair? Are you interested in editorial content like how-tos or articles on different types of ingredients? So we know, because we will now use this in our marketing communication to deliver content, whether it’s products or editorial content on curly hair, or fine hair, or colored hair, or show them different, like how to tutorials or even styling tutorials. Even for each new holiday or season, what we’ll say, winter hair styles, Christmas hair styles, spring and summer hairstyles. So, we’re trying to be more of like a lifestyle brand and being not only a resource for a product and shopping, but even a resource for inspiration and for education for our customers. Well, so they know that they can come to us for everything and everything hair care. Julia Hare: I love that Karli, because it speaks to how brands have evolved from at least my perspective. And being someone like yourself, who’s in the retail industry for many years now, do you think that what it means to be a brand has changed or is it always been the same and just the ways you go about it has changed? Karli Bruno: I do. Yeah. It’s almost like the brand used to just be a shopping place and you would go and you’d say, “I know I want a new pair of jeans. I know I need a shampoo. I know I need a pair of sneakers,” and they can go and find what they want. But now it’s like, brands are really turning into this new lifestyle, full circle resource. Whether it’s you go to a brand to tell you, it’s almost like, instead of you telling the brand what you want, they’re telling you what you want. Karli Bruno: So you’re going to a brand to say, “Okay, this is what’s trending. This is what I should be wearing. This is how I should be doing my hair. This is the product I should be using.” And they’re telling me what’s trending and what’s hot in the market. And then I’m reciprocating with purchasing or adopting those styles. So it’s almost like the market is educating the customer. And I think that’s really, really important for a brand these days, especially to build their brand awareness and to build their customer loyalty and retention. It’s like you want to be a full circle resource for them at all times. Julia Hare: Yeah. And it looks like, I mean, just thinking about how you have an editorial staff too to help put out this content and make sure that it’s relevant to your customers is huge. And compared to where we were even 10 years ago, can you share any examples of things that have gone swimmingly or very well for your customers where you’re like, “This is a digital experience or product that they really responded well to.” Karli Bruno: Yeah, so it almost seems like how I was just saying. It’s like the customer expects us to deliver content to them. They don’t want to have us lift the finger, especially these new younger markets like the millennials, the gen Zs, our consumers today, they’re all visual. So some of the things that work best for us is really optimizing our category pages, our homepage, all of our advertising efforts, showing them some interactive images, videos, step by step how-tos, or gifts, as I call them gifts, jest. They expect us to do liver like a white glove service to them. Karli Bruno: And that’s also why we’ve really leaned in the last year or so with our partnership with Coveo on personalization, because we need to tell them, “You need to buy this.” Like saying, “Hey, Julia, we know you and we think this product is really going to be great for you,” whether that’s through on site personalization, product recommendations, or whether it is on homepage personalized content, our automated emails, whether it’s like browse abandonment, card abandonment telling them, “Hey, we noticed you were looking at this. We know you’re interested. You need this and you need this because…” And then we know we can list out all the ingredients and the benefits and why we think they need it. Karli Bruno: So I think that’s really what’s worked for us, is our very personalized experience on the site in terms of recommendations and different AB testing of images and videos, but even our automated email flows and text messages really hitting that customer at the right time with the right product and the right message. Julia Hare: Yeah. And I think because we have so many channels, like you said, to be visual and to consistently reach out with the message, “Hey, you need this, don’t forget this.” That’s something that is more important today because we’re so inundated with different messages from all different channels. I think the frequency of exposure used to be a lot lower. From a marketer standpoint, how often do they have to see it before they’ll buy and convert? And I think it’s a lot higher now as I’ve seen some reports that have said that. So is it something you would agree with? Karli Bruno: Yes, definitely. Julia Hare: Well, and then retainment is a challenge. Discovery is perhaps the bigger challenge or at least it’s more costly to get people aware of the brand and then converting, but retaining them is really difficult when you are mostly digital. And so how are you guys approaching that? Karli Bruno: Yeah, it’s definitely a challenge for us. It continues to be a challenge for us this year. We are not a promotional brand. We’re not saying every week, “50% off this, 20% off this.” We don’t actually even really have a true loyalty program yet, something can be on the roadmap soon. So it’s hard to have true loyalty. Retainment definitely is a challenge, especially with all of the new brands that are popping up every day. And it’s a very competitive industry. We focus very heavily on segmentation and personalization, like I said before. So really making our loyal customers who have purchased before and been on the site before feel special. Karli Bruno: If they’ve come back multiple times, we need to tell them, “This is what you need, and this is why you need it.” Or even in a post-purchase experience, “Hey, we noticed that you bought this shampoo and these are the conditioner and the styling products that will work best with this.” So we want to continue to build out their hair care routine and let them know that they can trust us as a brand and that we can tell them what is best for them and their hair success. Karli Bruno: And it’s really helped us kind of hone in on the competition overall, and creating this sense of urgency. One thing we have on site is a badge on the product page and it [inaudible 00:13:32], it’s powered by artificial intelligence and it will say, “Hey, this item is so hot right now that it’s been added to X number of carts in the last 24 hours.” And that creates this sense of urgency for our customer by saying, “Wow, this product must be really amazing if everyone is adding it to their carts.” Or another badge we have says like, “Hey, this product has been viewed X amount of times in the last 24 hours.” That’s telling a customer like, “Wow, is this isn’t really a hot item. I really think I should look into this and I need to get this, like I need to keep up.” Karli Bruno: So we do that on site. We do it in our automated email flows again, like our advertising. So that’s really awesome. And one thing we’re actually, I love with our partnership with Coveo is we have the opportunity to AB test homepage placement. So we have the ability to show a different homepage banner to a different customer based off of their past behavior. So how we initially launched it was we split the segmentation just between new users and returning users. The new users is a little more brand awareness. We’re telling you about our hero products and general advertising to kind of split everything, sink in. Karli Bruno: To our new returning audience, they know what they have. They know what works, they want to see something new. So we’re showing them, “Hey, upgrade your routine. This is what’s what’s most recommended this month from our stylist, or this is what’s new for spring, or what’s new for winter,” kind of depending obviously on the time of the year, but kind of giving them some new things. Or saying, “Hey, if you have this product, we recommend this line of styling products to now complete your routine.”It’s kind of like giving them that extra because they’ve already made a purchase. So that’s a really great tool that we’ve been using to retain that customer. Julia Hare: Absolutely. And these are all amazing capabilities that in the past people would talk about and only dream, “Oh, one day we’re going to have websites that personalize the content when you land on the site to you.” And it was out of reach not too long ago and now it’s here. And it sounds like you’re seeing great results, but having a smaller play in e-commerce and relying more on the salons for distribution prior to the pandemic, is this something that is completely new capabilities that you guys launched quickly? Or has it been around? Julia Hare: For all of the dynamic aspects of your website, it sounds like mostly they’re powered through Coveo. Karli Bruno: Yes. And it’s all relatively new to us. You’re right. So previously we relied heavily on the salons to get to drive brand awareness in their in-salon treatments and to get our product into the hands of the customer. But now we’re able to reach such a much larger pool of people with these personalization and with even little tools like refer a friend. Karli Bruno: If we can have one awesome personalized experience for one customer, and then we follow up with a, refer a friend campaign and they’re saying, “Hey, I had a great time. I’m now going to refer my friend, Julia to the site and to these products,” it’s all word of mouth. So that’s a great way to also get the product into the hands of other people. As long as we can nurture our initial customers from beginning to end, making them feel special, making them feel like we are personally catering to them, we’re playing the role of an in-store sales associate kind of. And once we can build that trust, that’s when they will then bring in all of their friends and their family. And it just continuously grows. Julia Hare: I love that. And it’s super important when you’re like you said, a more premium brand and you’re not offering discounts. You’re not Old Navy or some other brand just every week. It’s very rare, I assume. So the personalization is that difference in value for a lot of customers. Julia Hare: Side question, just as you were talking about word of mouth and things like that, are you leveraging influencer marketing in your strategy? Karli Bruno: So it’s a new market that we do… I would say that’s almost the one thing on the site that I don’t directly manage. It is directly managed through our PR team, but it is a new market that we are tapping into. We do have that loyal customer that might be a little bit of an older generation, but we are tapping into the newer and upcoming generations, whether it’s on TikTok or influencers. And we do a lot of brand awareness through our stylist because the recognition and the accreditation from a salon stylist, but the younger market, these younger girls updating their hair care routine, they’re on Instagram, they’re on TikTok. And they want to see what their favorite influencers are using. So we are starting to tap into that market and we’re seeing so far really great results in terms of traffic and sales and brand recognition. So I’m hoping it’s something we can continue to grow. I think that’s really where the industry and the market is going. Julia Hare: Absolutely. And that’s a really interesting test. It sounds like since you said your consumer base is a little bit older, so they’re not as active on those platforms, but perhaps for net new customers, that’s how they’re discovering you, it is through social. Karli Bruno: Yeah, exactly. Julia Hare: Very cool. And what is next for Davines if you look into two years from now, or five years from now? Karli Bruno: Oh, that’s a great question. We’re always, that’s why I love being part of this brand so much. We’re so, we think on our feet. As much as we love to be and how important it’s to be proactive, we’re also very reactive to the market. So we’re always looking at what our competition is doing, what other hair care brands are doing, what’s the next hot new product, whether it’s like a shine treatment or something for curly hair, or if it’s something to enhance colored hair, or if it’s a whole set of products we don’t know but we’re always trying to stay relevant, but we do want to continue our focus in nurturing the customer experience from start to finish. How are they getting to the site? And then how can we keep them on the site and increase their experience through personalization? Karli Bruno: Whether it is showing them a unique video recommending next product, maybe eventually delivering some sort of quiz so that we can really understand they need and deliver them in one seamless experience the product that they need, and then tracking their post purchase experience. And asking for reviews as recommending new products based off of that, and using all different channels to do that. So it’s really just leaning into the shopping journey and nurturing both the new user, and then retaining the returning user in order to grow our brand loyalty, I would say. Julia Hare: Those are all very exciting things in the world of personalization, as it becomes more and more retail. And one last question, this is a shout out to Chris Ressa. He is podcast host on Retail Retold. And one question he asked me was what is a retailer or brand that you would bring back from the dead, so to speak. So they’re not around anymore, but you say- Karli Bruno: I’m not that old yet. So I’m trying to think what has died. Karli Bruno: … Oh, I’m not going to lie. I mean, the little girl in me really wishes Limited Too could come back or like Rave Girl from the ’90s. Julia Hare: Heck yeah, I was a big Limited Too fan. Karli Bruno: I love those trends, those pants that you could zip off to make them shorts, that’s the vibe that we need these days. Julia Hare: Well, I think hikers still wear those. So if you get a little hot, you unzip the bottom of the pants. Karli Bruno: Yeah. Maybe they can give me a nice hot pink color. Julia Hare: Yeah. Something a little bit more trendy. Love it. Well, Karli Bruno, it was amazing to have you on the show. If our listeners want to find out more about you or Davines, where can they go? Karli Bruno: Sure. So our site is us.davines.com, D-A-V-I-N-E-S. On Instagram we’re, davinesnorthamerica, and it’s the same on Facebook, davinesnorthamerica. So you can follow us there. You can sign up for email, SMS and you’ll always be the first to know our new editorial, new how-tos, new product launches, offers, things going on, on our site. So thank you very much for your time, Julia, and this was such a pleasure. Julia Hare: Thank you. And thank you too our sponsor, Coveo.