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Nicky De Simone | The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.

This episode of the RETHINK Retail Podcast was recorded live at Shoptalk Europe.

On June 8, 2022, Nicky De Simone, Vice President of Enterprise Marketing, Data and Creative Studios for the Estee Lauder Companies UK & Ireland, stopped by the RETHINK Retail podcast booth to chat with host Gabriella Bock ahead of her session at the show.

During the conversation, Nicky and Gabriella spoke about omnichannel and the role of stores, the power of social media and how the Estee Lauder Companies is leveraging social commerce. Nicky also shared how she lets creativity shine in her role at the company.

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Post Transcript

Gabriella Bock: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the RETHINK Retail podcast. I am here live from Shoptalk Europe. Joining me today is Nicky De Simone. She’s the Vice President of Enterprise Marketing, Data and Creative Studios for the Estee Lauder Companies, UK & Ireland, where she leads the UK and Ireland Region’s enterprise-wide strategy in marketing, data, social commerce, and omni innovation. Nicky, thank you so much for joining the show today. Nicky De Simone: Pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me. Gabriella Bock: So wonderful to have you here. And I know you were about to be presenting in a panel in just a short while. Nicky De Simone: Yes. Gabriella Bock: Very exciting. So I’d love to kick things off by hearing about some of the trends you are seeing in experiential retail right now and what you’re really look for to discussing during the panel today. Nicky De Simone: Absolutely. I’ll give you a sneak peek. So today we’re going to be talking about really the importance of experiential marketing. And as we think about the amount of choice that the consumer has in content that they’re seeing, we as brands need to give our consumers a reason to stop and engage with both our entertainment, our content from an education perspective. So we provide an experience and not just a shopping transaction. To do this well, we believe in the personalization of those experiences. So they’re relevant in the personalization of content. So it’s meaningful. Gabriella Bock: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I feel like we’re constantly hearing more and more about how important personalization is in today’s retail climate. Would you say that this is a trend that’s accelerated because of COVID or were we seeing this pre-pandemic? What are your thoughts on that? Nicky De Simone: I think a lot of what were seeing from consumption patterns and behaviors, like what you’re referencing, we’re all ready evolving pre-pandemic and then it just been accelerated at such a rapid pace. So yes, personalization for sure is one of the topic that we see more and more come in to the forefront. But if you think about it from the consumer lens, there’s a world of endless choices for them. What’s going to be the thing that makes them stop or engage, and that’s very much making sure it’s relevant for them. So right message, right product, right time, right channel, all of those things that come to the absolute core. From a marketing perspective, it’s no longer okay to go in those broad strokes, we need to be much more granular. Gabriella Bock: Absolutely. A common narrative since COVID-19’s initial impact has been the movement from in-person brick-and-mortar shopping experiences towards the digital. But we are seeing that brick-and-mortar is springing back now that things have reopened and people are largely vaccinated. So how do you feel about that? And do you think that digital transformation are a clear necessity now? But do you see the in-person experience also remaining important for years to come? Nicky De Simone: I think for the consumer, the magic comes in when you see the interaction between the digital and the in-person or the in real life. And the examples I love to use is, if you think about how much we still love to go to cinema, or theater, or concerts despite the ability of having the comfort and the leisure of being able to stream Spotify music, or Netflix films from the comfort of your own home. I think, as human beings, we’ve moved so much into the digital space, but we also have a need to connect in real life. And that’s part of human nature that I think is absolutely a corner stone of consumer engagement as we think about our brand strategies. Gabriella Bock: Absolutely. Yeah. Watching a concert on television, it’s just nothing like being there in person. Nicky De Simone: Exactly. Gabriella Bock: So as much as we say we want to live in the digital, there will always be a need for physical experiences. But leading from that question, I did want to know. What aspect of the modern consumer, would you say, most demands this kind of omnichannel approach? So we’re talking about the digital and brick-and-mortar. So it’s really just becoming this seamless blend of both of these spaces. Nicky De Simone: I think from a consumer perspective the expectation is different. Almost as brands and different retailers, different media content, et cetera, we’ve changed and trained the consumer to think differently and behave differently, and that’s very much a part of what’s underpinning the need for this omni approach. It’s not enough anymore to just show something or explain something. Consumers want to see it and feel it, and particularly in beauty and with our beauty brands. It’s an emotive purchase. You buy a fragrance and you spray it and you feel something, or you put on that lipstick and it makes you feel something. And that’s really hard to translate into a completely digital only approach. So finding a blend between the two is not just something nice to have, it’s something we must do. Into the future it’s going to be even more important for us to connect with the consumer across all channels. Gabriella Bock: Absolutely. Beauty itself, I feel like, is kind of leading the pack when it comes to meeting consumers across all channel, especially when it comes to reaching them through digital, like with social commerce. Beauty has been at the forefront of that. Now we’re seeing that expand into other retail categories. So I did want to know, how is Estee Lauder Companies UK & Ireland incorporating social commerce into its sales and marketing strategies? Nicky De Simone: When I think about social commerce, I think about this convergence of community and content and commerce being our way forward. And so social commerce is about bringing that ecosystem together, and being able to take what might live on one channel and transcending that across channels. Nicky De Simone: We’ve been enabled with some amazing partners. One example that comes to mind is with Snap. A few months back we launched our first ever in partnership with Snap and our MAC cosmetics brand. Basically, we were able to take the filters that everyone’s using on a day to day conversation and connection platform, and actually help match the perfect lipstick shade to the outfit that you are wearing. Gabriella Bock: Amazing. Nicky De Simone: Yeah. It’s so convenient. There’re so many examples like that, where we’re really partnering, trying to innovate and create for the consumer. But always doing it with intention, because I think we can run the risk in social commerce or omni innovation, or any of the spaces, doing things just to do them to tick a box. Actually, what we really, I guess, take a lot of pride in is creating these experiences with intention. So they’re memorable, they’re meaningful, they’re interactive, and that they drive long-term success for us as brands and long-term relationship with our consumers. Gabriella Bock: Absolutely. As you mentioned, you guys are doing some amazing work with AR technology. Have you seen a direct lift in sales since incorporating those innovations? Nicky De Simone: As a portfolio of brands, our history takes us back. We’ve long been investing in the power of digital, and that was setting up sites for shopping beauty before people even thought that that was going to be a thing. So we continue to see a very exciting future in the digital space. We know that when we combine the right content with the right experiences that it does deliver some amazing business results for us in new consumer acquisition or giving consumers a reason to come back more frequently, or ultimately helping us drive brand loyalty. Gabriella Bock: That is fantastic to hear. So Nicky, I do want to know, leading the UK and Ireland in enterprise-wide strategy for marketing, data, and social commerce, and omni innovation, it has to be a huge task. So what are some tips anyone might apply or any that have helped you, particularly to segment, and overcome major challenges with in these very, very complex systems? What springs to your mind when it comes to approach? Nicky De Simone: I think it’s a really exciting space to be in. And I think one of the key mindset shifts we’ve had as a global company is really bringing everything together and putting the consumer at the forefront. So the different functions that you mentioned now sit together with creative, and data, and insights, and consumer, and marketing. You’re naturally lead to less siloed conversations because you’re putting the consumer and that one consumer view at the forefront of everything you’re doing. And then as we’ve been talking about, making sure that we really take a balanced approach across channels. But also, across this data led approach and intuition and instinct, and often times they run on two completely separate tracks in businesses. We can’t lose sight of the instinct and the creativity and the DNA that we were founded on with our incredible founders. Some of the stuff that I would say springs to mind for sure. And the last piece, I would say, is that it’s really important today, given all of the choices that our consumer has, to really know what you stand for. But also, what you stand out for and stay true to that. Gabriella Bock: Absolutely. There are an endless sea of choices. So being able to capture that interest is absolutely critical. Nicky De Simone: Exactly. Gabriella Bock: You touched upon data. So where do you see data as being leveraged the most critically within these omnichannel transformations? Nicky De Simone: Data can help us on many different fronts, and particularly understanding the consumer and their journey more end-to-end. Ensuring that we have the most current data, this has been a key focus area for us over the past couple of years. It’s really to get this part of our business running. We’ve seen the way that it works well and how we’re able to show up for the consumer in relevant ways. And that’s ultimately been the end goal. Gabriella Bock: Absolutely. Delivering these new digital assets to customers within omnichannel transformations naturally has to require an abundance of creativity. So I wanted to kind of end on, just kind of peek on your brain and see where this creativity shine for you? Nicky De Simone: I love this question. Thank you. It shines through everywhere, from end to end. From a marketing perspective, we know anywhere between 56 and 70% of our campaign success is around the creative. Over the last two years in particular, we’ve accumulated a lot of things. I don’t know about you, but I know… Gabriella Bock: Yes. Nicky De Simone: And the data shows us that consumers have acquired a lot of things. So what they’re telling us is that they’re not ready to buy more things, they’re ready to buy into stories and experiences and that’s where content shines through it. It’s what creates or looks at emotion, and that’s what leaves that long lasting impression and takes what may have been a simple transaction into something much more meaningful than that. Gabriella Bock: Absolutely. So I have seen that you guys have done some really kind of pioneering… I mean, as far as retail go, dropping NFTs with Clinique and creating these… Just really testing and innovating and trying things out, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s really incredible to see, and I really appreciate you coming on the show. And I can’t wait to see more from Estee. In the coming years, I’m sure you will continue to be on the forefront of creative retail. So thank you so much for joining today. Nicky De Simone: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.