Against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the brand saw its e-commerce business grow 7% in 2020 to account for 28% of its business.
“2020 has been a challenging year in the face of such rapidly shifting dynamics. We’ve seen that some channels are recovering slower than others, including less footfall to department stores, for example,” said Sandeep Seth, CEO, Global SK-II.
In the past few years, the brand has been steadily expanding its online presence and its online partners include Tmall, Rakuten and brick-and-mortar retailer than have expanded online such as Sephora, Aeon and Lotte.
In light of the shifts brought about by COVID-19, the company is working to reinforce its digital presence, which has become vital to keep the brand engaged with its consumers.
“In this period of social distancing, we want to create closer social human connections with our consumers, and strengthening our digital presence is crucial for this,” said Seth.
“Beyond providing her with a destination to shop online, it is also about virtual counselling, creating skin care reviews with trusted influencers and key opinion leaders or brand content that helps answer her most asked skincare questions.”
Most recently the company unveiled its first online flagship for South East Asia on one of the region’s leading e-commerce platforms, Lazada.
Seth told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that with its latest e-commerce venture, the brand’s aim is to ‘transform’ the consumer’s experience of online skin care shopping.
“We know our shopper is spending more time online and has shown higher interest in skin care than ever before. We aim to create social connections in this time of social distancing, turning to e-counselling with our beauty consultants to answer her most-asked skin care questions and providing a personalised shopping experience from the comfort of her home.”
With its LazMall flagship, SK-II can offer personalised beauty advice with a virtual skincare consultation, through the in-app e-Beauty Consultant Chat function.
“Engagement in the beauty and skin care category has generally been tactile in nature — what you can see, touch, feel. In these times of the pandemic, it is important to provide our consumers with a unique, personalised experience where she can learn about her skin and shop in a safe and engaging way,” said Seth.
This chat function follows the brand’s recent implementation of the SK-II Magic Scan, an AI-enabled skin analysis tool, in Japan.
“This allows visitors to gain an understanding of their skin strengths and potential, unlock their skin age as well as receive personalised skin analysis and product recommendations in a mere three minutes. No direct facial contact is needed, as it can detect fluctuation of skin at pixel level and assess the stability of skin by homing in on three zones – eye, cheeks and mouth.”
The company has observed that creating more personalised experiences has become more crucial as consumer are migrating online for many of their purchases. This is also accelerated by the pandemic, which has literally created distance between people.
“While the mantra for everyone these days is social distancing, the one thing we all crave is a closer human connection. [e-Beauty Consultant Chat] helps us to bridge this gap in the online realm, elevating a seemingly transactional platform to one that allows consumers to have an entirely personal skin consultation experience with a human touch.”
However, he stressed that the company does not see e-commerce as a replacement for brick-and-mortar channels.
“Ultimately, we see e-Commerce supplementing but not substituting travel retail or department stores as many of our retailers are looking to grow stronger omnichannel presence by strengthening both their online presence and offering online delivery services.”
With an uncertain road ahead for all brands in various sectors, Seth highlighted the importance of being consumer centric.
“It goes back what is important in these times – to serve, not sell, be obsessed with our consumers, and provide solutions based on their needs.”