Online opportunity: Kao aiming to strengthen ‘super prestige brand’ SENSAI in key markets
The crown jewel in Kao’s luxury portfolio, SENSAI was launched in Europe in 1983 and is best known for its signature ingredient, Koishimaru silk.
In order to grow SENSAI as its international flagship brand, Kao introduced the brand into Asia from 2019, starting first in Japan before expanding into China in 2020.
Souichi Yamaguchi, vice president of SENSAI, expressed the brand’s strength and potential in the market today, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“SENSAI is the highest prestige brand in Kao's cosmetics business portfolio. It is one of the most important brands for us as we plan to strengthen the prestige skin care area. Despite the difficult situation of COVID-19, SENSAI has maintained its second place in the skincare category ranking of the German Beauty Alliance, which we use as an indicator of European trends.”
Since its launch, SENSAI has primarily been available offline in high-end retail locations such as Harrods department store. The pandemic, however, has pushed the company to extend its reach into the digital realm.
In April, Kao announced that it had launched the official SENSAI online store across European markets including the UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.
Later this year, the brand will also launch e-commerce sales in China, where Kao has observed sales growing substantially last year thanks to the implementation of e-commerce initiatives.
“We aim to achieve a combined total of around 30% of [SENSAI’s] sales from the distributors' e-commerce and our own e-commerce,” said Yamaguchi.
Service is key
One of the key areas in e-commerce development the company will be focusing on is translating its beauty consultation services online.
“As we move into e-commerce, SENSAI customers can enjoy our in-store style of services, with the same emphasis on personal relationships, in a virtual setting. They will receive personalised counselling to help them find the items exactly suited to their needs, exactly when they need them,” said Yamaguchi.
The company is currently preparing to launch online counselling services through its official Japan website, which was launched in October 2019. Eventually, this will be rolled out to Europe and China as well.
The company said it would utilise technology like Artificial Intelligence to offer detailed skin analysis.
One of the first tools the brand will launch is a virtual foundation shade finder. Eventually, it plans to launch functions such as tailored product recommendations.
“SENSAI plans to offer online the same meticulous, Japanese style counselling that we offer in our offline shops. We will aim to create stronger bonds with our customers by suggesting the perfect care methods and products to suit their individual needs and concerns,” said Yamaguchi.
He elaborated that the brand would focus strongly on a customer experience management approach that was tailored to SENSAI, with a strong focus on post-purchase retention methods.
To further reinforce its digital presence, the company will be conducting social media campaigns, including live events in Europe.
In China, it is currently working with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) for a campaign in preparation for its e-commerce launch.