Retail in Asia

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW : SHISEIDO, innovation comes from inclusion and diversity


SHISEIDO’s CEO Masahiko Uotani, in his message published on SHISEIDO’s corporate website in April 2018 says: “Beauty is closely related to people’s lives and feelings, able to bring happiness, energy, confidence, empowerment and so much more”.

SHISEIDO seems to agree that companies play a major role in building up the society we live in and crafting values people can relate to. To know more about SHISEIDO’s transformation, commitment to innovation, and the society, we have met Jean-Philippe Charrier, Asia Pacific President & CEO at Shiseido.

SEE ALSO : Shiseido’s plan to empower women

Jean-Philippe has been driving SHISEIDO’s transformation in the region, as he was the one setting up the regional headquarters in Singapore just a few years ago. This marked SHISEIDO’s global expansion at a time when for many Japanese companies, it was quite common for the management of other markets to be done centrally out of Japan and the head office.

Jean-Philippe has a profound knowledge of Japanese culture, and he knew that opening the Singapore office would have been a sign that the company was ready to embark on a journey that took SHISEIDO where it is now.

RiA : From a Japan-centric organization to one that is multi-cultural and celebrates diversity. Shiseido’s unrivalled Japanese heritage is still at the core, but what’s the idea behind Shiseido’s corporate transformation in Asia Pacific?

Jean-Philippe: Shiseido is a story of big transformation. The idea started in 2014, as we were expanding but still managing all markets from Japan. We wanted to change quickly and we thought that decentralizing was the right way of managing Asia Pacific, given its diversity.

I left the head office, and I came here to Singapore to open the regional office for Asia Pacific with the aim of closely overseeing the markets.
Today, we are an organization close to our markets. Our office resembles the region with a truly diverse team of 80 employees and 14 nationalities, all experts with a profound knowledge of the industry.

This is a big change for the company. The regional structure makes us more agile and able to accelerate growth. We are quite unique as there are many foreign companies establishing regional offices in Singapore, but for a Japanese company to decentralize this is quite a new concept and a symbol of courage.

SAPAC Group Photo
Source : Shiseido

RiA : Shiseido;s’s focus and passion for diversity & inclusion, women’s empowerment, and contribution to local community are key in Shiseido’s management. What are the key strategies adopted to attract, value, and retain talents at Shiseido?

Jean-Philippe: People are key in the transformation of the company.

It is important to acquire and retain talents, and the best way for us is to tell our potential candidates and keep reminding our current employees the story behind Shiseido. Shiseido has a strong heritage and a way of going beyond to constantly innovate.

Our employees are proud of being part of the Shiseido family, a family that values each individual. You mentioned diversity and inclusion, and I am confident in saying that Shiseido incorporates these values. It is our goal to elevate the company with inclusion and diversity at leadership positions, not only in terms of empowering women, but also empowering and celebrating different cultures and perspectives.

RiA : What’s new after the new brand arrivals eg. NARS, Laura Mercier, D&G?

Jean-Philippe: Those brands symbolize our attention to market trends. We are currently focusing on categories which are booming, like make-up which is growing globally. NARS was a good choice for us, and it is growing very well.

The acquisition of Laura Mercier and NARS has enabled us to leverage the growing make-up category and attract the millennial generation.

The acquisition of the Dolce & Gabbana license has also increased the attractiveness of our portfolio, and we will continue to look for unique brands and products, as well as forecast key trends and meet our consumers’ demands.

Shiseido VincomYURI8614-HDR1 (1)
Source : Shiseido

RiA : What’s the concept behind Shiseido’s retail transformation in Asia Pacific in terms of channel strategy & mix?

Jean-Philippe: 4 years ago, when I took the helm at Shiseido Asia Pacific, Shiseido was very focused on the department store channel. There is now a very big disruption in the ways consumers shop. Standalone stores give us as a company the opportunity to “free the brand”, enabling our brands to express themselves freely and provide customers with a unique, in-store experience. We have also seen the rise in popularity of open-sell channels such as Sephora, and of course the boom in e-commerce – which I foresee will continue to drive growth, especially in Southeast Asia.

Our omni-channel retail strategy is core to how we will accelerate growth in Asia Pacific, and it varies slightly based on the different markets across the region. Department stores were the only channels in the past; now we can choose, but we need to be aware of the choices, as each channel carries its own consumer targeting strategies.

RiA : How important is e-commerce & digital in your business, as in cosmetics store experience and staff advice are relevant to the customer journey?

Jean-Philippe: As mentioned, omni-channel transformation is core to our retail strategy. We offer a consistent experience to our customers both online and offline, even though each customer has her/his own preferences in terms of channels they shop in.

Retail staff, beauty consultants are fundamental. However, nowadays the customer profile is more fragmented. Young people sometimes prefer the freedom of wandering around a store like Sephora before choosing the products they want, or choose to go to a brand boutique where the beauty consultants come with a deep knowledge of a specific brand and its products.

RiA : How about influencer marketing, as we have recently seen very meaningful collaborations launching strong messages to women?

Jean-Philippe: Statistics show that consumers trust influencers more than traditional advertising. There is also a movement towards micro influencers, as consumers look for more authenticity. We have a project for empowering women and have dedicated campaigns aimed at strengthening the role of women in the society.

For us influencers are more than the face of the brand, they are content creators and content is key today.

In Singapore, we recently launched the #findyourstrength regional influencer campaign for Ultimune. It celebrates the personal power every woman has within herself, and challenges the conventional notion that women need external validation of their value and beauty.

It focuses on the inner strength that every woman has, and communicates the philosophy of Shiseido and Ultimune – that by being resilient in the face of life’s challenges, both inside and out, she can live life on her own terms and let her true, individual beauty shine.

Key influencers across Asia Pacific shared their personal #findyourstrength stories, including Angela Lee, renowned MMA fighter, who headlined the Singapore campaign.

RiA : What’s next as you have already achieved the objectives proposed in your strategies?

Jean-Philippe: We are focusing on accelerating our growth even more. Brands form the core of our success and we will continue to focus on driving Prestige business growth through our omni-channel strategy.

We will also put people first – our aim is to build Asia Pacific as the home for the best talents across the region. I am happy to announce that we will be launching our first Asia Pacific Learning Centre in Singapore at the end of CY2018, which will train 2000 leaders per year from across the Asia Pacific, Travel Retail, China & Japan regions of Shiseido.

RiA : Any specific target in terms of country-specific strategy or product development?

Jean-Philippe: South East Asia has a lot of potential, a growing middle-class, and we forecast good growth across the sub-region. For example, Indonesia is just getting started – it has a huge population and so there are many growth and business opportunities for us to leverage and tap on.

RiA : As SEA is growing and those markets represent a huge potential, any specific brand activations in those areas?

Jean-Philippe: We will soon officially launch our Asia Pacific Innovation Centre in Singapore with the aim to provide consumers with products tailored to their needs.

The centre will conduct consumer research on Asian consumers and competitors, including testing new formulations on different skin and hair types and exploring partnerships with universities in APAC. Shiseido will build an OEM network to engage in open-source innovation across key countries in Asia to develop products specifically for the Asian consumer.

For example, last year, we launched the Senka Perfect Aqua Rich Mask which is only available in Asia Pacific (not including Japan/China, etc.). There are more products in the innovation pipeline launching soon.

Additionally, Shiseido is active in scientific communication and we conduct efficacy tests for advertising claims to support and enhance consumer communications.

RiA : As you mentioned a few times, the prestige categories, what is luxury in cosmetics?

Jean-Philippe: These are highly aspirational products in a very selective distribution. In this category, everything has to be an upgrade – from the product, to the store experience, to the product communication.

RiA : Cosmetics is often the protagonist of cross-sector purchases. How are you leveraging on that?

Jean-Philippe: The lives of consumers are blurring across the various retail channels, especially with the growth and accessibility of e-commerce. What is important is that we ensure the shopper journey and experience is seamless and integrated across the offline and online retail channels.

This is why we will continue to expand our e-commerce and digital partnerships with major pure players such as Lazada and Zalora; whilst being mindful that the personal touch and in-store beauty counselling will still remain a key interaction between the brand and consumer. It just becomes more meaningful as in-store engagement becomes more experiential, and backed with data-driven insights which can be derived from our consumers’ online engagement with our brands.

SEE ALSO : Shiseido’s “New Three-Year Plan” to accelerate

RiA : How about men cosmetics?

Jean-Philippe: There is potential definitely, and it’s a natural evolution. Some markets are already very advanced in terms of the demand for men’s cosmetics, such as Korea, and Shiseido already has a line of men’s cosmetics to cater to this need. In fact, we are one of the pioneers in this category.

It is just a question of priority – what are the brands and categories that we need to focus on in order to drive and accelerate the business growth we want to achieve in Asia Pacific.