We recently interviewed Welington Fonseca. Welington is the Senior Vice President, Global Customer Marketing at Shiseido Group and a beauty and retail veteran. At Shiseido Group, he leads the charge to grow the value of our customers by building and executing on a state-of-the-art, data-driven, customer omni-touchpoint ecosystem. Welington began his career on the product side at a beauty manufacturer in Brazil where he spent seven years developing and marketing new product lines formulas. He has led and ran marketing, CRM and digital organizations across a wide spectrum of the consumer retail space including Rent the Runway, Gilt Groupe and Lord & Taylor. Prior to joining Shiseido, Welington was SVP of Marketing at Rent the Runway where he led the marketing discipline including brand, digital, acquisition, retention and content. A native of Brazil, Welington is father to a set of twins.
“When customers interact with us, we are proactively asking them this type of information so we can communicate with them at a deeper, more personal level.”
You have had quite the impressive career so far working at some of the biggest brands across the retail industry ranging from traditional retailers like Borders and Hudson’s Bay Company to disruptors like Rent the Runway and Gilt Groupe. How would you describe the state of retail right now and the new mandatories for success?
Contrary to popular belief, the state of retail is great. According to NRF, retail sales have grown almost 4 percent annually since 2010 in the US and are projected to grow 3.8–4.4% to more than $3.8 trillion in 2019. In addition, consumer confidence and spending in the US and across the world is high. To illustrate, gross merchandising value at this year’s Chinese Singles Day totaled $38.3 billion, a 26% YoY growth. That said, the shift from traditional brick & mortar retailing to digital eCommerce definitely continues.
Over the last few years there has been a proliferation of digitally native brands making the space even more complex for those selling across many channels. I believe if you are going to succeed in this space, you must stay relevant. The only way to stay relevant is to make sure you are capturing all of your customer information, which is the key to a truly personalized (and therefore relevant) experience.
As the SVP of Global Customer Marketing, can you share your primary responsibilities?
In my practice, what we call the Digital Center of Excellence, I help our Prestige Brands (NARS, Bare Minerals, Clé de Peau Beauté, Shiseido Ginza Tokyo, Buxom, íPSA, and others) build-out their customer marketing practices, and provide insight and strategic direction into advancing their customer experiences.
What keeps you up at night?
Well, that’s a loaded question! At a macro level it’s about staying ahead of our competitors. That may seem cliché, but everyone is fighting to differentiate, and the digital landscape is evolving constantly. Every day there is a new “something” in the market, and we want to be the pacesetter.
What are some ways you are focused on delivering an exceptional experience? And is there anything you tried that did not work out so well?
The key is getting to know our customers…really well. We sell beauty products, so customer attributes like skin tone or skin concerns are important for us to know, but you can’t buy this information. This is where the Jebbit platform helps us. When customers interact with us, we are proactively asking them this type of information so we can communicate with them at a deeper, more personal level. When we don’t have this information, we infer their preferences based on browsing history and past purchases. It’s not perfect, but it’s relevant.
When we think about our customers’ we are constantly asking 3 questions: who is she, what does she need, and how/when should we speak to her? With answers to these we can deliver a great experience. And listen, of course we try many things that don’t work so well but we learn from those and continuously work to optimize our communications.
I recently attended this year’s ANA Masters of Marketing conference. The recurring themes included trust, transparency and being more human as a brand. Are these hot topics for Shiseido Group as well and if so, how are you tackling some of these key themes?
All new recent consumer privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), China’s Personal Information Security Specification (CPISS), and the upcoming California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are great for our industry and consumers. These regulations ensure that consumers, not companies, are in control of the information they share. When you combine these regulations with emerging technology, like blockchain, it ensures that a level of transparency is maintained throughout the whole process / relationship.
OK, let’s talk data. Effective customer marketing takes good data. What’s your data strategy and how is regulation altering it?
Our data strategy is very simple and built around the goal of creating a fully personalized customer experience that drives brand loyalty. We don’t view customer relationships as a program. Relationships are achieved through an emotional connection we can only make if we know our customers really well. This means that every day, we are focused on:
- Building the largest qualified customer database
- Gathering customer data (transactional and declared) at all touchpoints
- Creating data-enriched customer profiles, as granular as 1:1 whenever possible
- Abiding and evolving to regulations that protect consumer privacy
How do you personalize customer experiences today? And can you describe your personalization utopia?
Personalizing the customer journey begins by understanding behaviors and preferences. As an example, we recently overhauled the new customer journey for our NARS brand. Up until now, a new customer interaction would trigger email communications that weren’t relevant (one to many messaging) or timely. When we dug into the data two things became clear. First, 2nd time purchasers in the first year were two times (or more) as valuable. Second, the lack of relevant messaging was causing a significant spike in opt-outs following the first post-purchase communication. With this in mind, we focused our first point of communication (the new customer journey) around her purchase, adding relevant content (e.g., how to use it) and delivering in the channel she interacts with. The latter is important, as the customer now has many channels in which to interact with a brand (email, social, mobile, etc…).
We often ask our clients “if you could ask your customers any question, what would it be and why”?
Ultimately, it’s “what would it take for you to give us 100% of your business?”
But tactically, it’s “what is your skin tone?” or “what are your skin concerns?” Again, this is information you cannot buy. The only way to gather this information is by asking our customers. I’ve found that asking these simple, open-ended questions really helps us uncover our strengths and areas of opportunity.
Every year the marketing industry always creates a new buzz word/phrase or theme, what’s your prediction for 2020? And what are you most excited about heading into the new year?
I’m definitely not going to be the one who creates the new buzz word in 2020, but if I had to pick one that really resonates with me, it’s relevance. Being relevant is what allows us to nurture healthy relationships with our customers, and we do that by learning from, and listening to them.
I know a lot of travel warriors but you are on the road more than most. Any favorite travel hacks to share?
Ah, yes – I think I’m going to coin a new term: quadrillion-miler ☺
Here are some tips:
- When booking your travel, become an expert on fare codes. The airlines overly complicate this on purpose and if you are smart you can take advantage of some otherwise unavailable opportunities. I recently upgraded to First on a trans-Atlantic flight for only 40k miles – something that would have been impossible had I booked on a different fare code.
- I think everyone (even myself) has a natural fear of flying to some degree. I’ve found that the newer (bigger) aircraft, like the A350 or A380 have a much smoother ride – so no need to get worried when you’re somewhere over the Arctic Circle at 3am. If you have the chance, book your travel on one of these newer airplanes.
- Be nice to the crew, simple. I have seen the best and the worst in people – but at the end of the day, there are always things out of your control. Being nice to the crew sometimes gets you more perks that those that will take you forever to earn.
Published December 4, 2019