How can a brand based on the concept of skin diagnosis – it claims more than 1 million of them so far, performed using in-store analytical devices –, convince people in a market where it is physically not present ? "We have a local co-investing partner who develops cross-border e-commerce on different platforms like Taobao and Little Red Book. Because upstream, since September 2018, we have signed collaboration agreements with 30 KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) asking them to talk about us on Chinese social networks," explained Jean-Michel Karam.
This practice of recommendation funded online - Zhong Cao ( 种草) or grass planting in Chinese Internet lingo - allowed it to generate promotional articles on the brand, coined for the occasion with a Chinese homophone name (ioma 艾欧码). A total of 260 local websites spoke about Ioma. And it is mostly live streaming, very popular among young Chinese consumers, that enables faster buying decisions. "One of our influencers was filmed live performing a skin diagnosis of her skin in our Parisian boutique on Boulevard Saint Germain and in a few hours, 2,000 products at US$150 piece were sold," said Jean-Michel Karam.
Trained as an engineer, the entrepreneur founded Memscap in 1997, a provider of innovative solutions and innovative products based on micro-electromechanical systems (Mems), mainly for the aeronautics and aerospace sectors. Convinced that these complex electronic components capable of detecting physical phenomena could have a disruptive application in the field of cosmetics, he gathered 45 million euros of investments in R&D technologies before launching Ioma in 2010.
Offline shops in September 2019
"The personalization that a truly scientific and precise skin analysis provides, is the basis for efficiency. And this is the epitome of luxury," he highlighted. And in fact, the "Ma Crème" range, proposed in 40,257 possible formulas, is positioned at the higher end of the market. The next step was the launch, last January, of jewels, under the brand name Ieva, to measure the temperature, the level of pollution, humidity, noise, brightness and the UV index. The collected data is then translated into beauty, nutrition and lifestyle recommendations. "Because half of ageing results from a genetic origin and from stress, the environment and lifestyle," added Jean-Michel Karam, who believes that beauty brands will gradually shift to more global well-being brands.
Acquired by the Unilever Group in 2013, Ioma is present in more than 25 countries, "China already being our second market, and our strategic priority after France".
"We have had China in sight for four years now. In Asia, we have 20 POS in department stores in Singapore and Taiwan. And a six-month pop-up corner in Hong Kong," detailed the Head of Ioma. In the wake of this "encouraging first phase" on the Chinese Internet, "with its influencers ten times more expensive than in Europe", the opening of physical stores is scheduled for September 2019, after obtaining CFDA certifications. "And this will be quite something. We will offer Chinese consumers a memorable shopping experience," guaranteed Jean-Michel Karam.