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Premium Beauty News - You have endeavoured to provide an overview on the digital strategy of cosmetic ingredient manufacturers. What are your first findings?

Anne Aime - If all the suppliers surveyed now have a website, they expect little from it because they do not know about its potential, as their activity is not adapted to e-commerce. Most of the time, they only aim to get a communication tool to present the company and its products. The most advanced suppliers offer their customers and/or distributors a private access: the website then becomes a productivity tool, and not only a cost centre. This vision is limited to customer relationships, strictly speaking, and does not go as far as commercial development, as the website is not identified as a sales tool, unlike sales forces.

Only 20% of the companies studied develop direct uses for their employees, but solely for internal communication purposes (internal blogs, chats, internal social networks). In addition, about 13% of the ingredient suppliers surveyed have one or more accounts on social networks, always with the name of their companies, divisions, or brands. These are not individual uses for professional purposes. And yet they are the ones that represent a real opportunity for BtoB sales, in particular on the global scale.

Premium Beauty News - Do these companies measure the impact of their presence on the web?

Anne Aime - Oftentimes, this is not even an issue. To 61% of respondents, the link between the digital tools used and what they bring to the company is not identified. And when measurements are made, they are partial. The main reason why is that objectives and means are often limited. Companies want a website, and it is their mere existence and regular redesign that constitute the objective. If the companies that do make measurements are also the most advanced in this field, it often has to do with corporate culture. Indeed, one of the specificities of digital technologies is their empirical nature and the need for evangelism, which make it essential to define and follow up performance indicators.

Premium Beauty News - All in all, cosmetic ingredient suppliers seem to be lagging behind as far as digital investments are concerned!

Anne Aime - If one takes into account the share of marketing budgets dedicated to digital technologies, the B2B cosmetics sector is globally behind. And even more so if one considers most digital investments are not operational, but punctual, in particular in website redesign. Brakes are the same everywhere: managers do not have a clear vision of the correlation between digital technologies and business, and sales and marketing operational management departments need to address change-related issues (“no time, no budget”). As a matter of fact, digital technologies gain ground every day, so it is crucial to take part in this phenomenon to remain close to one’s customers, who are web users like anyone else, optimize marketing budgets, and give more value to human capital, let alone image challenges.

Premium Beauty News – So, it is getting a bit better!

Anne Aime - Not really, as the relative delay is getting increasingly more important. In the overwhelming majority of cases, digital technologies are entrusted to an existing department, which is a good thing, as such. However, these departments are not always supported by external expert advice, and employees lack training and experience. Their approach is often technical, while the issue is actually to “evangelize and transform the company”. In any case, only 60% of companies report using external service providers, consultants, or agencies with an approach that focuses on the tool, and not on business.

Premium Beauty News – What do you recommend?

Anne Aime - A business approach focused on customer expectations and the company’s global development strategy. Then, the idea is to choose the type of use the management wants to give its tools, so they can serve business according to its specificities (and not to adopt a tool because it is said to be universally used). The website is the main tool, but its design must be devised internally. With the right, adapted method (user experience), a website can be designed on the macro level by any communication, marketing, or sales professional working within the company. Subcontracting this process would provoke risks of ending up with a trendy site in terms of communication, but with little or no business impact.

Designing a website has nothing to do with creativity or trends, it has to do with marketing design techniques, at least as far as business companies are concerned. Although having a sales team with advanced expertise in social networks is a much faster investment in terms of profit, having a website is having a home, for a company. The subsidiaries that are “condemned” by headquarters to have communication and not business websites will temporarily do without the “ideal home” and start by giving this task to the sales department, which is independent. This will help provide first “evidence”, and then transform the website from a communication space to a business tool.

The most conscious companies (21%), often the most experienced, identify efficient tools like social networks or mobile applications and, ultimately, the global approach of digital transformation, the only one that can fully meet today’s competitiveness challenges. Especially on markets that are global by nature, and where the “level” in digital technologies is sometimes higher outside France (the USA, Brazil…).