Q&A: L'Oréal USA innovation boss on new tech and conversational commerce

Samantha Bort, Manager, Digital Innovation & Entrepreneurship, L'Oréal US

In the fast paced world of beauty, the need for innovation, both on the product side and marketing, is crucial. Here, Samantha Bort, manager of digital innovation and entrepreneurship for L'Oréal USA answers our questions ahead of being named by The Ad Club of New York as one of its People of the Year.

When it comes to digital innovation, how do you keep up to date with the latest trends and insights when it's moving at such a great pace?

I love the fast pace of digital innovation because it keeps me on my toes. First, I always think of myself as the consumer before the marketer: where am I discovering, how am I shopping, why I love a brand, etc.

Second, I read a lot of industry news; getting information from different sources enables me to connect the dots. Lastly, I tap into my network – both personally and professionally – listening and observing to what they are doing is key.

How do you judge any form of new technology that you come across in terms of generating effective results?

When looking at a new technology, I always start with the 'why': why does this technology exist and how will it enhance the consumer experience? When evaluating potential partners, I always look at the long-term vision and ask myself if the tech will remain relevant as we progress and grow our business.

How have you effectively been using artificial intelligence at L'Oréal so far?

AI is exciting because it enables us to personalize the consumer experience at scale. For example, last year I helped launch L'Oréal USA’s first chatbot experience with Kiehl’s on Facebook Messenger.

The health and beauty sector are always seeking innovation to promote new products, why does this sector lend itself so well to technological advancement?

Because beauty is very visual and personal in nature. Technology is enabling us to evolve the consumer experience in exciting new ways. From virtual try-on to customized makeup, technology allows us to create an interactive and innovative experience for personalized beauty.

What 'innovation' or trend are you most skeptical about?

New technologies and use-cases for those technologies emerge everyday so I wouldn’t want to rule anything out at this point. The speed of evolution and rate of new ideas is what I enjoy most about both my job and the industry we work in.

What piece of innovation is exciting you most?

Over the last year, I have been focusing on conversational commerce. Chat and voice are creating new opportunities, it has been a fun challenge to help brands interact with their consumers in new and innovative ways. I am also excited about blockchain and how it can be applied to the beauty industry over the coming years.

What does The Advertising Club of New York award mean to you?

This award is such an honor and I am humbled by the recognition. It is a testament to the incredible people in my life; both my family and the people I have had the opportunity to work with during my five years at Kiehl’s and L'Oréal. I am so grateful that I have worked for leaders who inspire, support and empower me every day.

The People of the Year event, held by The Advertising Club of New York, will be held at Guastavino’s in New York on September 18 from 6pm. Further details can be found at The Advertising Club of New York’s website.

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