How Avon plans to make its 6 million reps better marketers
Avon has spotted an opportunity to hand its 6 million representatives more marketing powers, launching an app that lets them send comms to customers via social media.
After successful trials in the UK, Avon On will be launched in 17 markets from this week including Mexico, Russia and Philippines. It will then launch in a further 25 across Europe, Latin America and Africa in July this year.
Avon’s chief marketing officer James Thompson has already been working to harness the influence and “competitive advantage” of the brand’s tuned in army of reps since taking the helm last year.
Now, the new app will let Avon sellers manage their entire business from their smartphone, but it's built to handle much more than sales or logistics.
As well as giving reps the ability to place product orders, the app will grant them access to a ‘social media hub’ containing assets and high-quality brand and product content they can use for marketing on platforms like WhatsApp or at scale on the likes of Instagram and Facebook.
Other key features include the latest product and promotion notifications, access to support features (including FAQs and Avon contact centres) and a sharable link to the cosmetic brand's online brochure.
Spearheading Avon On’s rollout and heading up the team behind it is Nick Burton, the brand’s recently-installed vice-president for digital development.
“Avon was probably the pioneer of the direct selling model, but the world has evolved, and the way people interact – through social media and instant messaging – has changed. So we’re taking [our business model] into that space,” he explained.
A 'one-stop shop'
Earlier this year, Avon enlisted S4-owned Media Monks to take responsibility for its content studio; tasking the production agency with developing up to 12,000 assets annually for use in Avon’s 50+ worldwide markets.
These multi-language, multi-platform videos and images are currently centralised in an ‘always on’ hub which is updated weekly and available to marketers. Now the creative assets will be fed directly into the app for reps to share with customers online.
Just as many are already doing on social, though, reps will still be able to customise the text or messaging around the content they pull from the hub.
So, for instance, if a rep thinks a particular colour of lipstick will suit a regular client they can send them standardised images and videos of that product on WhatsApp, along with a personal message. Alternatively, if they were looking to sell more of a certain perfume, they could use assets from the content studio to share the product with all of their followers on their Instagram grid, and write a caption in their tone of voice.
All this makes for a more cohesive marketing experience, but one that is still personal and takes into consideration the individual influence of each Avon rep.
A ‘share your look’ feature will also let reps produce user-generated content in three simple steps within the app’s walls, giving them the tools to share their own Avon-inspired beauty looks against the backdrop of official branded borders and wraps.
Broadly, the app leverages the power of Avon’s rep network of trusted advisors and beauty influencers, equipping them with the tools and knowledge to create own authentic, on-brand content in a variety of settings.
Burton described the app as a “one stop shop” to let entrepreneurs boost their business from their mobile.
“Anything that we do has to work well for our reps and enable them to sell and provide added value to their customers,” Burton said.
“If it was just about selling it [we would have just built] an e-commerce or retail app, but that additional support that a rep can give in terms of information about the products and [the ability to] tailor or personalise suggestions to customers are what make the Avon experience special.”
Though the brand won't be able to track how well this marketing is performing on 'dark social' or messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, it has invested in new social listening software to track conversation around the campaigns reps are posting on public platforms such as Facebook.
Burton says these measurement tools will help it understand the sort of reach and engagement Avon is getting on different types of content.
"That's really valuable way for us to then refine what types of new content we're going to create," he continued.
Part of a wider transformation
In the midst of a beauty boom, Facebook recently claimed that 53% of UK makeup consumers use its platform for ‘beauty-related activities’ and said 38% did the same on Instagram. So, Avon's plan to empower sales reps with marketing tools that allow them to yield their influence online is a smart move.
But, it's about more than just social media. Burton detailed this his ambition for Avon On to become a hub for the various interactions sales reps have with their customers: "It will be where we start to roll out things like virtual beauty assistants and other tools that make reps lives easier."
Away from ensuring current sellers remain invested in Avon, the app could also go some way in recruiting fresh blood – an area Avon has been struggling with - as it offers more control to the individual seller.
The business was hit by fewer direct sales reps in Europe, Middle East and Africa and Brazil (its biggest market) in Q1 of this year, with the its active reps falling for the tenth straight quarter and were down 9% in the reported period.
In line with this, revenue fell 15% to $1.19bn, missing analysts’ average estimate of $1.24bn.
The app's rollout comes in the midst of a huge digital transformation drive within the wider business to offset losses, which is focused on realigning its offering for the Instagram generation.
In February last year, Avon appointed a new chief executive in Zijderveld, Unilever’s former European president. Then in October 2018 it hired ex-Diageo marketer Thompson to take the top brand role.
Around the same time Zijderveld, also enlisted former Ikea marketer Benedetto Conversano its first-ever chief digital officer to and overhaul its tech proposition.
One of Conversano’s first moves was to launch Avon's Personalised Beauty App, for consumers, which gives skin diagnostics that take the guesswork out of choosing a new moisturiser or picking the right shade of foundation.
The app links customers to representatives using nothing more than a phone camera and a unique calibration card, echoing similar plays from Coty and The Body Shop.