Business Strategy

How Elizabeth Arden uses customer intelligence to drive smarter innovation

How Elizabeth Arden uses customer intelligence to drive smarter innovation

The beauty industry is getting a makeover.

Category and generational shifts are blurring the lines between makeup, skincare and wellness, according to NPD Group. Consumers of beauty products from brands like Elizabeth Arden, one of the world’s most recognized names in the prestige beauty industry, now expect functional and meaningful benefits in their skincare, color cosmetics and fragrance. All these products need to work harder for today’s beauty consumer. This requires a high innovation rate to ensure Elizabeth Arden stays competitive.

We spoke with Celia Tombalakian, the senior director of global insights and product development at Elizabeth Arden, to learn how she taps into Arden Insiders, the brand’s insight community of more than 4,000 women, to inform the direction of innovation.

Elizabeth Arden is the 2016 Visionary Awards Rookie of the Year winner, which is given annually to the leading brand that launched an insight community and found extraordinary success right away.

Celia Tombalakian will be sharing how the brand won this award at our upcoming Customer Intelligence Summit in Chicago this September 20-21.

Getting to know the real women behind consumer personas

Less than a year ago, Elizabeth Arden’s ability to gather intelligence on their consumers was reserved for larger scale projects. Without a strong business case and budget allocation, there was little opportunity to re-test products and launch ad-hoc marketing campaigns.

“The beauty category is exciting and ever-evolving,” says Celia Tombalakian, “as are the needs of our very discerning consumers. To go above and beyond our Elizabeth Arden brand promise, we need to get it right the first time, be it a new product innovation or a marketing program.”

In January 2016, Elizabeth Arden found a solution by launching Arden Insiders insight community. “Vision Critical’s customer intelligence platform allows us not only to identify our consumer’s likes and dislikes,” she says, “but to stay current on who she is and where she is going from a beauty point of view—typical focus groups or questionnaires just can’t capture this.”

Bringing her into every stage of the marketing cycle

Arden Insiders gives the company opportunity to explore and pursue an idea or challenge beyond what traditional qualitative research can do. She can talk to the same people over and over, go back and say, ‘we’ve learned about your needs, asked your opinions on new concepts and now, did we get it right?’

“Arden Insiders transformed how we are making many decisions,” Celia Tombalakian says. “We now have easy access to real-time feedback on the initiatives we are working on. Arden Insiders are passionate beauty enthusiasts, and we can weave her point of view through all stages of product or program development rather than just key junctions.”

To date, she has tested copy, print ad concepts, promotional offerings, product claims, model photography, branding and new product ideas on behalf of her global Elizabeth Arden brand marketing colleagues. This feedback drives decisions such as headlines, priority product claims and product design. “We’ve minimized debate on certain product decisions because we know our consumer’s preference and have rigorous stats that support taking one path over another,” she tells us.

Predicting what future consumers want by asking the right questions

The more consumer insight gets shared with the global marketing team, the better they can predict where markets are going and what consumers want in the future. The team now makes smart, competitive decisions and reacts in real time with any marketplace changes.

“We launched our community as a one-year pilot and within the six months we were discussing plans for geographic expansion. The ROI was very apparent to all stakeholders.”

Elizabeth Arden’s digital, PR, category management and retail sales colleagues have a vested interest in using the insight community to drive their own business objectives with an ‘unbiased voice.’ By establishing an insight community, Elizabeth Arden created the first-ever dedicated market research and consumer insight department for the brand to ensure the consumer’s voice is always at the heart of the business.

Feature photo credit: Elizabeth Arden Facebook Page

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