24 July 2024

New Times, New Opportunities: An Interview with Wella’s Laura Simpson

After the great success of We Create, Wella’s first global digital event, we met with Laura Simpson, Chief Marketing Officer, Wella Company, to talk about the new era after the pandemic and how the now independent company is strengthening its commitment to the professional beauty industry.

Regarding last year, what accomplishments from the Wella Company are you most proud of?
I would definitely say our support of the industry over the past 12 months, and being able to help so many salons. As you know, we became an independent company again, and that was a moment for us to refocus on our commitment to the industry. So, it was really important to us to help salons during lockdowns and then to reopen with excellence. We were very focused on one-on-one consultations and, of course, between our sales reps and our educators in the field supporting them to be able to open, to be able to apply the health and safety measures and to be able to maximize the sales of their business at what was a very, very difficult time.
We actually did thousands of business consultations during that moment and actually we had several of our brand ambassadors talking about it on We Create, so anyone can go back and see it. They talked about what did they do specifically to be able to survive during the pandemic – things like how to do virtual consultations, how to stay in touch with your clients during complete lockdown, offering solutions like click-and-collect to be able to do some retailing of products, reminding them to book their appointments when the salon was going to reopen, how to increase best new opportunities through premium color services and revisiting service menus, how to become a more sustainable salon… the goal was to help our salons and to maximize their opportunities moving forward. We took the very best of that and what we’d learned from all of these consultations and actually showcased it during We Create, so we could give access to that to the 70,000 people that registered for the event.

A lot of things changed during the last year and a half. How might the salon environment change and continue to change after the pandemic?
The good news is that all of our consumer surveys confirm that they have very much missed hairdressers when they were under lockdown situations and not able to go visit them. I think after visiting family and friends, visiting the hairdresser was the next thing that consumers were seeing they were going to do immediately after lockdowns – so it’s quite remarkable.
Also, what we see is that all the trends that were happening prior to Covid have been accelerated essentially. So, we saw already a significant impact from digitization on the industry, not just in how hairdressers buy products and how they participate in education and training, but how they communicate with their clients and how they attract new clients.
I think this represents a real opportunity for us – just take education, for example. Prior to Covid, we probably did 20% of our education touchpoints on digital. During Covid and lockdowns, we’ve been at sometimes a 100% digital. And we see in the post-world a real blended learning opportunity for us, where we leverage both on and offline. Of course, hairdressers want to be back in studios, want to be having education in their salons… but digital training allows us the opportunity to reach many more hairdressers. This is a proven way for salons to improve their skills and their mastery and turn that into business results. We’ve learned a huge amount about that and we’re launching new seminars which have been piloted in several markets, so we’ve been able to really validate a model to do that virtually. These are sell-out programs that have top feedback from hairdressers and we’re really ruling those out and building those into our mainstay program moving forward.
One of the other things that we see is what we call premium color services: a demand for salon-exclusive premium services that can only be done by hairdressers – looks that you just can never achieve by doing your own color at home. That was a focus for us in all of the years leading up to the pandemic. Introducing successful services like Luxelights, Illuminage and healthy blondes, made possible by our award-winning color portfolio. Our flagship brand Koleston Perfect ME+ is our best ever color, enabling 100% grey coverage with healthy looking color results. This range is used to deliver different color services from most exclusive balayage to color correction, which is on the rise due to home color experiments. Blondorplex is also featured heavily. Offering no compromise on lift and up to 97% less breakage, it enables the most premium blonde results with up to 7 levels of lift, while constructing bonds inside the hair with BlondorPlex Technology. It has become a must have product for blonde services in Wella salons around the globe and our top artists’ favorite. We’re really focusing salons on implementing these on their service menus so they can attract clients and they can charge the right money for those services.
And then the last one I’d probably mention is sustainability: the growing need for professionals wanting more sustainable solutions and wanting to make their salons more sustainable. Even clients enter salons with a growing demand for that. That’s a focus for us. So right now, as we speak, we’re just rolling out the move on Wella Professionals colors. We are so proud that as part of our ongoing journey towards becoming a more sustainable brand, Wella Professionals announces that it will shift the production of color tubes to 100% recycled aluminum, removing over 700 tons of virgin aluminum every year. On top moving to 96-100% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR2) plastic caps, saving over 180 tons of virgin plastic per year, and 85% recycled cardboard packaging, supporting responsible management of the world’s forests. It is a joy to know that every beautiful Wella color service will now be more sustainable for the planet. And then of course, we’ve got WeDo, our new eco-ethical haircare range, with maximum natural ingredients, certified by the Vegan Society and Cruelty Free International, and using a very high percentage of post-consumer recycled materials.

Another big trend in the 21st century’s been the emergence of influencer marketing. How relevant has this been, especially over the last year?
What I always see is that hairdressers were the original influencers. The number one reason you buy a haircare product today is still ‘it was recommended by my hairdresser’– so they’re the number one influencers. It’s just how the influence isn’t just in the salon, but also how they can influence virtually and online as well. So, we have a lot of programs with our hairdressers to help them to be more influential online and in digital forums. In some cases that includes training them to be able to use digital platforms so they can amplify their message. This way they can reach all of their clients, and use that as a way to help to grow their business. At Wella we’ve always been about building communities – it’s really in our DNA as a company. We used to build those communities face-to-face and now we want to build those communities online and influencers play a key role in that. Our strategy is really to work with very, very passionate brand advocates, we want to have a very genuine and authentic relationship with hairdressers. For example, the Wella Professionals Passionistas program would be at the center of all of our influencer marketing activities. Here we work with hairdressers that are both very talented and really love the Wella brands: we just bring them into the family and then work with them creating very genuine and authentic relationships.
We are also very proud to partner with our global ambassadors, who were all part of the We Create event, sharing their expertise and incredible creativity. Our products are just tools, even though one of the best tools in the world, which help bring to life the amazing creativity and skill. The real magic is in the hands of hairdressers.

We already talked about the changes on education in the last year, but how do you see this new situation moving on?
We think it will be really 50-50: we’re going to be very much blended learning, so yes, we’re still going to have studios, we still want people to come to these. We see these as flagships for the company actually, where you have access to the best trainers and you can have personal contact with them; and we’ll be continuing to do education in salons as well. But as I see it, I think it’s just a real opportunity to open up education to even more hairdressers and give them flexibility about when they do it. So, I think we can reach and give access to programs that are proven to build salons’ businesses. Giving access to more hairdressers to do that virtually can only be a win for both the industry and for us.

How do you envision the evolution of the industry and the Wella Company in this new era?
Honestly, the one thing that I always see is that hairdressers have never been more in demand than right now. You can turn on a national news channel where they talk about the rate of vaccination of the population of that country… and then when are salons reopening. It’s unbelievable. The value of hairdressers is so strong at the moment because they have really, really been missed. As we know so well, it’s  not just about having a good haircut and a good color, but it’s about how that makes you feel and how confident you then are to go about your life. So, I truly think that now is the moment for salons to charge the right prices for the service and the value that they offer their clients. I’m really a supporter of this, the company is really a supporter of this, and this is what we talk to our salons about. You know, some of them don’t take pricing on a regular basis. And this is the moment they have to, to cover the challenges they face with implementing health and safety measures. They’ve got to take a close look at their service menus and really focus on these salon exclusive premium services that only hairdressers can do and make sure that they’ve got the right education to enable them to do that. I think that can bring a lot of positives for hairdressers and for salons as we come out of the pandemic hopefully, and move forward. I think that, as a result, the future can be very bright for hairdressers if they take advantage of the world recognizing how valuable they are and the service that they offer to their clients.
I think for Wella, it’s just such a great opportunity to be an independent company again – really, really dedicated and committed to the business that we have and re-establishing our commitment to professionals. We’ll be focused on continuing very strong innovations in color; but also of course, on some of our care and styling brands and businesses as well. This will all be supported with education, with more events like We Create in our future because it was such a success! I mean, 70,000 hairdressers signing up from all over the world is unbelievable. I think the feedback has been outstanding. Today we have the largest and most engaged community of professionals around the world, and I think more events like We Create can just help to strengthen that as we move forward.


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