- British cosmetics brand The
Body Shophas had a presence in Indiafor over 16 years now and it looks at India as a critical market.
- We talk to
Vishal Chaturvedi, Vice President, The BodyShop India who walks us through the brand's journey in India so far, its strategies that have helped it grow here and its plans for the future.
Over the last few years, and especially in the last 2 years of the pandemic, there has been a change in the beauty industry. Despite the setback due to the pandemic, the beauty industry is going back towards normalcy. Attractive social media marketing, beauty influencers and e-commerce platforms have brought brands closer to consumers.
While 2 years back, most of us would not be comfortable buying cosmetics online, the pandemic changed that, and it will help the larger market in the long-run. Another change the pandemic brought about in the minds of consumers is a move towards using brands that use more natural ingredients in their products. Consumers are also choosing to opt for brands that have a larger brand purpose.
British-born, ethical cosmetics company The Body Shop has been in India for the past 16 years. It was one of the early brands that attracted consumers due to its range of naturally-inspired cosmetics and toiletry products. For years, the brand has been pioneering the philosophy that business can be a force for good, and has been launching new standards of ethics in business.
In the past few years, the brand has seen healthy growth in India. While its presence on ecommerce platforms like Nykaa and now on Myntra and Amazon helped it take its products closer to its consumers, it also adopted strategies like 60 minute door-to-door delivery and WhatsApp shopping to cater to mass customers.
To understand the brand’s journey in India more closely, we spoke to Vishal Chaturvedi, Vice President, The Body Shop India. He told us how the brand has fared in India in the last 16 years, its strategies that have helped it grow here and its plans for the future.
Q) Walk us through The Body Shop's journey in India. It's been 16 years since the brand entered the Indian market. How have things been?
Over the years, the beauty industry has changed a lot, especially in last two years. Beauty is now breaking standard norms and redefining it as an approach to self-expression. encouraging more about ‘How you feel’ in your skin and hence breaking standard beauty norms. There is a rapid rise of beauty technology, product innovations & modes of selling. It’s also noteworthy that the millennials & Gen-Z are driving the change.
Digital transformation and emergence of technology has driven reach and penetration. Physical retail stores continue to be the heart of consumer experience, sensorial experience, education and trust operated by human connection. Our omni-channel strategy has helped address the new emerging scenarios to address customer queries and reach them at their convenient channel.
Further, consumers are actively seeking product knowledge, source of ingredients, packaging details and identifying with the brand’s core purpose. Issues related to sustainability, inclusivity, adaptability, empathy and relevance are evaluated while making purchase decisions.
At the Body Shop, we have targeted focus with a robust omni-channel strategy including an overall digital and offline presence. Bringing touch-and-feel of products to digital portals and experiential stores with technology will be the beacons for the future. Further, it’s our quest to advocate for Profit with Principles while being accessible and affordable. In these times of great social and environmental inequity, we believe that our purpose has ability to bring change.
Q) What has The Body Shop's marketing strategy in India been? The beauty segment has become very cluttered in the last few years. How has the brand made a place for itself in the clutter?
The Body Shop is a disruptive beauty brand with an edge in the Indian market. We have constantly researched & provided for the changing market trends while keeping the customer at the forefront and helping the planet.
Community Programs: Our commitment to be a purpose-driven business has kept grounded to our activist roots. There is credible work done around plastics, tackling waste, packaging & sustainability. World’s first community fair trade program is the core of our DNA for over 40 years. Similarly, we have worked on social activism raising the voice of less privileged communities and dealt with environmental impacts of plastic waste effectively.
Communication Channels: In current times, the lines are blurring between digital & physical. Beauty shopping is not restricted to one and in fact, the integration of two is a must to cater audience needs. We have focused our energies on servicing our consumers swiftly as well as digitally enabling our site to deliver an experience at par to that of our stores. Other steps include free samples of consumers’ choice on every order; Live Chats with personal skincare experts and AI driven product recommendations.
Collaborations: Evidently, influencer collaborations enhance the content engagement. It also gives a window to reach audiences in varied demographics& geographies. Our Chief Brand Advocate, Sanya Malhotra is self-made, independent, outspoken personality with very strong cinematic choices truly inspiring the young women of the country. She also leads The Body Shop’s SWAD (Squad with a difference) with faces from different backgrounds who come together and fuel our fight for fairer, beautiful world.
Third Party Channels: Our collaboration with Nykaa for the past 8 years has proved to work wonders. And now with Amazon and Myntra we’ve made our way to even the remotest corners of the country. After the pandemic, to cater to mass customers, we started door-to-door delivery in 60 minutes and launched WhatsApp shopping.
All these initiatives are working in our favor to place ourselves in the cluttered market.
Q) The pandemic has thrown a lot of challenges to retail brands across the globe. How did you navigate these challenging times?
The pandemic has been a period of learning for the brand. It gave us the time and chance to carefully evaluate consumer behaviour and outlook in order to plan strategically for the future. We were able to understand our customer’s needs better. We have learned to be agile and nimble. Despite the economic magnitude of the lockdown, the beauty industry may have proven to be reasonably resilient with the new emerging normal.
In the past two years of the new-normal, the consumers adapted to new channels and wellness routines. Personal hygiene and beauty trends had an uptick because people spent more time on themselves. The increased awareness around beauty and self-care presented the brand with a great niche and campaigns like 'Self Care Sunday' or 'Spa at Home' were very well received by the audience.
We also revamped our digital presence by building a consumer-friendly digital store that is complete with cutting-edge technology and a user-first interface. In an attempt to reach customers, we expanded our social media presence with tools to assist hands-on product experience. Digital and social channels have been at the forefront of consumer engagement Anytime, Anywhere shopping service for customers, via Social commerce, WhatsApp Shopping, Assisted Sales, Home delivery, going beyond Express Delivery to 2 hours’ delivery, Expert Chats, Live video consultations and so on. Technology played a vital role in navigating through these times by helping our customers make the right decision in absence of product touch & feel experience. As a result, we are now catering an addition of 5000+ pin codes, we’re now serving over 30,000 pin codes across the country.
Q) How are you expanding your retail presence? What are your plans for this year?
Post pandemic the dynamics have changed. Large parts of our customers have moved towards online shopping but retail stores are the heart and soul of our brand. With things now opening up again, we are geared up to provide an even better shopping experience to our customers. The need for human connection is now stronger than before and the consumers will look for sensorial experience, physical interaction, engagement, touch & feel of the products and seek personalized consultation at the stores. With this vision, we are moving ahead to open 25 new stores in 2022 in various locations.
Our future plans include bringing the activism in the very heart of the brand, that is retail stores. We are excited to launch the new Activist Workshop stores where customers can explore and discover how they ‘can fight for a fairer and more beautiful world’. On the product front, we aim to turn completely Vegan by 2023. Additionally, we are constantly focused on making our product packaging 100% recyclable thus reducing our environmental impact.
Q) How are you going deeper into the country? What kind of sales are you witnessing from smaller cities? Are you also focusing more on increasing your offline presence in Tier II and Tier III cities?
Rising awareness amongst consumers, increased incomes coupled with explosion in the presence of digital platforms the demand from Tier II & III cities has increased manifolds. Customers believe in buying less but buying quality. The appetite to spend in these smaller cities is increasing and customers are becoming more conscious about what to use for their skin and body.
Additionally, post pandemic, a great chunk of people have shifted back to their hometowns from metro areas. However, they are still looking for their favourites for personal use. Keeping up with the need of our customers we have a robust plan of opening 25 new stores in FY 2022. 70% of these stores will be opened in other Tier II cities like Indore, Bhopal, Patna and Shimla.
Q)Over the past few years, there has been a movement towards cruelty-free products. How has this helped you build your brand narrative?
Since its inception in 1976, The Body Shop is a cruelty free brand. We believe and fought the cause that animals should not be used for cosmetic testing. Therefore, all the ingredients are ethically sourced and have never been tested on any animal. The Body Shop passionately believes that no animal should be harmed in the name of cosmetics and that animal testing on products and ingredients is outdated, cruel and unnecessary. This is why The Body Shop and Cruelty Free International partnered to deliver the largest and most ambitious campaign ever to seek a global ban on the use of animals to test cosmetic products and ingredients. In June 2017, The Body shop India launched itsForever Against Animal Testingcampaign with Cruelty Free International and became the first international beauty brand to campaign against animal testing in cosmetics globally.
Additionally, all our products are 100% Vegetarian and over 60% of our products are 100% Vegan. This includes best-selling ranges such as the Tea Tree skincare range, Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask, Body Yogurts and now the iconic Body Butters launched in November 2021. All our new launches are 100% Vegan. Our new haircare range is certified by The VEGAN society and packaged with fully recycled plastics The Vegan Society takes an extremely thorough approach to certification and contact is made with every supplier and manufacturer of raw materials within the product catalogue. For The Body Shop, that’s over 3,700 raw materials. Once each raw material has been meticulously investigated, each product is reviewed in totality to make sure it is fully compliant. Only then does a product receive Vegan Trademark certification. We are working toward 100% of all Products becoming Vegan by 2023 keeping in line with our commitment to reduce impact on planet.
The Body Shop is one the first cosmetics brands to prohibit testing on animals, and also the first company to introduce Fair Trade to the beauty industry. Our customers appreciate the environmental friendliness & social stand of the company and identify with The Body Shop in consequence.
Q) What gives you an edge over other brands in the segment?
We are not just a brand but a legacy. Years before The Body Shop opened its 1st store in India, The Body Shop International has had a long commitment to India and its communities.
Q) You say the brand remains staunchly feminist, one that advocates for the right of women and girls everywhere. Can you give me a few examples of the things you have done in this regard in India?
In sync with the vision of our founder, The Body Shop champions equality and serves as a voice for young girls and women across the globe. We’re committed to advocate for equal rights, self-love and body acceptance as few of many social causes we fight for. Through our activism, we campaign to make the world a fair and safe place for women and girls.
●In March 2021, we started a mission to end period shame in collaboration with CRY. #DropthePword aimed at raising awareness about Periods, Period Shame, and the impact of Period Shame on India's girls & women. Through this partnership, we aimed to normalize the conversation around periods and raise funds towards menstrual health and education efforts for communicating deeply affected by the pandemic. We aimed to provide menstrual health awareness, education, and free menstrual products to 10,000+ people across 4500 households.
●In October 2020, The Body Shop India partnered with Plastics for Change (PFC) India Foundation to launch project N.A.R.I (Nutrition, Ability, Retraining, Inclusion).The objective of this project was to support female empowerment and sustainability with our focus on female waste pickers, who were the invisible frontline Covid19 warriors. We have raised funds to support these women by voluntary customer donations and an equal amount was donated by us.
●With Stop Sex Trafficking of Women and Young Children, we engaged with our customers, friends, and family across the globe, we have raised awareness and funds. We were elated when India ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime including Prevention and Punishment of Trafficking, particularly Women and Children.
Q) Going ahead, what will your areas of focus be to capture a bigger market share in India? How important is the Indian market for the brand in the global scheme of things?
India is a country of diverse people and that is its biggest strength. We have a great diversity of faces, skin tones, beauty regimes, rituals, preferences, and regional beauty traditions, which is a unique opportunity for us. They are also well aware about the ingredients, heavily relying on digital and social media platforms and growing consumption of do-it-yourself (DIY) content. Affordability is key for the customers while demanding high levels of product innovations.
As a result, we are investing in video content and reinforce it with a good-quality website. Also, we plan to leverage technology to mimic offline experiences. We use more plant-based and recycled plastic which encourages people to reuse, recycle and repurpose. Our long-term goal is to create a circular packaging strategy, which involves recycling or repurposing all of our product packaging. The customers are being transparently educated about ingredients, packaging and sustainability efforts via Omni channel strategy.
Our competitive pricing strategy for India is part of an ambitious plan to expand its reach to more people and smaller cities in quick time. This makes us more affordable and more accessible amongst the millennials across the Tier II and III cities.