Right in the middle of the action but seemingly miles away from the chaos, the Alila Seminyak was the perfect meeting point for a discerning group of salon owners and their ambassadors at the top of their game but nonetheless looking for the next enlightening moment to drive their business. Underscored by a theme of disrupt – ultimately doing things different to how we’ve done before and embracing change, the transformation in luxury and how to stay ahead of the curve in a confusing and chaotic marketplace is to be agile, as we discovered at the Kérastase Luxe Summit in Bali.

Just pulling such a like-minded a group of salon owners together with a penchant for luxury is a lesson in itself, each often having a different interpretation of what luxury is. The key take away was that regardless of where luxury lies for you, disrupting the norm is the only way to survive and grow.

Kérastase General Manager Cara Riley kicked off the formalities with a transparent and open minded approach to relationships. Following an impressive dinner at Seminyak’s new Som Chai restaurant – from the man behind the infamous Sarong and Mamasan, Som Chai is a more casual street-food inspired interpretation of the group’s finest cuisine but with an over-arching hallmark of luxury throughout the interiors. A luxury interior and design detail that impressed only the fussiest salon owners. Here guests were greeted to welcome drinks and a smorgasbord of the best Asia has to offer, a fitting prelude to an ensuing two days of leading luxury at every touchpoint.

The hallmark of Alila is the combination of innovative design and crafted luxury in unique locations, set apart by an unprecedented level of personalised hospitality, and bespoke journeys. This is an objective Kérastase aimed to achieve by taking the best of the best to a location that was similarly on-brand and in-touch with Kérastase brand values.

Alila is a Two Roads Hospitality luxury boutique hotel brand, managed by a skilled local and global team that embraces the values of passion, innovation, authenticity, social responsibility and community engagement, to create, operate and deliver well-rounded and heartfelt experiences to our guests. “Growing in luxury is just as much about as understanding the values of your consumer and the mindset that every $1 the shopper spends that she is actively buying Kérastase,” Cara said.

“Millennials are more interested in new experiences rather than products. We have embarked on considerable research with a mystery shopping campaign to collate data to ensure we are constantly transforming Kérastase,” she said. So, part of that is in understanding who the Kérastase shopper is, with a considerable 42 per cent aged 40-54 years, 38 per cent of which earn more than 150k per year. 44 per cent say they are satisfied with the results recommended by their hairdresser or beautician as part of their routine – which still leaves a considerable opportunity for Kérastase salons – a notion the luxe summit was aimed to tap into over the coming days.

What really is defined as consumer trends can be so blurred in such a distorted market but the best way is to find how your consumer discovers your brand or product, how they consider it, how they purchase and what then happens post-purchase. Ultimately the goal is to extend their services and continue to purchase. It’s the Pandora’s Box to successful salons. Get it right and growth is guaranteed year on year, and luxury is the most lucrative market to find it.

Exceeding expectations and mastering a luxury state of mind was perhaps the biggest thing a leading salon brand like Kérastase strives to achieve with all of its salon partners. As the most googled professional salon brand in Australia it’s no wonder the main reason why conference attendees continue to commit to the big K beyond the significant salon treatment opportunities. It’s also down to the fact that consumers continue to come into the salon asking for Kérastase.

Off the back of this strong retail presence, further built through in-salon Fusio treatments, it made sense that luxury retail expert and brand commentator, Ian Clark led the retail experience to discuss trust and how the consumer experience isn’t selective. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy how you make them feel and the story you give them to tell,” Ian said.

Discussing his journey in luxury beauty – firstly for 17 years with Estee Lauder Companies which culminated in leading the International Special Events and Consumer Experience portfolios – Clark knows a thing or two about engagement and before going solo, he was the General Manager at Chanel Australia and New Zealand for eight years. But Chanel aside, and despite wanting to know how he re-launched a seven store (a $110 million) retail business in just five years, being accountable for sales, Ian’s history shows that audiences mostly just want to know how to better connect with their customers. “The purchase and trust that occurs in your salon now is a result of something occurring earlier,” he said. (pull quote)

“You are in the business of what? And all your consumers want is what?” Ian asked. The most commonly resounding answer was related to experience – the experience is what sells the brand and ultimately the product comes last – something most of us already know and focus on but how do we get the consumer excited about purchasing more often? “Luxury was once the ordinary in the lives of the extraordinary but is now the extraordinary in the lives of the ordinary,” Ian said.

“My core strengths are enhancing company performance and market share, brand integrity and client loyalty. I am an enabler of achieving results through people – you are in the business of people so while I can’t always teach you how to run your business, I can remind you the importance of inspiring exactly that, people,” Ian said.
How do you do your craft and what is your desire to continually improve it? Being results driven is the only way to succeed in luxury according to Ian – “the growth is in the experience and sometimes ignoring the elements of your business that aren’t going to give you growth.”

Ultimately 25 per cent of the world is over 50 – how do you communicate with them? They want to look younger and have the money to spend. “Ironically a lot of us spend time and money marketing to a younger audience – it’s about really identifying your best customers,” he said. Many clients will spend between $12,000 and $150,000 on their hair in their lifetime and today more than ever it’s about building long-term relationships.

Then there’s the 80/20 rule where 80 per cent of revenue comes from 20 per cent of clients. Often we think we are in the business of something completely different to what we are. It’s important to understand perception and how the client sees us.

The window is often the first way. Ian discussed how to improve the window and how less is more – over-cluttered windows are not appealing to the luxury consumer. He outlined what the best practice is for greeting the customer and stick to it. “What two things can you do to improve the reception – back bar scent marketing? Alila Seminyak was a prime example of how they immerse you with their products and scent at check in. Have an experience checklist and look at what touchpoints you can add,” Ian said.

A speaker that seemed to make the audience most excited on the second day was Gus Balbontin – a man that makes an introduction rather difficult. His website says Investor, Advisor, Explorer and he’s probably one of the nicest and most exciting successful entrepreneurs you’ve met (in jeans and a t-shirt too).

Gus is the former Executive Director and CTO of Lonely Planet – leading one of the most loved and recognised brands in the world through an exciting transformation. Most importantly to the Kérastase audience he developed a sentiment where guests felt completely comfortable to ask him almost anything – approachability and insight was key.

“Make adaptability your competitive advantage. It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change. We need to talk about disruption because five years doing something over and over again is not success,” Gus said. “Just because your business is doing well, it doesn’t mean you should stick to what you know. See just how far the digital divide has come.”

Back to the notion of asking what you are as a business. Generally the Lonely Planet was a book company with 75 million books sold – and a scary looking website in 2002 (back then it seemed revolutionary).

Gus ultimately tapped into the intent of the human spirit and how we move from one problem to the next, looking for solutions.

These notions reminded us that we need to own a problem before we can change it. We are always part of the problem and the solution. Resting on growth is often innovation – the result of three qualities – curiosity, courage and resilience. “Often as we get older we get less curious but having direct relationships with consumers and access to data is how we grow our business. It’s almost like crypto currencies,” Gus explained, citing Bitcoin for example and how they have created a considerable amount of wealth through data.

Gus talked about how we need to find a scale that allows us to fall and learn safely. “Try something. Wake up in the morning and be prepared not to succeed. If you break things down small enough you can start to achieve them,” he said.

Success and health are often overlooked. There are a lot of very successful unhealthy people in the world – no balance, no regard for their body and the messages it sends us each day. We’re all a victim of this. Life gets hard, we all get busy but when are we actually going to give our busy working bodies what they crave. As such, Kérastase wanted to empower their clients with the information that behind a healthy body is a healthy mind, and in-turn a successful business. After all, beauty does start from within.

When it comes to getting the world excited about health and good food, there is very little Lola Berry won’t do. She’s convinced a TV host to swallow raw wasabi on live national television. She’s dived into dumpsters on the streets of New York (…and eaten from one!).

“Here’s a secret, the most nutritious food is usually the tastiest. Don’t skip meals, hunger is usually dehydration in disguise,” said Lola.

Lola spoke about Gluten, sugar and dairy and how creating a balance is different for everyone, “Just because you are eating something gluten free does not make it better for you.”

Linked to health and diet as the crowd asked personal and different health tips was mindfulness and sleep (two things we need solid preparation for to ensure we are getting the most out of our careers), Biophilia and the importance of getting back to nature. We’ve even seen this trend in design for commercial spaces and salons – bringing the outside in a bit more.

The last piece of the luxe summit journey was centred on good design. Neale Whitaker, ex-editor in chief of Belle Magazine, judge on television series The Block and now Love it or List It is now the founder of Whitaker & Co – a design consultancy. Sophisticated, stylish and with a wealth of international expertise in publishing and interior design, Neale Whitaker is one of Australia’s foremost style gurus.

Neale inspired the audience with a myriad of current design trends , which he says you need to take with a grain of salt. He offered bit of a rundown of design for dummies, the basics including Macro (big picture trends) and an emphasis on outdoor living, sustainability and the environment.

“We’ve seen a popular move towards the wabi sabi trend – slightly damaged, chipped and imperfect as well as a big emphasis on Japanese and Danish design. Terazzo is the new marble,” said Neale.
“We’ve also seen shades of pink and ‘micro pink, emerald green and greens with a little touch of blue as well as plants.”

Ultimately the core of the conference was situated on the concept of ‘bespoke is the new luxury’ and what we all take from it is a lasting improvement in how to connect with people. The Art of personalisation really is the hallmark of the Kérastase experience but it’s how we disrupt this experience, disrupt our daily lives and check in with ourselves that determine our next path. From a finale at Omnia Uluwatu (Bali’s hottest new club) complete with fireworks, to some one on one time at the pool bar – luxury for most of us it seemed was about connection.

The main takeaway of the trip was clear. Luxury is about so much more than grand scale elegance. It’s about people – lucky for us we have got human connection by the bucket load.

For more information visit www.kerastase.com.au