David Higgins joined L’Oréal Professional Products division early in 2018 and has embraced the L’Oréal group’s customers more than ever before, from surveys to social campaigns – it’s time to expect more from both L’Oréal PPD’s dynamic brand portfolios, writes Cameron Pine.

Beyond the new ‘fresh approach’ and ‘journey’ often promised by a change in management, David has made it his business to understand and communicate openly with clients – something he says as market leader is essential to the salon experience.

The new L’Oréal academy

“Since joining L’Oréal’s Professional Products Division my focus has been on servicing and understanding our salon partners better than ever before,” he said. Recently we have spent considerable time surveying several of our customers, of varying sizes, to better understand how we can partner more effectively with them. They are looking for business partners that are more agile and tactile, not just a supplier.”

Prior to joining L’Oréal, David spent the previous five years as General Manager for a healthcare and professional hygiene company, affording him a rich experience in both B2B and consumer facing brands. As the GM of the Professional Products Division, David is responsible for leading a team of 150 people across seven brands within the portfolio; L’Oréal Professionnel, Kérastase, Redken, Pureology, Matrix, Biolage and Shu Uemura Art of Hair.

“We need to get closer to our customers. We probably haven’t been positioning ourselves in the way we need to for our customers and our goal to is be a strategic business partner for our salons, to help them develop and grow their business,” David said.

Ultimately, David admits that while business partnerships are primarily built on colour, their focus will also be on enhancing the retail experience for their customers, and ultimately end user.

David Higgins

Feeling like the brand has lost touch with some of its customers is something that is really driving David to improve – not only after growing up in a small family business himself but his understanding of last minute issues and the importance of industry wide engagement.

In the last quarter of this year, L’Oréal is focusing on a specific campaign that will heighten the awareness with consumers around salons as professional experts.

“As a market leader L’Oréal offers an outstanding education and training program  that can take place in salons or one on one in one of the five Academies around the country – these facilities are also available to our valued customers for their personal use and/or bespoke training sessions,” David said.

“Another key focus taking us into 2019 will be not on a single brand approach but by opening up the relationship and ordering process across multiple brands for salons,” he continued. “Salon partners with our colour brands will be able to access all retail in our salons with a true brand diagnostic approach and a range of social media mediums to bring consumers back in. This sell-out strategy will ensure retail products don’t just sit on a shelf and salons can customise what truly works for them across a very diverse portfolio of brands.”

“There are no benefits in flooding salons with product if we are not able to assist them in selling it to our shared consumers, this means it must be the right product in the right salon at the right time.”

Bringing retail awareness and expertise back to salons and driving consumers as a point of purchase will shine even brighter within an over-arching strategy that links back to the true professionalism of L’Oréal brand partners.

David also feels amplifying the Academies can realise even more benefits for both and that they haven’t been used to their greatest potential in the past. “We all have to understand that we play a role in attracting and retaining talent in the market,” David said.

One of the biggest shifts in all industries including small business communities is the evolution of technology and with L’Oréal also having the capacity to leverage awareness on a global scale, David says they will be using this power to realise market trends in salons to their full potential.

L’Oréal as a company regularly embarks on ongoing research and engagement with 12,500 consumers – all insights that are then directed back to the retail execution of their brand portfolio.

“I’ve put the challenge to the team in 2019 to integrate customisation across all brands. For example, the Kérastase Luxury Summit will be back but with a completely new format, there will be more on industry trends and millennials and tailored services,” David said.

We will also see events like Redken Symposium in Vegas in January stronger than ever, Paris in March with L’Oréal Professionnel and more.

“As a business we have all of these incredible brands and there’s so much more leveraging we can do. There’s a huge sense of responsibility coming into this role – I have six fantastic brands under my responsibility and my goal is to position them further for success,” David said.

Expect an overriding boost from a revised business partner program in 2019 and beyond and consumer insights that will truly help salons grow their services as well as education and up-skilling opportunities to fill every month in the calendar.