Global CEO of SK-II, Sue Kyung Lee, was speaking on the travel retail industry during the Tax-Free World Association (TFWA) Asia Pacific Exhibition and Conference on May 8.
She highlighted that while the beauty consumers’ travel shopping habits had not changed dramatically, certain existing characteristics have heightened.
“As we compare before and after the pandemic, we’re learning that she’s becoming much more savvy and smarter. She’s investing a significantly longer time in getting the right information and planning for her trip.”
Lee estimated that beauty consumers spend an average of 10 hours across four to five social media platforms and approximately 20 minutes at physical stores before finalising her travel shopping list.
“It’s really important for us to give her the right information before her trip because when she travels, she’s very, very keen to invest. And what she’s looking for is higher quality, so she’s really willing to invest in the premium products if it really meets the value creation.”
Not only do beauty brands need to offer their best products but also their best experiences to the travelling consumer.
“She really expects that as she travels, and particularly when she really chooses to shop the list of the things that she plans to shop, she really wants to be well served, and she expects the best-of-the-best experience that she could really bring back home.”
Lee elaborated that a top-notch shopping experience required well-trained beauty advisors that can anticipate the needs and wants of the consumer “before she even expresses what she needs”.
“She expects significantly more maybe because travel has gotten more scarce, or maybe because she’s gotten smarter from the information that she gets. All in all, we are learning that we really need to raise the bar a lot more to serve her best.”
While the Procter and Gamble (P&G)-owned brand is hopeful about the potential in travel retail recovery has not been as swift as anticipated.
“We don't necessarily see fast-paced recovery yet, but a slow and steady recovery,” said Lee.
She has observed great enthusiasm for domestic travel in China to places such as Hainan despite the resumption of international travel.
“I went [to Hainan] a couple of weeks ago, and I saw for myself that despite international travel resolving, I saw a lot of Chinese travellers coming to Hainan with my own eyes. And it’s also interesting to see that they are going beyond Sanya and Haikou.”
Speaking during P&G’s latest third quarter (Q3) earnings conference, CFO Andre Schulten also said that the brand had not observed a rebound from the increased traffic of Chinese travellers specifically.
“We're not yet seeing any return of Chinese consumers to travel retail. That is a significant negative for us in the SK-II business specifically. Hopefully, we see a more positive trend there in the near future.”