Teaming up with Kao Australia to build the right thing

Teaming up with Kao Australia to build the right thing

Kao Australia teamed up with DiUS to explore an idea and design an experience to help engage their stakeholders and build brand advocacy.

Kao Australia is an international beauty products leader, supplying big name brands to customers through retail outlets – think John Frieda, Biore, Jergens, Molton Brown, KMS California and Goldwell. Recognising a need to improve their presence in retail outlets, there was a belief that this could be achieved through an online product training experience for frontline retail staff, and potentially a direct education channel for customers. Committed to engaging their stakeholders and customers more effectively, Kao Australia embarked on a journey to increase brand advocacy through frontline staff training and education.

Understanding the user before the build

Kao Australia teamed up with DiUS to explore the idea of building a training platform that would help educate retail staff about each brand story, as well as new products being launched in the Australian marketplace. Their initial brief and anticipated solution was to create a technology based training platform such as an app or online portal, however a digital solution did not end up being the end result.

At DiUS, we believe that all ideas should be tested before investing in any technical solution. So with the aim of avoiding the common ‘if you build it, they will come’ pitfall, DiUS started small by ensuring there was a deep understanding of the end user. The combined team went on a journey to ensure a mutual understanding of the company’s history, structure, aspirations and constraints. This gave the team greater empathy for the company’s employees, stakeholders and customers – gaining a deeper understanding of their motivations, pain points, needs, and influences.

Over three weeks, the team carried out a pragmatically selected list of research activities including Business Model Canvassing, mystery shopping,  one-on-one interviews with retail staff, and gathered information from the company’s customers and employees. This research was integral in framing what type of solutions would achieve Kao Australia’s goals.

During the exploration stage of the project, the team generated a number of creative technical and non-technical ideas. However, thanks to the research conducted in the earlier stages, it was clear that a technology solution would not achieve their desired outcome. This was predominantly because retail staff presently had limited access to technology in the physical retail stores. Whilst a technology solution was ruled out as an immediate suitable option, the business remains very interested in revisiting this space due to the slow, but nevertheless growing vision, understanding and implementation of technology in the Australian retail landscape. The technology solution options are merely ‘shelved’, but not entirely ruled out for future exploration.

Building the Right Thing sometimes means not building a thing

Recommending that Kao Australia consider a non-technical solution to achieve their immediate goals, the team recommended bringing the sales field force in-house versus it being undertaken by an external partner (which was the current arrangement) – promoting product ownership and greater knowledge transfer.  In addition, the findings and idea generation process lead the team to agree that Kao Australia should consider the appointment of a dedicated education staff member to take full accountability for the strategy, training and education of frontline retail staff. This would be a suitable alternative to relying on, and assuming staff would be pro-active in teaching themselves about new products.

Considering the non-technical solution presented by the team, Kao Australia agreed to design a pilot project to test the effectiveness and impact of appointing a dedicated Education Manager. This role would undertake the training of frontline retail staff in a controlled geographical zone and measure the hopeful uplift in product knowledge, referrals and ultimately, sales.

“Of the two recommended solutions, the business agreed to immediately proceed with the pilot project of an Education Manager, as we assessed this to be a more manageable and realistic long term solution that could also deliver the biggest return on investment.

The project is still in the planning phase as there is a high level of retail involvement to drive staff attendance to the training and education sessions, and accurate reporting. However, there is a huge level of enthusiasm from the retailer at head office, and store managers who are keen to participate as they recognise the potential positive impact this solution would be to their businesses if it was to be successful” Dora Ngov, Associate Director Marketing, Kao Australia

Kao Australia are now well on their way to improving their merchandising partners’ product training experience. DiUS is proud to have been a part of helping them explore their idea and taking the right steps towards achieving their goals.

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