Before the pandemic, It Cosmetics did not have an engaging learning management system for its field team sales reps; it instead relied on a digital PDF that was not dynamic and difficult to update frequently. Now, its online platform is updated monthly and when new products are launched.
As the world was forced to become more digitally savvy in the wake of Covid-19 quarantines, digital learning tools have become more important in the effective storytelling and education of brands and products within an organization. It Cosmetics’ approach was to create an immersive and whimsical virtual hub that people would want to use.
“I wanted to make it as addicting as Candy Crush and as social as Instagram or TikTok. That audience does not want to read articles. They want [the information they need], in 15 seconds, and to move on,” said Shannon Pirie, vp of global education at It Cosmetics.
Once a user logs in, they are greeted by a suitcase animation that pops open, revealing It Cosmetics products and geographical landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower. An animated passport then appears that includes their personal information, their level of accomplishments and available badges to earn. From there, users can freely access micro-modules with product information and games to reinforce It Cosmetics’ learnings. They can also earn badges and points toward rewards like a free lunch. The modules and games are designed to teach and test employees, while an education manual provides bite-size information about the brand and products. There is also a community feature where people can ask questions and gather tips. There are 52 reps regularly using the platform, though nearly 200 people across marketing and other business units can access it to aid in their work. It Cosmetics declined to share investment figures behind the learning management system.
L’Oréal notably did not lay off any of its field teams and sales reps in the midst of Covid-19. Pirie said virtual training had to be more engaging and descriptive to keep people’s attention. It also had to better describe products, because reps resorting to a digital-only sales environment transferred the information to consumers. Pirie compared this to live-selling, which requires a different set of skills and talking points than selling something in person. She added that she would like to create a video library with this descriptive approach for every product on the current learning management system.
“The thing about education is that, if I was doing live training, I am tweaking it as we were going, based on the audience. [I ask myself]: Is the audience grabbing this? Are they [engaged]?” she said.
Pirie said she also wanted sales reps’ training to encourage their conversations with customers to go back to the ethos of It Cosmetics, around women’s confidence. One example includes talking to a customer about what’s “right about herself,” rather than what’s wrong, said Pirie. There’s also a virtual reality “Restore Room,” where people are encouraged to take a mindful pause, relax or become inspired. Features in this digital room include yoga exercise instruction and affirmations.
“Games are an engaging form of media; you can bring a user and eventually a learner into your messaging in a very meaningful way,” said Stephen Baer, CCO at The Game Agency, a division of ELB Learning, which built the education platform for It Cosmetics. “Business-to-business gaming is less about marketing to users and more about educating them. With It Cosmetics, it’s almost like B2B marketing, because it engages and educates sales reps who act as influencers to consumers.”
Pirie agreed with this assessment and said her audience is sales reps. She needs to provide them with sound bites and information that give them the confidence to be able to speak to a consumer about products. Pirie said it was hard to parse how much a revamped rep education system boosted sales. She also said that navigating the attention economy has been a struggle, especially with international reps who handle other L’Oréal brands, in addition to It Cosmetics.
“The whole education process is called a journey because you never arrive [at a destination]; you’re always learning,” she said. “Encouraging people to go on a digital platform creates a new behavior, which is one of the challenges. We’ve created the resources and now it’s my responsibility to figure out how to help people make time for it.”