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Estée Lauder trains up executives

Sponsored by:

HKU SPACE and Estée Lauder

Heritage brands join hands to empower executives in re-imagining retail experiences

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 11:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 11:39am

[Sponsored Article]

To take customer’s experience to the next level, The University of Hong Kong, School of Professional and Continuing Education Executive Academy, has tailor-made for The Estée Lauder Companies’ Hong Kong & Macau Affiliate a unique accredited postgraduate certificate programme that combines digital-age retail management and shopper-centric marketing strategies.

Hong Kong’s retail landscape has experienced seismic changes triggered by evolving consumer behaviours as well as the impact of online shopping and social media. Many retailers in the city have risen to the challenge and sought to create inventive retail experiences by equipping their frontline sales employees and management teams with the latest market knowledge and new skill sets as well as fostering their innovative thinking.

The Estée Lauder Companies’ Hong Kong & Macau Affiliate has partnered with HKU SPACE Executive Academy (SEA) to offer its executives a customized “Postgraduate Certificate in Shopper Marketing and Retail Management” course. Vicki Au, Managing Director of The Estée Lauder Companies’ Hong Kong & Macau Affiliate said the Company had chosen to work with SEA because it identified with the latter’s “4P Principle”: namely Prospective; Professional; Practical; and Perspective. “We wanted practical theories for our employees to apply at work. We believed that the course should integrate these 4Ps so that it would complement our existing in-house training programmes,” Au noted.

Echoing Au’s sentiment, Professor N. R. Liu, Deputy Director (Business and China) of HKU SPACE and Principal of SEA, said the Academy tailor-made the training-focused programme to instill the latest local, regional and global perspectives into the executives.

The course was highly relevant to the current market developments because SEA’s programme directors and lecturers always kept their finger on the market’s pulse. “Our staff members are agile and swift in updating and enriching the curriculum to reflect emerging market trends,” said Professor Liu. “To ensure a high level of practicality, we have hired lecturers who were seasoned practitioners. We also select adjunct lecturers who are industry veterans, each with dozens of years of experience under their belt. Our lecturers have undergone well-developed training so that they can excel in teaching and sharing their wealth of experiences. Meanwhile, our academic director assists the adjunct lecturers in the curriculum design, goal setting, and case research.”

In terms of the first cohort of this customized course, The Estée Lauder Companies’ Hong Kong & Macau Affiliate included retail managers to expose them to new thinking, and mid-level marketing managers to enhance their grasp of retailing. “Members of some supporting functions, including HR and Supply Chain, also participated so that they could build a holistic view of shopper marketing and retail management.”

The future of the retail experience

Being a pioneer in prestige beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies believes innovative retail experience is of strategic importance. Through the course, the Company aimed to heighten the participants awareness of the new things around them so that they become self-driven to adopt new thinking and develop creative solutions in their daily operation, Au explained. “We wanted to encourage participating employees to think about the creative retail experience and how we could optimize the integration of omnichannel –  online, offline, digital and social platforms as well as e-commerce,” Au noted. “It was also essential that the module on leadership should help our middle managers develop the skills to foster a new coaching culture targeting millennials. SEA satisfied our needs and tailor-made this programme by incorporating our input and selecting specific elements for the curriculum.”

To ensure SEA would deliver modules structured to address the brand’s specific needs, Professor Liu said executives of the two organisations held frequent discussions. “The entire programme was designed to help the participating executives solve problems. Before each class, The Estée Lauder Companies’ Hong Kong & Macau Affiliate let us know its expectations for that particular module and the desired learning outcome. Based on that, we prepared the materials and structured our in-class discussions to guide the students with specific cases and analyses. Joint reviews were conducted after each module had been delivered,” he explained. “This method enabled the students to effectively apply the practical knowledge to tackling specific challenges at work.”

The programme emphasised branding, creative thinking, technological innovations as well as practical application. The positive perception of a brand was important for retail. “Many brands under The Estée Lauder Companies’ Hong Kong & Macau Affiliate enjoy tremendous customer loyalty. The course’s shopper marketing part helped the participating executives boost the customer loyalty further,” said Professor Liu. “The students should have an understanding of new technologies so that they can harness them for business development. Meanwhile, creativity would help bolster the brand’s competitiveness.”

A seamless integration of academic theories and real-life cases was featured to ensure they resonated with The Estée Lauder Companies’ Hong Kong & Macau Affiliate’s executives. Theories helped the participants get a grip of the latest changes and developed insights into why consumers purchase specific items. By analysing the real-life cases from multiple perspectives, the students could further deepen their understanding of the concepts. This also stimulated them to think more holistically and develop innovative ideas. An example is the module on customer relationship management (CRM) and digital marketing. While CRM in Hong Kong was often viewed from a global standpoint because the bulk of the data came from overseas, digital marketing was highly localized.

The module’s lecturer therefore collected data from some niche brands that were successful in engaging young local shoppers. Although this was unexpected for some participating executives initially, they all ended up finding the module highly helpful.

Achieving optimal results

The proactive learning approach adopted for the programme bolstered the participating executives’ enthusiasm in class as well as their active engagement in group discussions and projects. “One third of the learning was from the lecturers; one third from peers; and the remaining one third was from self-reflection,” Professor Liu noted. “Apart from the lecturers, the interaction among the students facilitated their learning from one another and the exchange of insights. Through this learning journey, the students would reflect on their past work experience.”

Au agreed with Professor Liu. Feedback from the participating executives was overwhelmingly encouraging, Au said. “They found it very helpful. It exposed them to expertise in different fields outside the company and helped them diversify their perspectives. The course specifically focused on the purchasing behaviours of local shoppers. During problem-solving discussions, the lecturers used many examples that reminded our employees of their experience in the stores. This approach empowered our employees to adopt shoppers’ perspective to view the consumer’s journey and the omnichannel online and offline integration. Meanwhile the course also stimulated them to cultivate new thinking about leading and coaching the millennial team members. We plan to continue our partnership with SEA.”

HKU SPACE Executive Academy

The University of Hong Kong, School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU SPACE), a pioneer and leading provider in professional and continuing education, was established in 1957.

The HKU SPACE Executive Academy (SEA) was set up in 2016 to delivering quality executive education to empower emerging business leaders between 30 and 45 to drive the cutting-edge market development. Executive programmes include Postgraduate Certificates, Executive Workshops, Executive Business Mission and Study Tours, Corporate Training and Global Masters Programmes in four core areas: Digital Economy, Leadership Capital, Innovative Marketing and Smart Finance. SEA endeavours to “Be inspired, Be One Step Ahead” with the emerging business leaders.

HKU SPACE Executive Academy

The University of Hong Kong, School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU SPACE), a pioneer and leading provider in professional and continuing education, was established in 1957.

The HKU SPACE Executive Academy (SEA) was set up in 2016 to delivering quality executive education to empower emerging business leaders between 30 and 45 to drive the cutting-edge market development. Executive programmes include Postgraduate Certificates, Executive Workshops, Executive Business Mission and Study Tours, Corporate Training and Global Masters Programmes in four core areas: Digital Economy, Leadership Capital, Innovative Marketing and Smart Finance. SEA endeavours to “Be inspired, Be One Step Ahead” with the emerging business leaders.

The Estée Lauder Companies

Over 70 years ago, Mrs. Estée Lauder founded her eponymous cosmetics and skincare brand that formed the foundation of The Estée Lauder Companies which is now the world's leading prestige beauty company. The founder embedded learning in the company's culture early on. Employees are encouraged to own their learning journey and enrich their development experience every day. Through performance management, team leaders help individual members set goals and identify ways to achieve their career aspirations through learning. The Company provides many in-house learning opportunities, covering e-learning platforms, workshops for enhancement of specific skills, and executive management training programmes. Affiliates of the company from around the world also send their high flyers to an executive leadership programme offered through a partnership between The Estée Lauder Companies and a university in the United States.

Executives sharing their experience

 

I particularly enjoyed the feedback segment in each class. For instance, after we watched a video showing how big data and artificial intelligence were utilised in shopping malls, we discussed how they could be incorporated in the overall retail experience. The best part was when the lecturer gave his feedback on our ideas and shared his insights and suggestions on how the latest technological developments could be harnessed to create exceptional retail experience. In the course we also learned about the mindset of tech and social media-savvy millennial shoppers and the ways to connect with them. Our frontline employees found the insights very helpful.

The course equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of the latest market changes, specifically about the local shoppers. I now feel more at ease when communicating new ideas to the frontline employees. I also picked up some flexible strategies that could be executed along with the Tom Ford Beauty brand’s global standard. The course was very helpful for our overall planning and execution.

This course was a great opportunity for us to refresh our knowledge and keep abreast of new trends and consumer behaviours to better pinpoint the challenges faced by the frontline employees. These learnings allows us to work more closely with the marketing team to develop strategies better suited to the current market conditions. I have been able to apply the practical knowledge learned from the course at work. For instance, I used to focus only on the targets and results when I discussed the capture rate of the customer relationship management (CRM) with the marketing team. Now I understand that big data can help drive business. We can look beyond the quantitative targets and instead have in-depth analysis of products’ strengths and weaknesses. I can share the analysis of customers’ data with the marketing team and explain the situation to them with more concrete details. This enables us to formulate more effective strategies together.

HKU SPACE is a non-profit making University company limited by guarantee.