Over the last seven years, Swedish beauty company Foreo has gone from a retail tech startup best known for its electronic face brushes to a US$1 billion global business. And with a new CEO on board, it’s looking to grow even further in 2021 and beyond. A former editor-in-chief of Croatia’s biggest newspaper and managing director of one of the region’s biggest media companies, Boris Trupčević brings a unique mix of digital know-how, consumer insight and change management to Foreo. W
; We recently spoke with Trupčević about his outside perspective on retail and what his focus is for the coming year. Inside Retail: As a retail journalist, I feel like the retail and media industries have undergone a lot of similar changes in the last decade or two. Do you agree, and if so, what are some of the parallels you see between the two industries? Boris Trupčević: I absolutely agree. Digital disruption has first hit the media in a broader sense – music, newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and advertising. The second in line to take a big blow was the retail industry; I’d argue much more than telecommunications, which are often ranked equally as retail. Both disruptions are still ongoing. We are being digitised and transformed, whether we like it or not. Those who embrace the opportunity of change will prosper. Both media and retail are forced to run and optimise their legacy business models while acquiring a whole new set of competencies in the digital world. This is quite hard for most. Optimising, reinventing or even harvesting while at the same time building up new business, adopting new technologies and completely new rules of the game. Both industries are also faced with increased competition from many sides, be it the army of newcomers or the global giants, small boutique media outlets or stores, or Facebook and Amazon. Both industries are forced to find new customer acquisition routes and new ways to engage with them. Both are often very broad in who they target, using similar and mutual tactics, and have done this in fact together for decades. We have been “brothers in arms”. I could explore this forever, as I have worked closely with retailers my entire career, and have done it myself as well, by launching our own e-commerce platform within a media company which has been sold to a retailer. Very common in the media industry, and that is the case as well with my former publishing company, is that many own leading marketplace platforms. Foreo is best known for its range of electronic face brushes. Image: Bigstock IR: What if any learnings from your time in media will you bring to the retail industry and Foreo in particular? BT: First of all, it will be leadership for continuous change and leadership for growth. Foreo already is all about disruption, innovation, change and growth. I love this! But, nevertheless, every company is only as strong as its people are. I really believe that those values that made Foreo a world player can be further amplified by investing effort into our people. There is huge potential. In my experience, setting the right culture really does impact business results. Additionally, I intend to bring in a lot of things: storytelling, specific knowledge about social media platforms and influencers, deep insights on how to use all kinds of media and content, tips and tricks about digital marketing, PR and award-winning native advertising. Also, I will make use of all the experience with technology we had in the media industry because we have made a huge learning curve. Then there is a big thing about knowing your customer, how to interact with them. Any successful media is deeply involved with the audience on a daily basis and knows exactly what they want, when and how. But above all – why. This approach we have crafted as a daily routine is universal and can be applied in mostly any industry. Throughout my career, I have been working with female audiences and accumulated insights about them which will be invaluable. Finally, the media industry made many mistakes, so I will know how to avoid them on our path to even greater success. IR: Are there any parts of retail that will present more of a learning curve? BT: Indeed, I don’t think there are big unknowns but being in any industry for a long time gives you the advantage of knowing the tips and tricks and having in-depth intuitive knowledge about it. There I will rely on proven professionals. I will focus more actively on in-store sales and relationships with our retail partners, as well as acquiring a deeper understanding of online shopping behaviour. I am a very conscious buyer, but I cannot project my inner world on others and extrapolate it to a general level. Data and metrics, combined with behavioural psychology, powered by technology, with a touch of scientific method will to the job. I have a lot to learn, and that makes me very happy. The brand is stocked in upmarket Chinese department store Lane Crawford, among others. Image: Bigstock IR: What are one or two of the most important retail or consumer trends that you have your eye on? BT: E-commerce is No. 1, and then also, e-commerce is No. 2. Why? Simply because as a survivor or almost complete digital disruption in the print media I cannot over-emphasise the urgency and importance of investing early and consistently not only into building assets but primarily into building organisational competence for the new digital game. This takes time and will not turn into profit quickly. It is a marathon. The numbers about this, especially this year, speak volumes about why this is so important. Numbers will continue to grow because of the use and integration of technology in delivering omnichannel experiences, VR environments providing immersive online experiences, and then applying these offline to allow in-store product info. Convergence really means offline and online retail should both benefit from advances in technology and changing patterns of behaviour. Offline aspects were obviously limited due to restrictions; however, within certain regions and countries, we see the pendulum swinging back. Then, No. 3 is providing purpose and meaning to everything we do, internally and externally. There has been a huge shift in consumer preferences and a rise in expectations from brands to operate ethically and consciously. This includes issues of sustainability, diversity, empowerment, inclusiveness, environment, innovation and all the things that aim to improve our lives, not only for ourselves but also for our future generations and the well-being of the whole planet as a superorganism. There is always room for improvement, and this will be a huge focus for Foreo. Active listening to the needs of the consumers and co-creation is also extremely important, whether it is about products themselves or content generation. We did that with Kickstarter when launching our UFO quick mask-treatment device. Consumers are more educated and sophisticated than before and have info at their fingertips; they are “skintelligent”. Therefore, brands need to be very transparent and candid. Finally, retail media is a thing to have on the radar, as well as customer impatience, digital storefronts, social commerce, VR and, inevitably, AI. Retailers today are relying on advanced analytics to drive efficiencies in all aspects for the business, from logistics, inventory to customer-facing initiatives such as chatbots and virtual assistants or virtual beauty advisors. Delivery of personalised information, content, recommendations, etc., made possible through the way data is collected and integrated across different platforms – this is a game-changer. IR: As a European company, do you see Covid-19 as having a longer-term impact on retail, or are you anticipating a quick recovery once a vaccine is widely available? BT: We see ourselves as a global company, although we are headquartered in Europe. We do many important activities outside Europe, and we have got as many employees in the East as we do in the West. Europe and the US are hit hard by the Coronavirus crisis. I wish we could have been a better example, as the Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand are. Covid has been the catalyst for digital transformation for many retail businesses, and this shift is here to stay. It has had and will continue to have a permanent impact upon how retailers and brands plan, work and prioritise. It has also been a true test of the agility of organisations and their ability to adapt and pivot strategies accordingly. As a digitally native brand, I do not see the whole thing necessarily as “recovery”, but rather as a “new era” of opportunities for growth. However, I am a firm believer in explosive rebound once people get vaccinated, especially in hospitality and retail. People will rush into a revenge shopping spree like they have never seen a mall before – mark my words. They will reward themselves for all the hardship they went through. This was evident in China after everything opened. Human psychology there is no different than elsewhere. The turn from Q2 to Q3 will be like the Christmas season. IR: What are Foreo’s biggest opportunities for growth right now? BT: Oh, we do not focus on right now. We’re here for the long run, and we’re here to stay. By far, the biggest opportunity is reaching millions of people who have not yet made the first step into using beauty technology. It is not just about your “spa at home”, it is about taking a moment for yourself, being rewarded not just by the profound benefits of using our products, but also by being rewarded by changing how you feel about yourself. The trend we have created will only continue to grow, and a new leap will be triggered by the professional level self-care gadgets available for everyone at home, under our new FAQ brand which has recently launched in limited markets. Stay tuned, there is a lot more to come.