How did you start working in eCommerce?
I was a commodities trader for almost 11 years. I pivoted into the beauty space after coming to the US with PepsiCo on an H1B1 Visa. I left PepsiCo to join the Dial Corporation, which was a CPG organization. That was my first entry into the consumer product beauty space.
From then on, I went from one brand to the next, but always with a common theme: turnaround situations. That took me into private equity-backed portfolio brands, which is about achieving results in a very short timeframe. And that built my career, so to speak. Then, I ended up here at Moroccanoil, which is really not a turnaround situation but more of a growth brand. It worked out nicely because the online learning from turnarounds gives me an edge when it comes to growing a brand as well.
Ever since I started learning about the beauty business, eCommerce has been my focus. I remember talking to the web developer [back at Dial in 1999] and saying, “Why do we have just a static website? Why can’t it be more dynamic?” And he asked me, “What do you mean?” I said, “Why can’t we have a virtual reality space? I want somebody to log onto the website, be able to click on something and take it, to walk through the website and start picking stuff up off the shelf, putting it into their baskets, and checking out as if they were shopping in a real store.” He could not comprehend what I was asking for. And 20 years later, we’re all doing it.
What advice would you give to others looking to work in the industry?
Speak using language that everyone can understand because you need supporters. The people you’re communicating with may not be fully aware of all of the terms that you take for granted.
I’ll give you a very good example. In my last position, I was talking to a senior guy in the organization, and I had the impression that since digital, eCommerce, and social are such hot topics, everyone would understand the jargon. So I started using a lot of terms, like “upper and lower funnel,” “SEO,” and “SEM.” To me, it was all very basic.
His response: “What are you talking about? What’s the lower funnel? What is SEM? What is SEO?
I realized there and then that communication is about helping someone understand you. Communication is not taking a topic you’re very passionate about and thinking that the other person will just assimilate and understand everything that you’re trying to convey. If you are talking to somebody above you, or even your subordinate, speak in English, not in code.
Once someone understands you, they will partner with you and work well with you, and support you. All any of us wants is to be heard, and to get things done. Frustration generally arises when people don’t understand what you are saying. It’s not because they don’t believe in what you’re saying: they only get frustrated if they don’t understand you.
What do you think is the next big trend that will define the industry?
Influencers have become [to the beauty/eCommerce industries] what print advertising was to publications a few years ago. With that said, I think influencers need to understand if they are becoming bigger than who they are representing or bigger than the people that believe in them, then will become irrelevant.
In that same vein, people are looking to brands for authenticity, not just lip service. This is dangerous for of a lot of established brands. They want to come across like they are leading the charge, when they’re actually just jumping on the bandwagon.
When you’re inauthentic, you are going to turn a lot of consumers off, because your consumers are smart. They are reading the same things you are reading; they understand what’s pushing the agenda for a lot of companies. If you are implementing a change just because it’s a good marketing or selling technique, they will see right through it.
So the way brands represent themselves is going to become very important. And the same with influencers: they have to be who they really are, and not just allow themselves to be sold for the best price.
Are there any other women in the industry that you admire & why ?
One of the people I admire a lot is Mindy Grossman, formerly with HSN and now with Weight Watchers (WW International). She’s such a down-to-earth person who always makes time for people. Any time I write her an email or text, she comes right back. That’s a hallmark of good leadership: never forgetting where you came from, and bringing people along with you as you grow. It makes people feel good. It inspires them, and makes them want to achieve more as a result of witnessing that kind of leadership.