MAC Cosmetics' global CMO reveals how the company is using augmented reality, e-commerce, and TikTok to revitalize sales in the pandemic

  • The coronavirus pandemic is changing retail and shopping habits for MAC Cosmetics. 
  • In the latest installment of our new CMO interview series, which has featured companies like Pepsi, 1-800-Flowers, AT&T, and Roku, Business Insider talked to MAC's global chief marketing officer Ukonwa Ojo.
  • She said that the Estée Lauder brand is relying on augmented reality tools as shopping moves online where consumers can't try on products.
  • She also said MAC was using TikTok more because it allowed for content creation and collaboration with consumers. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping retail and shopping habits for MAC Cosmetics.

In the latest installment of Business Insider's new CMO interview series, which has featured companies like Pepsi, 1-800-Flowers, AT&T, and Roku, its global CMO Ukonwa Ojo shared how the Estée Lauder brand is adapting to the new environment with AR, e-commerce, and TikTok. 

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tanya Dua: How has the business been impacted by the pandemic?

Ukonwa Ojo: We had to close a lot of our stores. We condensed our processes so we could move a lot faster. We moved to daily scrum meetings and we're getting new information sometimes on an hourly basis. We started touching base with our regions and affiliates on a more frequent basis. 

Dua: Has the pandemic impacted ow the retail and in-store experience? 

Ojo: It's accelerated a lot of things that were already in the works. We had piloted an AR try-on capability last year that allows people to try make-up on virtually now that we're in a world where consumers can't try on products either because the stores are closed or we have a no-touch policy in the ones that are open. It's one of the levers that we really see driving acceleration of our online business. We've also leveraged some of our 20,000 artists to help with the online consumer experience, with a new video chat feature.

Dua: How much of your business is now online?

Ojo: With the stores being closed, we saw a corresponding increase in our online business, and we expect that acceleration to continue. A sizable portion of our business has always been direct-to-consumer. 

Dua: Would that mean whittling down the 4,500 stores you have? 

Ojo: It's still very early. We just reopened a lot of our stores around the world, and we are encouraged to see consumers coming back — whether that gets back to pre-COVID levels, we don't know.

Dua: MAC Cosmetics has a history of being inclusive in its marketing. How are you advancing that given the nationwide reckoning on Black Lives Matter today?

Ojo: We've identified the areas where we think we have made progress, and were very transparent about areas where we felt we were not doing enough. We made a public commitment to fill those gaps, particularly when it comes to advancing Black leaders, where our goal is to have US population parity across all levels. We are making sure that we're standing in solidarity with the Black community in the fight for racial equity and racial justice, partnering with organizations that do that, and reflecting those commitments in the people that we work with both in front of the camera, as well as behind the camera in terms of models and photographers. 

Dua: How does that position translate in the Facebook ad boycott and platforms with problematic records on curtailing hate speech? According to the Facebook Ad Library, MAC continues to advertise on Facebook. 

Ojo: We don't tolerate hate speech on our social media platforms. In light of that, we've been in discussions with Facebook on the actions that are needed to support our position. 

Dua: Has your stand on hate speech impacted how and where you spend your advertising dollars?

Ojo: The greatest portion of our media spend goes toward digital advertising. Livestreamed social content was already on the rise prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has really taken off in recent months as a way to stay connected with consumers while they are socially distancing at home. We also see TikTok as a great platform for engaging Gen Z consumers because it's more of a content-creation platform than a social network, so fans can create content with us. 

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