Rob Robillard, Vice President of Integrated Beauty for Qurate Retail Group, has been in the beauty industry for more than 20 years. He started his career at L’Oréal, where for 10 years he focused on innovation and product development, holding roles including Senior Vice President of Marketing for L’Oréal Paris and Worldwide General Manager for Kiehl’s Since 1851. After L’Oréal, Rob was named President and CEO of Living Proof, where he transformed a small research and development organization into one of the fastest growing prestige beauty companies in the industry. Prior to joining Qurate Retail Group in November 2017, Rob led Sensible Organics, developing a small natural and organic manufacturer into one of the largest certified organic skin care companies in the natural beauty market. In his newly created role at Qurate Retail Group, Rob leads the U.S. Beauty Business across all commerce platforms for QVC, Beauty iQ, HSN and Zulily where he focuses on new business growth strategies, customer engagement and merchandise strategies. Rob recently took time out of his very busy schedule to speak with Beauty News about the company’s biggest beauty opportunities, his biggest business mistake and what he’s most proud of.
CEW Beauty News: How did you land at Qurate Retail Group?
Rob Robillard: Being an entrepreneur for 10 years was an exciting thing, but I found myself wanting the structure and resources that come with a big company. I heard that Qurate Retail Group was looking for someone to help lead the transformation of their beauty business, so I thought it was the perfect combination, because the company, given its 24/7 nature, is very much like an entrepreneurship.
BN: What is a typical day like at your job?
RR: This is an early-arrive culture. Most of the executive team arrives between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. It’s a frenetic pace in terms of how we operate. Today I spent time working on creative for an upcoming initiative, then I met with the digital team about an upcoming media event. Then spent two hours with my team to go over new brands they want to launch on the network and to plan out Today’s Special Value. Later, I’ll check on our proprietary brands, work on steps we have in place to drive transformation inside the company and I’ll end the day with a meeting with one of our amazing hosts.
BN: How have things changed since you started?
RR: Every quarter I have to make sure we are building towards being a transformative company. In a very short amount of time, a lot of the strategies I thought would be helpful are now really taking shape, whether it’s proprietary brands, launching national brands, experiential marketing such as our recent Beauty Bash event, and digital commerce. All are starting to happen and there are 15 other opportunities I’d still like to do.
BN: What is the biggest beauty opportunity at Qurate?
RR: The constant search of finding the next big thing. Fostering the growth of entrepreneurs has been at the heart of QVC and HSN’s businesses for over 30 years. Our platform is really driven by that and we’ve broadened the definition. Historically, we’ve found brands at tradeshows, which is how we found IT Cosmetics. But, we need to find incredible entrepreneur brands with compelling stories, who are ready to use our platform to build them into a next big thing. This is why we recently launched The Big Find with QVC and HSN, a nationwide search to discover the next big brand or unique product in beauty, fashion, accessories and jewelry. We’ve also broadened our scope to the realization that the next big things for our customers also includes national brands that we don’t have today. Our customers are loving the fact that we have Urban Decay now, so it doesn’t just have to be an entrepreneur-focused brand. Newness and innovation are what our customers love so we’re out there constantly trying to find it.
BN: Where does Zulily lie in Qurate’s beauty opportunity?
RR: What’s interesting about Zulily is that the site is focused on millennial moms and early moms, but it hasn’t been focused on beauty at all. So it’s a huge strategic focus because we need to figure out how to introduce the idea of value to a much younger customer. While there is some overlap between the Zulily customer and the QVC/HSN customer, Zulily represents an opportunity for our beauty brands. When I talk to brands I bring this up, particularly to those where the millennial mom is an important target, and this is a platform that has millions of customers who are visiting every day that can be targeted just like on QVC and HSN.
BN: What beauty is on Zulily now?
RR: Beauty is a small percentage, but a lot of the big players are there and we need to keep pushing it.
BN: Where is Qurate investing most heavily when it comes to beauty?
RR: The biggest change we’re making is around digital, including performance marketing, video content, original social content and live stream. So, we’re really making a big push and it’s an amazing tool to be able to provide brands. During Q1 2019, eCommerce accounted for 56% of total revenue at QVC US and HSN, with mobile representing 67% of ecommerce revenue. We have a captive audience and we’re really pushing how we can get to more people and continue to introduce the QVC and HSN brands to more customers. The second is going after proprietary and exclusive brands. We have to remain differentiated from the competition. Carmindy [from What Not to Wear] is an example of refining a compelling storyteller with a strong point of view into someone our customer is going to love. Next is national brands. Our customer is telling us that she loves our platform and doesn’t want to shop elsewhere and there are a lot of incredible national brands that are not on our platform today, which are a big focus for us. We are also looking at ways to bring the video experience to life by creating new touchpoints to engage with our customers through experiential events. On June 7-9, QVC hosted Beauty Bash in Philadelphia, a three-day immersive beauty experience. We welcomed over 3,000 attendees over the weekend sessions who came to explore, learn, and celebrate all things beauty while gaining an exclusive sneak peek at some of the exciting new products and brands. Lastly, we are investing in Clean Beauty. In June, QVC and HSN announced the launch of a Clean Beauty seal to allow consumers to easily navigate and shop Clean Beauty offerings. We know our customer will appreciate our thorough approach and the positive implications associated with eliminating ingredients of concern from their daily beauty routine.
BN: What’s new in digital?
RR: We are launching brands online first, which is a big change. There was always the perception that we wanted to save brands for that first airing, but with brands such as Urban Decay and Too Faced, we really challenged ourselves to build a viable business on our digital platforms first, then launch on air. We’re also offering brands the ability to go direct to digital. We can now demonstrate that a brand like Clinique, which has broad distribution and may not be right for on-air since customers can find it in a lot of places, can build sizable businesses just on our website. QVC was one of the first retailers to expand its reach by simulcasting its live show on Facebook Live. In Q1 2019, QVC US simulcast nearly 2,000 hours per month on average. We’ve recently introduced a new series of podcasts including Shop Culture and Basic Beauty, and we are expanding our YouTube content with programming like The Sloane Series featuring our digital correspondent giving tips and tricks that we’re pushing out to digital and social.
BN: How is Beauty IQ evolving?
RR: Beauty iQ is now available exclusively on our website, apps, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV. This move to digital positions Beauty iQ to better reach its target audience of millennials. We’re focused on delivering a beauty experience that’s customized for small screens, featuring clip-based beauty shows that align to digital beauty stories such as top beauty finds under $50. Beauty iQ is an integral part of our growth plans for beauty.
BN: What is your greatest accomplishment?
RR: On a personal note, almost every time I’m out in market meetings, more times than not there’s a brand executive present who once worked for me. It’s amazing to know that I’m a part of this whole beauty community. I remember when CEW Beauty News announced my appointment at Qurate and it was featured alongside stories on Megan Grant and Jessica Hanson, both of whom worked for me at L’Oréal, and who had just been named to Presidents of Kiehl’s and Amorepacific, respectively. I was so proud. One of my proudest moments at Qurate Retail Group was the HSN launch of Beekman 1802. It was the largest single launch we’ve ever done. And I remember our first meeting with them and asking myself, ‘Does the customer need another bath and body line?’ And my gut told me that the customer was going to love the storytellers, so I’m proud that it worked incredibly well and transformed our HSN business from where it was before.
BN: What keeps you up at night?
RR: Today’s Special Value and Today’s Special, which air every day on QVC and HSN, respectively. They get a huge amount of attention and airtime. So there’s a huge amount of pressure to find items all year long that will generate a huge amount of revenue. There are about 80 a year at both QVC and HSN so I have to find 160 items. They all launch at midnight, so when it’s awesome I can’t sleep because it’s so exciting, but I also can’t sleep if it’s not since I track the numbers from home.
BN: What is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in your career?
RR: Before joining Qurate Retail Group, my first major lipstick launch was in early 2000. We were launching a hydrating lip color with new incredible technology and we missed one tiny detail. Jennifer Lopez was on board and did a commercial, but we packaged it in what looked like a long wearing lip color package, so people thought it would dry out their lips! This small detail essentially destroyed the launch. You can’t obsess enough about the details.
BN: What are your favorite beauty products?
RR: I have found two amazing products that have really changed my skin: Algenist Genius Sleeping Collagen and Sunday Riley’s Good Genes.
BN: If you could write the note in a fortune cookie, what would it be?
RR: Always dream big and visualize success. In everything I do I always try to visualize out what that success will look like, and then make it happen.