The Body Shop on how its new owners are trying to revive its ‘activist spirit’

The cosmetics retailer admits it strayed too far away from being a purpose-driven business under the previous ownership but is looking to turn that around with a new mobile-driven campaign.

The Body Shop is looking to return to its roots as a purpose-driven retailer after admitting it has struggled in the market amid newer rivals that are “speaking louder”.

Earlier this year, The Body Shop was sold by L’Oreal to Brazilian firm Natura in a deal believed to be worth £885m. Sales at the company sank 5% to £813m in 2016, down from £854m the year before. In truth, its performance outside of the UK has been suspect for quite some time, while many of its core customers have switched to newer entrants in the cosmetics market such as Lush.

According to Christopher Davis, international director of corporate responsibility and campaigns at The Body Shop, the new owners are helping the brand to relocate its historic purpose-driven spirit. And he’s confident this can reignite sales.

“The business was founded as a force for good and Natura is helping us to revive that activist spirit,” he tells Marketing Week.

“Historically, our CSR campaigns have helped to change government leglisation across the world. However, it’s true over the last few years we’ve not been able to be as clear with our customers on this as we’d have liked.

“We maybe let our rivals speak louder about their social purpose, but that’s going to change now. We know consumers are more loyal to brands whose actions consistently reflect their own beliefs.”

Using mobile to drive engagement

One of the first major campaigns under Natura has been The Body Shop’s ‘Forever Against Animal Testing’ campaign, which was launched back in June. And starting from today (20 September), it will bring this campaign to life by using the mobile wallets built into devices such as the iPhone.

Upon signing the campaign’s petition online, mobile users will be directed to a landing page where they will have the option to add the ‘Forever Against Animal Testing’ wallet pass to their smartphone.

The brand will then use the wallet pass, created by Urban Airship, to send weekly updates to users on the political progress of the campaign (including updates on how many signatures it has amassed) and potentially reward them with special offers should they share the pass with a set number of friends. In effect, it serves as both a certificate for people who have already signed the petition and a way to extend its life beyond a person’s signature.

The business was founded as a force for good and Natura is helping us to revive that activist spirit.

Christopher Davis, The Body Shop

Russell Longley, senior Manager of CRM programme development at The Body Shop, predicts mobile wallets will become a bigger channel among marketers. He says it makes great business for The Body Shop because 52% of its online transactions already come from a mobile device.

“There’s a lot of debate about people not having enough space for new apps on their smartphones. Studies show people use only five apps regularly and everything else is either ignored or deleted,” he explains.

“By using software already built onto the phone this means our shoppers don’t have to download an extra app. It allows us to provide content around a specific topic, which is in this case animal testing, but we could also use the wallet pass in the future for loyalty programmes or gift cards too.”

Moving forward, Longley says The Body Shop will be more mobile-savvy when it comes to getting people to engage with its more politically-driven campaigns.

He concludes: “The audience at The Body Shop skews towards the under 35s. So we are looking for more opportunities to engage with these people in an environment that feels native.”

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