Diving into Helena Rubinstein’s WeChat Efforts to Grow Social Commerce Sales in China

by Queenie Yao

As global brands seize social commerce opportunities to sell to China, they are focusing on increasingly digital-savvy Chinese customers who turn to the popular mega-app WeChat to follow brands’ activities.  Among numerous China e-commerce options, WeChat has emerged as retailers’ must-have growth engine for their social commerce strategies in China. 

WeChat social commerce benefits retailers by helping them engage customers, and build trusted, personalized, value-driven relationships via private domain practices. Private domain practices allow companies to build and maintain their own customer database to boost engagement and lower marketing acquisition costs.

However, many international retailers have yet to realize the potential benefits of social commerce. Since these retailers lack guidance on how to act on WeChat’s social commerce opportunities, they are increasingly outperformed by more agile competitors.

Brands are already benefiting from private domain operations in China: Seven of Helena Rubinstein's stores that participated in the sales contest achieved 1 million RMB ($157,000 US) in sales from WeChat mini program within 30 days.  

This article showcases how beauty pioneer Helena Rubinstein leverages WeChat social commerce strategies to improve performance results in this large, lucrative market.

Diversified campaigns appeal to high-end beauty customers

Private traffic is particularly powerful on WeChat, which has attracted 1.2 billion monthly active users, who are interconnected and forming a closer personal network. Developing a private domain within WeChat can enhance the customer journey, making e-commerce efforts more efficient.

Helena Rubinstein develops a built-in Member Club, which features a sampling club to encourage customers to engage with the HR official WeChat mini program. At first, Helena Rubinstein offers free quotas for customers to try out the samples, while customers need to complete the HR WeChat membership registration to get 3 quotas.

For more quotas, customers have to complete specific missions, such as adding HR’s staff as a WeChat contact. Helena Rubinstein is leveraging WeCom (also known as WeChat Work) to attract customers and provide dedicated services. Helena Rubinstein put their beauty advisor (BA) WeCom account QR code at the bottom of the sampling club page. Customers can scan this QR code to add professional beauty advisors.  With the sample campaigns, Helena Rubinstein can attract high-potential customers and convert them into HR members.

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 < HR Member Club allows customers to select their preferred samples>

Helena Rubinstein’s staff position themselves as personal beauty consultants who serve as product seeding and recommendation ambassadors, and personal beauty advisors to offer prestige services, as needed.  

HR beauty advisors can wisely solicit and engage with customers based on social customer relationship management (SCRM) data. Personal beauty advisors give customers a private and exclusive one-to-one service experience, satisfying their unique demands. Existing high-value customers benefit from the beauty advisors’ extra premium offline beauty skincare treatment services.

When customers add HR beauty advisor, the BA sends greetings and invites customers to join WeCom groups. HR BAs differentiate and guide customers to different WeCom groups based on customers’ SCRM data.

BAs act as group assistants to publish useful content to group members, who gain timely access to product information and skincare application tips. Different groups have different rights, benefits, and content, respectively. For high-end beauty brands, community building is beneficial for long-term cultivation, loyalty-building, and conversion optimization.

HR migrated its CRM system and management methods to the management of WeCom groups. There are five different types of WeCom groups being established: Black Diamond, Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Ordinary Card, and Potential Customer.

Seizing WeChat's social features to effectively call back customers

After reaching specific customers and establishing a private domain in WeChat, Helena Rubinstein raises customer attention and interaction in WeCom groups. Apart from providing new product recommendations, beauty advice, skincare science, product consultation, Q&A, and other content for daily interactions, Helena Rubinstein also provides differentiated treatment, marketing campaigns, and points-burning privileges based on the membership level.

Helena Rubinstein proactively improves conversion with exclusive offers in WeCom groups. Within the group chat, members receive extra benefits like exclusive rewards, product purchase tips, and limited-time gifts with purchase.

For a Queen’s Day campaign in March, HR beauty advisors presented the group-exclusive offer code in WeCom groups. Customers who spend over a certain amount (RMB 3,500 or $550 US) received an offline skincare treatment voucher. This attracted high-value customers and increased their loyalty to Helena Rubinstein.

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<HR beauty advisor releases an exclusive deal in WeCom groups>

As omnichannel evolves and the WeChat ecosystem continuously matures, WeChat's private domain empowers brands to expand their business boundaries. In short, SmartBA digitally empowers offline BAs. In September 2021, Helena Rubinstein launched the SmartBA sales contest project to systematically promote top-down BAs to guide customers into the private domain through Helena Rubinstein’s WeCom. The digital ecosystem empowers each "beauty advisor" to continuously provide customers with one-to-one personalized advisory and shopping service in the WeCom groups with their professional knowledge and aesthetic vision.

Through the BA sales contest, beauty advisors can continuously communicate with customers on WeChat and provide them with personalized services, such as an appointment booking service on behalf of customers.

HR initiates the “bonus + honor” double incentive mechanism, from the aspects of service and sales, and sets multi-dimensional indicators to incentivize beauty advisors in physical stores. Helena Rubinstein can match the customer with a beauty advisor in the nearest shop based on the customer's positioning on the mini-program to provide an exclusive one-to-one consultation for online users who have not yet visited a shop.

Within 30 days, 7 stores participating in the sales contest reached sales of over 1 million RMB ($157,000 US) for the cloud store mini program in a single month, accounting for more than 15% of total sales. Helena Rubinstein provides a new consumption scenario for high-end customers that have made offline purchases and brings new growth points for HR’s offline business. This contest guides BAs to break the limitations of space and time, deliver quality service to the brand’s loyal customers and approach new customers, thus promoting overall sales growth.

Activating high-value customers with first-class services in the SCRM program

Helena Rubinstein developed a membership program for SCRM that allows customers to accumulate and burn points. The system integrates online and offline sales data, so customers will always receive points whether they shop online or offline.

HR develops a membership tier with high perceived value to elevate the customer experience. The brand divides membership into six tiers, from entry-level to the highest tier. Each has its system: Fan, Celebrity, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Black Diamond. Each tier has its points limit and qualifications, and comes with redemption privileges, birthday rewards, new product trials, exclusive information, campaign priority, skincare treatments, and event invitations. One of the best ways to enhance member loyalty is to redeem points. Helena Rubinstein's points can be redeemed for a wide range of products in full-size and travel sizes.

The items redeemed for HR points are different each time and the number of points is different for different products. Designing gifts or prizes that can attract customer participation is the crucial first step. This can effectively improve customers' sense of belonging and increase their likelihood of repeat purchases.

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<HR member program provides various rewards to loyal members>

Combined with the SCRM program, HR members can make an appointment and experience premium facial care services at the offline counters. Offline treatment services are only provided to high-tier members like Diamond & Black Diamond cards, and membership level upgrades are based on purchase behavior.

Brand members who spend more than RMB 6,000 ($900 US) in a single transaction at an offline counter will receive a first-class skincare voucher.  Members will receive a facial treatment voucher after the first full-size product order purchase from any official sales channel. Among all offline skincare services, HR Exclusive Life Pearl Cellular treatment is an exclusive privilege that is available for Diamond Card and Black Diamond Card members to make the reservation. 

As such, HR’s exclusive skincare service is a value-added benefit that effectively attracts repeat purchases and builds loyalty. The CRM program, on the other hand, is an important aspect of Helena Rubinstein WeChat's private domain operations, which is also embedded with other functions and features to make private traffic interesting, participatory, and profitable.

Providing personalized solutions via a dedicated customer skin quiz

Differentiating brands by offering novelty to customers is a good strategy to capture attention. Helena Rubinstein integrates an individualized skin quiz in its private domain operation and elevates customer engagement with the brand.

HR WeChat mini program integrates this skin quiz to find the perfect products for the customer’s skin condition. By learning about customer demands, the mini-program will recommend a set of products for individual skincare routines. HR can cultivate brand awareness and customer recognition of the products. The products are divided according to their different skincare effects. If the customer receives a whole set of solutions, rather than a single skincare product, it will be more helpful for the brand to improve the customer unit price. For example, HR will recommend a combination of moisturizing toner, serum, facial cream, and mask for customers with water-oil imbalance problems and demand for anti-aging products.

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< Skin quiz (left) and personalized skincare solution (right) >

Before or after a purchase, customers can communicate with HR beauty advisors continuously on WeChat. Beauty advisors in turn provide personalized services, such as one-on-one skincare solutions to their high-end customers. This personalized service greatly enhances the customer experience for the brand, as customers don’t need to search elsewhere to learn how to use the product or research any precautions.

Through the optimized operation of the WeChat ecosystem's entire touchpoints and the innovative mini-program gameplay linking online and offline, Helena Rubinstein has brought new inspiration and insights to other beauty and luxury brands, as they learn from each other, and emphasize exceptional service and experiences.

To see how global beauty brands successfully use WeChat social commerce best practices, including private domain, to drive e-commerce sales in China, see Azoya’s new whitepaper, Capitalize on WeChat Private Domain: Best Practice 2022.

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Capitalize On WeChat Private Traffic: Best Practic

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