In 1994, French make-up artist François Nars launched a collection of 12 lipsticks at luxury department store Barneys New York, marking the birth of NARS Cosmetics. It quickly became one of the most sought-after cosmetics brands on the market, and was acquired by Shiseido Group in 2000. Nine years later, NARS made its travel retail debut at New York JFK Airport shortly followed by Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, the latter marking NARS’s first foray into the Asia duty free market.

Since then, the brand has been leading the growth in Shiseido Travel Retail’s make-up portfolio, particularly in Asia Pacific where sales of NARS more than doubled in 2017 over the previous year. The company’s goal is to cement NARS as a top ten make-up brand in the travel retail channel by 2020.

The NARS Lip Gallery animation is Shiseido Travel Retail’s “most daring and audacious” collaboration with King Power International to date

In a new milestone for the brand in Asia Pacific, Shiseido Travel Retail launched the NARS Lip Gallery in downtown duty free complex King Power Rangnam last month. Sited at the complex’s stunning atrium, the striking animation – focused solely on lip make-up – is NARS’s biggest and boldest in travel retail to date, and aims to break new ground in make-up.

Maximising the make-up opportunity in Asia Pacific

The decision to draw Chinese consumers into the make-up category through the lip segment is “a bold move”, says Calméjane

Highlighting the growth of both the beauty category and the Asia Pacific region in travel retail, Shiseido Travel Retail General Manager Asia Pacific Kenji Calméjane* says that the intersection of the two puts the company in “a very fortunate position”.

He tells The Moodie Davitt Report: “Beauty in travel retail is booming. Asia Pacific travel retail is booming. Growth of the beauty category in Asia is even more amplified. Last year, Shiseido Travel Retail grew approximately ten times faster than the total global travel retail industry (+8.1% according to Generation) including all categories.

“We grew almost six times faster than the global travel retail beauty category (+13.8%), and four times faster than the beauty category in Asia Pacific travel retail (+19.9%). Our brands have been a growth driver for the industry, especially here in Asia. J-Beauty is booming, and Shiseido Group has an exceptional portfolio of very hot brands – either new emerging brands or rejuvenated heritage brands.”

NARS has emerged from this portfolio as one of Shiseido Travel Retail’s hottest brands, thanks to the rising demand for make-up among Chinese consumers, especially Millennials.

Shiseido Travel Retail Brand Director – Make-up Jamie Ong elaborates on this trend: “Make-up is booming in China, with usage among the Chinese growing by around +20% in recent years; and lipstick is the number one make-up item in the market. We know that 44.5% of Chinese females use lipsticks and/or lip colour, and that the lip segment acts as an entry point into make-up. This makes lips the perfect vehicle for recruiting Chinese consumers into the make-up category and, at the same time, asserting NARS’s authority in make-up.”

“Last year, Shiseido Travel Retail grew approximately ten times faster than the total global travel retail industry” – Shiseido Travel Retail General Manager Asia Pacific Kenji Calméjane

Power partner and digital innovation in Thailand

These insights form the basis of NARS’s 2018 ‘Always on Lips’ strategy, designed to accelerate the growth of the lip make-up subcategory through two pillars: product innovation (NARS Lip Icons) and enhanced brand animation (NARS Lip Gallery). It is also a fitting tribute to the brand’s origins in lipstick, Ong adds.

The new King Power Rangnam activation brings together these two pillars in Thailand, where Shiseido Travel Retail saw +60.8% growth in 2017. It is also the second biggest market for NARS in Asia Pacific travel retail (the biggest being Korea). As the top destination choice for Chinese travellers, Thailand was an ideal choice for the launch of the NARS Lip Gallery, Calméjane explains.

“We also have a highly supportive partner in King Power International, with their scale, infrastructure, retailing skills, digital capabilities and partnership mind-set, helping to maximise the opportunities,” he adds. “With all these factors in place, added to the scale of the atrium, King Power Rangnam Bangkok made perfect sense as the site of the world premiere of the NARS Lip Gallery concept.”

NARS shares a history of pioneering initiatives with the Thai retailer. In 2009, the brand partnered King Power to open the first NARS counter in Asia Pacific travel retail at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (the retailer operates three NARS counters today: two at Suvarnabhumi and the third in King Power Rangnam, opened last year). NARS was the first make-up brand to leverage King Power’s Weibo Live channel to live-stream a make-up demonstration. With the NARS Lip Gallery launch, it became the first brand animation at King Power Rangnam’s new atrium space to focus solely on make-up.

According to Calméjane, Rangnam is also the first store in global travel retail where all of Shiseido Travel Retail’s brands are featured – a “remarkable expression of partnership and trust”, he notes.

The new ‘Lips to Style’ Lip Bar concept will serve as “a unique and engaging consumer touchpoint” for exploring NARS’s iconic lip products

“The Shiseido Travel Retail–King Power partnership goes far beyond the conventional partnership. We both have very positive can-do attitudes, which invigorates creativity and the art of the possible. We are always talking together about what’s next. How to go further, bigger, better? It’s a very rewarding relationship to be in.

“Arguably, the NARS Lip Gallery in the Rangnam atrium is our most daring and audacious activity with King Power to date. Here we are animating one of our hottest brands with advanced digital and physical experiences. We are targeting to use this campaign to draw more and more Chinese consumers into the make-up category, through the lip segment – and that is a bold move. Our two-way O2O (Online-2-Offline and Offline-2-Online) strategy is truly innovative and pioneering in the way that it’s been developed specifically for the travel retail channel.”

NARS Lip Gallery: pioneering new O2O experiences

The O2O strategy is built around the Chinese Millennial traveller journey, creating digital and physical touchpoints pre-, during and post-trip. Prior to the trip, consumers are targeted by online and social media advertising directing them to the NARS ‘Lips to Style’ Virtual Lip Trial app. The app is also available on-site at the Rangnam animation, where a Digital Lip Wall – with motion-sensing floating lips – encourages consumer interaction. Shoppers can discover NARS Lip Icons at the ‘Lips to Style’ Lip Bar and capture their lip makeover looks at the photo booth. Social sharing is a key element of the animation.

“The Shiseido Travel Retail–King Power partnership goes far beyond the conventional partnership” – Shiseido Travel Retail General Manager Asia Pacific Kenji Calméjane

The NARS Lip Gallery blends digital and physical experiences in a comprehensive O2O execution

“The integration of digital and social media in the NARS Lip Gallery makes the Rangnam activation our most digitally sophisticated in travel retail to date,” Ong highlights.

Its development was driven heavily by Shiseido Travel Retail’s insights into Chinese consumers. “We know that 72% of Chinese travellers research online when planning trips, so we have a comprehensive targeted online presence, through online and social media advertising on pre-trip websites, such as C-trip, iPinyou and Travel+, as well as the King Power website.

“Given that 95% of the Chinese population access the internet via their mobile phone, we have created a mobile-first experience through the Virtual Lip Trial app with several innovative features. We’re generating gamification through the ‘Catch your Pout’ game, designed to convert players into shoppers. This is important given that 40% of Chinese Millennials spend more than an hour a day playing games on their mobiles.

“Also interesting is that, in China, 33% of beauty product users are interested in mobile apps that can recommend beauty products based on their needs. The NARS Virtual Lip Trial app uses augmented reality to encourage users to try a range of NARS lip products, recommended shades and various finishes virtually, and share their perfect lip look.

Consumer engagement and social sharing are key to the new concept

“Digital runs through to the in-store engagement with a series of unique sharable experiences: dynamic floating lips, selfie with a Sense of Place, gamification and photo booth. This is a direct response to the insight that 97% of Chinese travellers share their travel experiences online,” says Ong.

These O2O interactions create a “virtuous circle” that enhances the consumer experience at Rangnam and amplifies the buzz in the source market of China to drive awareness and demand.

“The integration of digital and social media in the NARS Lip Gallery makes the Rangnam activation our most digitally sophisticated in travel retail to date” – Shiseido Travel Retail Brand Director – Make-up Jamie Ong

“Digital engagement through the Virtual Lip Trial app creates user-generated content. As users share their NARS content, it creates amplification, which in turn drives more consumers to the NARS digital experience – and so the digital virality and virtuous circle continues,” Ong adds.

The NARS brand team takes The Moodie Davitt Report’s Melody Ng on a journey of discovery at the Lip Gallery launch; from left: Shiseido Travel Retail Brand Manager Constance Raboulin, The Moodie Davitt Report’s Melody Ng, Shiseido Travel Retail Brand Director – Make-up Jamie Ong, and Shiseido Travel Retail Assistant Marketing Manager Dawn Lim

Developed by Shiseido Travel Retail especially for travellers, the app is available everywhere to anyone – not just in Thailand or in airports – and in both Chinese and English. Together with the Digital Lip Wall, the app collects extensive data such as popular shades and finishes among Chinese Millennials, which will help to inform future projects.

Growing NARS in Asia Pacific travel retail

The NARS Lip Gallery is the first step in Shiseido Travel Retail’s strategy to accelerate the brand’s growth through animations and digital innovation. It will continue to roll out the concept across Asia Pacific, the next stop being Hong Kong International Airport, where a new NARS counter was opened at the end of April with The Shilla Duty Free.

In terms of distribution, Shiseido Travel Retail will pursue a selective expansion plan, and securing high-quality permanent space in the right locations is a key priority.

“In Asia Pacific, the development of NARS in travel retail has tended to happen in line or marginally ahead of domestic markets,” Calméjane notes. “However, domestic markets are catching up. NARS’s entry into the China domestic market was a big step for the brand, accelerating the demand for the brand from Chinese travellers.

“Steadily, we have been working in partnership with the likes of Lotte, Shilla, Shinsegae, DFS and King Power to roll out the selective distribution of NARS in key travel retail locations across Asia Pacific,” he adds.

Last year saw the opening of NARS counters in Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Macau, and several new counters are set to open in the second half of 2018.

2018 innovation: All about Lips

On the product level, the focus continues to be on lips as NARS prepares to launch a range of new lip products in the second half of 2018.

Following the successful launch of Powermatte Lip Pigment last year, NARS will soon present the Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer. New shade extensions for Powermatte Lip Pigment and Velvet Lip Glide will also be available.

Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer (pictured above) comes with a two-sided applicator which includes a plush side, said to deposit the ideal amount of colour onto lips, and a smooth side to evenly distribute pigments

New lip products from the upcoming Orgasm Collection 2018: Afterglow Lip Balm (left) and Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer

A new ‘Lips to Style’ Lip Bar concept will be introduced across all NARS travel retail counters in the second half of 2018. “This lip bar serves as a unique and engaging consumer touchpoint for consumers to experience our iconic NARS Lip franchises,” Ong says.

Here, shoppers will be able to discover a range of seven lip finishes across eight lip product lines: Velvet Matte Lip Pencil, Satin Lip Pencil, Audacious Lipstick, Satin Lipstick, Sheer Lipstick, Semi-Matte Lipstick, Velvet Lip Glide and Powermatte Lip Pigment.

“In some ways, you could say that Shiseido Travel Retail is riding a wave,” Calméjane says. “Of course, the challenge is to not fall off, and keep bringing new energy to that wave so it is sustained long into the future.”

*FOOTNOTE: Shiseido Travel Retail General Manager Asia Pacific Kenji Calméjane was interviewed recently on the company’s wider performance in Asia Pacific – read the story here.