The beauty of big data: the L’Oréal and IBM story

(Note: This article is a repost from IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub)

You can simply walk down the aisles of main street pharmacies to see that L’Oréal products are in every area of beauty care from glossy lipsticks, eye shadows and blushes to hair care products. I’ve only seen the ranges in the UK, but in fact the company is present in 130 countries, across 28 international brands.

Over 100 years of beautiful

The L’Oréal brand was originated back in 1909 by a young chemist. He researched and manufactured the first hair dye which he then sold to Parisian hairdressers. Just 10 years later the company had become international, with women all over the world becoming more conscious of their appearances, and some looking to L’Oréal products to cover those gray hairs that had snuck up on them.

Over 100 years have gone by and the L’Oréal strategy towards beauty embraces diversity through acquisitions and socially responsible initiatives worldwide.

I recently saw an article about a photographer who traveled all over the world documenting the perception of beauty in different cultures and countries. It is these differing perceptions of beauty that requires L’Oréal to offer localized products in each of the markets they operate within.

With these differing markets come a huge challenge in managing product information. That’s several thousand international products, each with over 400 attributes used to describe them. This product information impacts internal departments such as manufacturing, production and supply chain, which ultimately affects the customers. In order to drive more business value across these areas, L’Oréal needed consistent and readily accessible product information, and that’s where IBM came in.

But IBM’s not a beautician

L’Oréal provides vast ranges of high quality products, so the team was keen to replicate this high quality when it came to their master data across the business internationally. In order for a Master Data Management project to be a success, the IT infrastructure was key and IBM was able to deliver this to L’Oréal with supporting consulting expertise.

The scale and complexity of the project was huge. L’Oréal is global organization with brands and portfolios delivering different product types to a vast and varied customer base with different geographical locations. The technical part of the project was the easy bit—the huge challenge for IBM was to understand the complex organizational structure and how that links to current business processes.

Fear not—IBM tackled the challenge head-on with expertise and flexibility, and was able to deliver an MDM solution that satisfied L’Oréal’s needs in three key ways:

  • Synchronization is enabling the business to be more effective and efficient.
  • The quality of data is high, which can enable new initiatives in business controls and digital marketing.
  • L’Oréal now has the opportunity to capitalize on a 360° vision of all product information, a common language across this complex and diverse global organization.

Additional resources:

L’Oréal case study:

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