Officially launched in May 2019, LouLou Cosmetics has taken Vietnam's beauty market by storm after its debut line produced in collaboration with the fashionista Chau Bui — a multi-use velvet soft matte crème in a cushion tip pen that glides on like a dream — gave the industry giants a run for their money. Developed and manufactured in Korea, LouLou’s products can more than hold their own even in today's crowded marketplace.
A year since the brand's launch, LouLou is now introducing its second collection: Glow Tint — a lip oil that comes in 6 unique and eye-catching colors. We had the opportunity to catch up with Ms. Doan Chu, the CEO of LouLou Cosmetics, to learn about LouLou's journey, the brand's mission as well as the team’s credo when it comes to mastering their craft.
Can you briefly introduce us to LouLou and the message that the brand carries?
We position ourselves as a daily makeup line. Our products are made to meet the demands of the busy modern lifestyle that young people lead, so they strike a delicate balance between function and aesthetics. Above all, we want to create internationally-recognized products at a price point that is affordable to Vietnamese consumers.
You can see that our business model is based on collaborations, meaning that each LouLou product line will be a joint effort between the brand and a respective co-creator. We worked with Vietnamese fashionista Chau Bui on OOHLA LOULOU — our first lipstick line; and for our Glow Tint collection that was just launched on August 20, we partnered with singer Quynh Anh Shyn.
LouLou was founded with a mission to convey to young people that beauty lies in diversity, and that each person is beautiful in their own way. We think that beauty should not be confined to a strict definition. One can dress very femininely one day, and rock a very snazzy look the next, as long as they have confidence in themselves.
Why did you choose to collaborate with Quynh Anh Shyn for this collection?
The Glow Tint collection aims to celebrate those who are bold and who dare to assert themselves. We felt that Quynh Anh Shyn's personality embodies this spirit, because she always knows how to make herself stand out from the crowd.
"Live like a party" — that's Shyn's tribute to this collection: live and work hard, but also take the time to flaunt your colors. I think both Shyn and the Glow Tint collection were able to capture the essences of the LouLou brand.
Making its official launch in May 2019, why did LouLou take more than a year to announce its second collection?
Actually, the delay was part of our strategy. Since we're rookies, the team and I had to deal with a number of issues. The product-making process ahead of a release is tedious, but it also allowed us to test different modes of operation. This is a common practice for a startups — we have to leave no stone unturned to find out what's not working, and make it right.
And of course there were external factors as well. The biggest challenge of the product development process was probably having to work from home due to the pandemic. The past 6 months have been an eye-opening experience for both Vietnamese and global businesses. We had to learn to cope with the changes and adapt accordingly.
Unlike in the past, when I was able to travel to Korea to oversee product development, everything has to be done online now, so testing or color adjustment is also fraught with obstacles. Fortunately, throughout the pandemic, our Korean manufacturing partner has been giving us constant support in formulating and perfecting our products.
What's so innovative about the new Glow Tint collection?
With our Glow Tint line, we want to address a common issue that people come across when using lip gloss: the sticky finish. LouLou's Glow Tint is formulated with mineral oil, which helps hydrate the lips without being sticky.
The color palette is also a point of contention for Vietnamese consumers. Korean lipsticks are popular for their high quality, but they're difficult to use because the shades don't really complement Vietnamese skin tones. Knowing this, we developed Glow Tint in 6 different colors that are suitable for local skin tones.
You had accumulated 6 years worth of experience working in marketing for startups and e-commerce companies before becoming the CEO of LouLou. How has your work benefited from this experience?
The biggest takeaway from my previous jobs is probably the ability to grasp the whirlwind technological shifts and their influence on consumer behavior. With half of the population in Vietnam having access to the internet, and the younger generation being increasingly tech-savvy, the most effective way to reach them is through the internet and social networks. Digital platforms are so important because they allow you to meet your audience where they are.
The most drastic change in my 6 years of working in e-commerce and marketing is the consumers’ attitude towards online shopping. In the past, when e-commerce was still a new playground, online goods struggled to win the hearts of consumers. But now, online shopping has become something of a daily chore for many people.
However, due to how lucrative it is, e-commerce is becoming more and more competitive because everyone wants to have a slice of that cake. Brands have to constantly innovate in order to capture the scarce attention of customers when they spend time online.
What excites you most about working at LouLou? What are the challenges that you have to overcome when managing the brand?
As a product developer, the most enjoyable aspect of working at LouLou is the opportunity to conduct deep research into consumer behavior. I get insights into their preferences, interests, and needs, and whether I am able to satisfy those things.
The knowledge about the field of e-commerce that I have accumulated is a very valuable asset. But after 6 years of being in the same nascent field, as things gradually took shape, I realised it was time to find a new mountain to climb. Developing consumer goods at LouLou was wholly unfamiliar to me, and it came with challenges that you would find at most startups such as managing human resources, cash flow and operations. But for me, it was a chance to learn about and gain a more comprehensive view of the beauty industry.
How has the pandemic impacted the Vietnamese beauty industry? What must brands do to acclimate to the changes in customer needs after the pandemic?
Undoubtedly, there has been a shift in consumer behavior. Previously, when it came to buying cosmetics, people would prefer to go to the store to directly test the product, especially makeup products such as lipsticks or eyeshadows. But social distancing happened, and brands had to resort to online sales. This was an incentive for them to find a way optimize the way they showcase their products on the internet, which in turn revolutionized the users' online shopping experience. Brands that are rapidly responding to this shift are more likely to succeed in the long run.
More notably though, there’s been an uptick in holistic body care. People are at home more than ever, so they have the time to take care of themselves from within. Hence, 'ingredients' has become the latest buzzword in the beauty industry. Consumers are paying more attention to product ingredients, and choose products that are benign for the skin. This makes the line between makeup and skincare increasingly finer. A brand that can unify both elements will inevitably win the consumers' trust.
What are your thoughts on some of the Vietnamese influencer-founded cosmetic brands? What do they need to consider when it comes to building and solidifying their names in the market?
I see the appearance of new players in the market as a good sign. Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand or the Philippines, the Vietnamese cosmetics market is still relatively small. With new brands joining, the domestic market is going to become more robust. Additionally, we are seeing a lot of creativity at home, with radical ideas transforming into innovative products for the consumers, which I think is something that we should all be proud of.
For a brand to solidify its positioning in the market, I don't think there is a single formula that applies to the entire industry. The success of each brand is influenced by different factors. As far as I'm concerned, a brand can only grow sustainably by having loyal customers. And to achieve this, businesses need to know how to build products that serve the segment they’re targeting, instead of trying to launch as many products as possible.
What should cosmetic brands do to reach more consumers?
The business principle of the digital age is that everything must be data-driven. It sounds simple enough, but in the fields like fashion or beauty, the concept of data analytics is still a novelty. It's a practice that is going to take flight eventually. I believe that every decision must be backed by data. A poster or a product may look attractive, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
To achieve sustainable growth, brands need to know how to make educated assumptions about products and consumers, and use data to validate those assumptions. Establish it as a step in the product development process, and brands can get a better grip on which route to take.
Finally, tell us about LouLou's upcoming plans?
Looking ahead, we will be funneling a lot of resources into branding and product development. We'll also continue to launch other makeup products. However, no matter how big our catalogue becomes, we remain committed to offering products that in terms of quality can compete with international brands. Because ultimately, quality is what the consumers are after, and it's what LouLou is after as well.