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28 Oct

Sephora’s Zena Srivatsa Arnold on Her Move to Retail

Sephora’s Zena Srivatsa Arnold on Her Move to Retail

Zena Srivatsa Arnold’s LinkedIn page reads like a meteoric rise through the blue-chip business world. Procter & Gamble, Kellogg, Google, Kimberly-Clark. Present and accounted for. What’s not on there’s one of the vital formative experiences of her young profession — as a Lancôme beauty associate at a Dillard’s department store in Cincinnati.

The time was the early 2000s, and Srivatsa Arnold was a young graduate armed with a level in computer science just because the dot.com scene imploded. Quite than let her mope across the house, Srivatsa Arnold’s mother drove her to the local mall and told her to search out a job. The experience turned out to be transformational.

“I went into it pondering, ‘It’s retail. It’s going to be easy. And I really like makeup, so I’m sure it’ll be fun,” said Srivatsa Arnold. “However it’s a tough job. You’ve got rather a lot to learn and rather a lot to balance. You may have to determine tips on how to meet the shopper’s needs, in addition to how am I going to hit my sales goals and manage every part. It was one of the vital formative experiences I’ve had.”

Now, in her role as chief marketing officer of Sephora U.S., Srivatsa Arnold is tapping into her collective experience — including those very early days — to assist position the retailer for continued growth and relevance. She hasn’t lost her penchant for the in-store experience either. One among the very first things Srivatsa Arnold did when joining Sephora was spend a day within the San Francisco Union Square flagship. And while much has modified within the retail environment since her first go-around, her love of the selling floor stays the identical. “Being there, understanding how the systems work, the processes work. It was phenomenal,” Srivatsa Arnold said. “I’m a learner. I really like to go to latest places and take a look at various things and connect the dots.”

You may have extensive experience in digital and packaged goods, but that is your first retail job. What was it about this position that piqued your interest essentially the most?

Zena Srivatsa Arnold: I’ve been an enormous admirer and fan of Sephora as a long-time customer. I appreciate a lot how Sephora has helped to alter the conversation around beauty. Once I was growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, there have been very particular ideals around what beauty was and the way it was represented. For the last a few years, beauty has modified from more of an unattainable ideal to certainly one of self expression and self care and connection and community.

As you consider representation, what should that seem like?

There are so many various layers. As a marketer, it’s vital that you just reflect the shopper you’re attempting to serve, in all touchpoints of your small business, from the people on the team who’re making the selections about what we’re doing to who we’re portraying in our ads. Who’re the people behind the camera and sitting on the strategy table at our agency partners?  There are such a lot of pieces of the marketing value chain. The exciting part at Sephora is how we actually support brands which are BIPOC founded and ladies founded. It’s an incredible set of commitments that we’ve made, and that we live day-after-day, just like the 15% Pledge, and our accelerator program. We’re really investing in those areas.


Courtesy of Sephora

What has the transition to retail been like for you?

It’s so fun. The pace and quantity of the work is at an entire other level. I adore it because we’re so focused on customer needs, there’s seasonal things that we’re working with, there’s shopping behaviors that we’re coping with. The true-time nature of our business is incredible. In packaged goods, you’re all the time working to this point out on a timeline, you’ve got a pair of huge launches a 12 months. Here, we’ve got to maintain the freshness and interact so rather more with our customers. I really like that marketing is connected to the business, and is rooted in actual behaviors and seeing the outcomes.

How have you ever adapted to the change in speed?

I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve got a tremendous team here they usually’ve got lots of great processes. There’s a rhythm to retail and the team has an incredible way of managing the work that has to occur to make every part come to life.

You may have a broad base of experience, from Pop Tarts to Google. As you assess your profession, how intentional versus opportunistic have you ever been?

I’d say a mixture of each. I type of fell into marketing, because I even have a level in computer science. I had an incredible internship at a tech start-up during college and was going to go work there after I graduated, except the dot.com bubble burst.

After working as a beauty associate at Dillard’s, I discovered an incredible role at GE Capital at an organization called IT Solutions. It was B2B marketing and I loved it. GE approaches marketing from a product marketing and management standpoint, so you consider how am I going to administer and grow my business.  After that, I went to P&G as a brand manager on Folgers Coffee.

What did working on Pop Tarts teach you about driving relevance for a heritage brand?

That was certainly one of my favorite roles. We were within the midst of a shift. Kellogg needed to stop marketing Pop Tarts to kids due to sugar content, in order that they had shifted to a mom’s strategy. That was superb, however it wasn’t energizing. We realized the number-one way that individuals bought Pop Tarts was from kid and teenage requests. We couldn’t confer with kids, but we could confer with teenagers, so spending the time to determine the unique insights and positioning for the brand was great. The number-one thing that you just’ve got to maintain at the center of every part is your consumer needs, their desires, the things they articulate and likewise the things that they don’t. That’s really what got us to the leadership position that we still have today.

Do you could have a favourite flavor?

Peanut butter! It was essentially the most requested flavor, so I went to the president of morning foods and said, ‘we now have to do that! That is what our consumers actually need.’ He said, ‘That is so hard, because with nuts, you’ve got to have a separate production line.’” So we needed to develop a latest supply chain for it. But after we launched it, it was an enormous hit.

From Pop Tarts to Sephora. What are your top priorities for the 12 months ahead, what’s your assessment of the business?

It’s been fascinating to see the massive growth in the sweetness category overall,  this continued rise of usage and premiumization of products. Sephora is well positioned for the trends which are happening without delay. Not only is the business growing, we’re growing share. For me, coming into something that’s working very well, it’s determining, how do you actually take it to the following level?

What does next level seem like?

One aspect is personalization. Now we have began this and do it thoroughly today. I need to enable that to live on this omnichannel world. There’s a lot that we now have to construct when it comes to the back-end, and a lot magic we will unlock there. One other is our Beauty Insider program. It’s top within the industry and I need it to be top overall. How will we give it some thought being among the best loyalty programs on the market? How can we extend advantages for more of our brands and other brands that make it more of a life-style program? There’s so many interesting opportunities.

Third, it’s vital for us to succeed in Gen Z and BIPOC consumers. We’ve done an incredible job of that within the products we stock and I need to be certain that our marketing is amplifying that and reaching them within the places and spaces where they’re pondering of beauty.

One other priority is how we proceed to construct and grow our relationships with brands. It’s awesome to see how closely we work with brands. We do lots of joint planning and growth. I need to determine how we will take that to the following level. What more can we do with them? We just began a retail media network, which is doing phenomenally well. We wish to be certain that we’re giving our brand partners every part they need and that they’re seeing results. There’s lots of opportunity to grow that.

How are you fascinated about experiential retail vis-à-vis marketing?

I cannot wait for Sephoria. It’s a implausible technique to bring to life what our brand and the brands that we stock are about. It’s going to be a hybrid event — live and virtual, and there are opportunities to do rather more of that.

The opposite key area to deal with is how will we bring more of our standpoint to our consumers? How will we as a brand act that actually demonstrates what we stand for? I really like that we’re already doing the exertions. I need to speak about it more so people know and understand the things that we’re investing in and why they matter.

As you consider your profession path, what have you ever learned? What advice would you give to someone who hopes to follow in your footsteps?

The largest shift and jump in my profession happened once I went to Google. Up until that time, I had mostly consumer goods experience. It was pretty structured. There was some innovation, in fact, but not a ton. What really helped speed up my profession was being in a high growth environment where you’re expected to take lots of latest things on and there’s lots of energy for experimentation. In most packaged goods firms, you’re focused on efficiency, determining tips on how to do more with less and there’s less risk taking.

Places like Google embrace risk, because on the speed that the industry moves, in case you’re not testing and trying latest things, you’re going to lose. And it’s OK if half of them fail — that’s almost the purpose, since you’ll learn something from it and proceed to grow.

It was a implausible experience. As my businesses grew, my teams grew, my scope and influence grew. I don’t think it might have happened as quickly in a more traditional environment, because you simply didn’t see those growth rates. So it was definitely an intentional alternative to go to a spot of growth and I highly recommend, even when it’s not where you desire to find yourself.

Also, I’m a learner. I really like to learn and go to latest places, have latest experiences. You develop expertise by doing and trying lots of various things and connecting the dots. Getting broad experience across industries and various kinds of roles really helps in that.

How how has your leadership style evolved?

I attempt to be a servant leader. I actually enjoy moving into discussions and dealing with people. I even have lots of passion for insights. I really like hearing the team’s standpoint and determining what does best at school seem like? And the way can we challenge ourselves to get there? I see my role as setting that vision and that challenge for a way can we raise the bar on every part we’re doing, and what do you would like from me to enable that?

Is it hard coming right into a latest team? How do you win their trust and support?

There’s sometimes an inclination to say, OK, I’m latest here, so I need to alter absolutely every part. I’ve been attempting to watch out about, OK, let’s find just a few places that we actually need to push on and the way can we try this together? It’s a process. The team has been great in welcoming me, but trust is built over time. Now we have to undergo the hearth for just a few rounds to essentially get there.

As a girl, and as someone of South Asian descent, did you ever feel your gender or ethnicity slowed you down through the course of your profession?

I feel fortunate that I [didn’t feel] the brunt of discriminatory behavior straight to my face. I’ve had the nice fortune of working in lots of great firms and have seen and been supported. Once I was starting out and attempting to determine the company world, I went into it with the attitude, OK, there’s going to be obstacles, things are going to be harder, I’m just going to need to figure it out and hard it out, and I’m going be committed to creating it occur. I feel just like the world is changing. Today, Gen Z is questioning why it needs to be harder. Now, there’s rather a lot more accountability for leaders to not be jerks and to not discriminate, and for we as leaders to be certain that we’re keeping the door that we’ve walked through open for those behind us.

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