“It’s Been a Journey!” Tennealle O’Shannessy on Adore Beauty’s Success

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 25 Jul 2022

On day one of the Online Retailer Expo, we had the chance to chat with Adore Beauty’s CEO and CMO, Tennealle O’Shannessy and Dan Ferguson, about changes in consumer behaviour, plus the state of e-commerce and loyalty. Here’s what they said. 

Over the course of your career, you’ve had plenty of experience, such as the Managing Director of Americas at Seek. What skills have you taken with you as CEO of Adore Beauty, and what have you learned along the way?

“I spent ten years at Seek, and I think there are a lot of similarities in the role that I play,” she said. “Seek is another proudly Australian-founded business, very customer-centric and had a long history of growth.”

O’Shannessy told us that she was doing remote work long before the pandemic, so when the stay-at-home orders came around, she was already well-prepared for the switch.

“It’s about building a great team and trusted relationship and clarity; finding the right strategy and empowering them to find the right way to deliver,” she said. “It’s been a journey! But I think about my career as being able to get lots of new experiences, get lots of learnings and take them onto a new role.”

“But I’ve also learned a hell of a lot at Adore,” she continued. “Coming into e-commerce, what I’ve loved is the customer centricity with e-commerce, the pace and speed – gosh, things move quickly here! You need to be customer-centric to be adaptable, to be agile.”

She also shared how community-focussed the e-commerce industry is. Specifically in the face of the pandemic and how much support the businesses shared with others.

“Something that has surprised me has been the sense of community amongst the e-commerce teams,” she told Power Retail. “Businesses during COVID have been very happy to reach out and share experiences, to share lessons and learnings and offer help. The sense of community in this space is something I haven’t seen in any other industry.”

Looking at Adore Beauty as a business, O’Shannessy signalled in times of uncertainty (and how it can affect shares as a result), it’s all about building a sustainable and robust business model. This way, even as times get tough, there is a strong foundation that a business can rely on and weather the storm.

The focus for O’Shannessy and the Adore Beauty team is having a “strong, sustainable business, a clear strategy”.

Adore Beauty CEO Tennealle O’Shannessy and CMO Dan Ferguson with Power Retail Editor Ally Feiam at the 2022 Online Retailer Expo.

Adore Society was launched in March 2021. A 2021 Trajectory report from Power Retail indicates that half of Aussie shoppers have chosen one retailer over another solely based on the retailer’s loyalty offering. Is this something that the team at Adore Beauty have noticed since the launch of Adore Society?

“The biggest thing about launching a loyalty program is the sheer speed of take-up. We released some figures in the initial period, and it showed a really fast membership join amongst our highest members. This is reflective of how passionate they are about our business and our engagement,” shared Dan Ferguson, the Chief Marketing Officer at Adore Beauty.

He explained that these shoppers that joined Adore Society were more likely to engage in non-product-related experiences, such as the Adore Beauty podcast, digital content and education. “That’s what loyalty is about,” he told Power Retail.

“It’s not a program; we’ve been doing loyalty since 2000 when Kate [Morris] launched the business. The way we’ve progressed is asking ourselves, how can we make customer loyalty more rewarding, and increase those rewards in proportion to the closeness of that customer to us and develop that over time?”

Is that the future of e-commerce? Is the retail industry planning to go beyond the transaction and develop content that will drive a relationship between the customer and brand? 

“Big questions!” Ferguson told Power Retail. “Customers are going to ask more. Five years ago, free delivery was the leading edge; now it’s free express [delivery], and soon it will be free same-day [delivery]. The bar is getting lower – like a limbo bar – and retailers need to respond to that.

“We need to think about the fact that transactions are a very small proportion of our lives as customers, and how can you expect your customers to stay engaged and loyal to your brand if the only time they ever deal with you is buying a product? So it’s about providing value; it’s about being honest and authentic with them. That’s the future of e-commerce,” Ferguson said.

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