Interview with Mr. Billy Zhao, CEO and General Manager of O’Nine Beauty Technology
Prior to O’Nine Beauty Technology, Billy was a veteran in the IT and internet sectors, working as Sales and Marketing head for global leading IT companies such as Oracle, SAP (the world’s top enterprise software company) and PTC (leading product design and life cycle management firm) for over 15 years. Then Billy established O’Nine Beauty Technology, dedicated to bringing innovations and breakthroughs to the nail field. As a leading healthy nail brand based in France, it is the first innovator in the industry to release the solvent-free, odorless and cosmetic grade nail gel polish and nail polish formula and products, under the name of “Jardin Global”. O’Nine also launches online and offline training to help more people start their business. As an IT guy in the beauty and SPA industry, Mr. Zhao possesses creative business perceptions. SpaChina interviewed him.
When did you found your company?
It has been nearly six years since I left the IT industry and began nail business with other partners. Facing a brand new market, we have gone through several twists and turns, from the early phase when we painstakingly groped and adapted, to later when we can more deeply understand the market and establish an operation strategy for the company. In short, the best way to understand the market is to directly go to the front lines to meet the consumers and listen to their voices. I have visited almost 500 outlets to talk with the owners, directors, therapists and consumers to understand their conditions, confusions and development states. Our first group of clients, including big chain stores and influential independent outlets, have been gained in this way.
What changes have you experienced concerning the market and target group?
The nail business is a rising industry. As I always say, it is never too late to enter this industry. With the continual boom in domestic consumption and service industries, the nail business has enjoyed rapid growth. You can now find nail stores on nearly every street. There are 370,000 independent nail stores (excluding those within salons) in China with 2.6 million personnel and a market size of RMB 120 billion. It maintains an annual growth of 25%. In Europe and America, over 60% females are beauty nail wearers while the proportion is less than 20% in China. There are 215 million post 80s and 90s females in China, so there is huge potential in the nail market here.
At present, the cases are consumers who go to nail stores for services. However, due to low investment and a high return rate, there are numerous nail stores of different scales and quality in the market. There is not yet a chain brand that can take up more than 1% of market share. 90.3% of all nail brands have no chain stores. Moreover, the comparatively big chain stores show obvious favor to only first-tier and second-tier cities.
In the nail industry, the market size of nail products and tools is about RMB 12 billion, training schools RMB 2 billion and nail services RMB 100 billion. There is a high degree of market decentralization. Concerning the upstream supply chain, there are over 2,000 manufacturers and training institutes of various sizes, each of which has exceedingly low market share. There is not yet a leading brand with due scale and influence in the market. It is against this background that O’Nine and Jardin Global makes a strong debut and shows rapid development in the market. I firmly believe that we will stand out as a national leading brand regarding both market share and brand influence.
To gain long term customer loyalty and trust, quality is surely a core. What’s your opinion?
The product itself is the best advertisement and the company founder is the best product manager. We entered this confusing market in order to make innovations and revolutions. Beforehand, the nail products in the market are mostly produced at small poorly-qualified workshops, with paint coating-like manufacturing methods and formulas, which means massive amounts of chemical solvent, pungent smell and clichéd industrial formulas.
From the very beginning, we have been dedicated to producing safe, healthy and environment-friendly products that combine technology and art. We stick to the strict EU Cosmetics Regulation in the research and development process. Thanks to the plant extraction technique from our French partner, as well as our own advanced material synthesis technology, we launched the first completely solvent-free nail gel in the world in 2012. To avoid damage to the skin caused by acetone that is found in traditional nail polish remover, we later launched a new nail gel that can be removed by medical alcohol in 2016. We added in the gel beneficial ingredients such as myrrh and frankincense which are powerful to kill bacteria and inflammation and stimulate nail growth. We want to create a healthy working environment for the staff and truly safe nail services for consumers.
We strictly conform to national and EU production regulation of cosmetics. Our dust-free manufacturing plant in Pudong, Shanghai has reached the standard of producing infant-use skincare products. Besides, we have got system certifications of GMPC and ISO22716. So far, there is no other nail manufacturer in China that has obtained such high production and quality standards.
As a professional line brand, training and education is a significant sector. That’s why we have also founded a nail training school. We have more than 20 well-known experts in nail and service industry who teach nail shop owners and staff product knowledge, operation techniques, trendy nail styles, color matching, service etiquette and in-shop business management. We provide various training modes including in-shop training, assembly training and online training in order to improve the cohesion between clients and our company and help them achieve success.
How do you help your clients with marketing in order to gain more customers?
It is very easy to open a nail shop, but the nail industry also has a high demand for the techniques and service levels of the staff. So it requires huge effort and energy input to successfully run a nail shop. The staff generally lack sufficient knowledge and are poor in management and operation experience. Therefore, we not only provide products, but also a series of services to support clients’ shop openings, operations and training. In the aspect of marketing and customer expansion, we actively carry out training for our clients and guide them to take full advantages of online resources such Dian Ping and Mei Tuan. We also help them design proper consumption cards (by times) and value cards and in this way fix the online buying group to be regular customers. Furthermore, we support our clients to launch their we-media platform such as WeChat public account to form interactions with customers in time and carry out after-sale services. Our operation modes are as follows:
Online marketing: Attract customers via platforms such as Dian Ping and Mei Tuan. The biggest problem is that it is hard for the shops to maintain customers and improve their re-visit rate due to poor services and lack of standards. Besides, over-reliance on sales, on the contrary, also influences guests experience. Therefore, it is important for the shops to improve service standards, therapists’ skills and environment so that they can truly maintain the guests and increase their re-visit rate.
Word-of-Mouth marketing: During the whole two hours from the guests’ arrival to departure, the shop needs to provide standard and cordial services in every detail such as reception courtesy, tool sterilization, operation skills, fruit and snack offering. It can also invite guests to introduce their friends to visit by offering discounts or free experiences. The main problem is that the shops solely focus on the therapists’ skills and ignore other details such as reception courtesy, interior tidiness and tool sterilization. However, it is always these factors that influence guests’ experience, yet there is hardly any unified standards.
Cross-field cooperation: Join hands with beauty salons, hair salons or high-end clothes shops and clubs nearby to offer services at their venues or organize workshops and salons together. However, most shops are not good at this and lack resources.
Do you agree with the saying “Education pushes industry development”? How do you organize your offline after sale services and training?
I couldn’t agree more. “Education pushes the industry development” is the founding concept for us. We have carried out well-organized online and offline education and training programs. Our online training platform – “Nail and Eyelash Beauty Class” – aims to provide shop owners and therapists with theme courses and lectures concerning skill training, color matching, shop management and industry trends. The platform has so far covered over 30,000 personnel in the nail industry. We gather the expertise from excellent teachers both inside and outside the industry and popular nail business directors and share it with shops through video, audio and letters so as to help them improve skills and management levels. So far, there are 40 professionals who have provided over 100 online classes. Meanwhile, we also have offline classes regularly in Shanghai as well as other cities, including short-term nail and eyelash therapists intensive advanced training, shop management, marketing and staff management.
What are your interests in spare time?
Sport is my favorite spare time activity. I run and swim once a week and keep to at least 10,000 walking steps daily. This is my best way to reduce pressure.