CDO Perspective: How data culture transformed Belcorp, the Latin America beauty giant

Building a Data Culture

Tracking Progress with Tableau

Data Democratization

The largest pandemic of the century, economic turmoil, and drastic changes to the beauty consumer behavior, - while  many companies would see the scenario as a tremendous threat - Belcorp, a Latin American beauty corporation with headquarters in Peru and operations in 13 different countries, took the challenge to step up and fast-forward its digital transformation

Change is not a stranger to Belcorp’s Chief Technology, Data & Digital Officer Venkat Gopalan’s repertoire. Since he joined the company 2 years ago, Belcorp went through a major digital transformation that touched every aspect of the business using technology as an enabler and people as the core of the strategy. With COVID-19, the company was challenged to stretch its boundaries, rethink its line of beauty products, and the way they have been doing business for the past 53 years. Gopalan and his team were ready for the changes and excited by the possibilities that the crisis may bring.

The results couldn't have been more impressive, the company was able to reduce its time to market by 40%, delivered 400% more projects in comparison to the previous 18 months, and was able to sustain its double-digit digital sales growth. Tableau functioned as a cockpit to manage the different pieces of the project, ensuring the best results in every single stage.

Turning the crisis into opportunities

“We feel that every crisis is an opportunity,” says Gopalan. He continues, “It has been challenging, but I think that for every technology professional it is the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of the crisis and to reshape businesses. We can only reflect back in 5 to 10 years from now and say ‘Oh, we were part of this’. Now we are heads down so it’s hard to see.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Gopalan and the executive committee, who usually meet once a month, shifted to meeting more often. “We had a number of sessions to analyze consumer adoption rates, what was happening to the market, and COVID-19 rates across the globe. Together, we would look at different scenarios (worst case, realistic and optimistic), assuring that cashflow and operation expenses were in control.”

Questions like “How do we take advantage from this worldwide crisis?” and “How do we look at the future?” played a big role in these sessions. Being a data-driven company was crucial to acquiring the right answers and shaping what would soon become the future of Belcorp, a consumer-centric company and a fully digital business (spoiler: Tableau is not only part of the solution, but it’s also deeply embedded in Belcorp’s culture and its response to the crisis).

To empower business people with technological skills that allow them to make decisions based on data, and for that we provide them with the best analytics development program in the market

Consultants become social sellers

Direct Selling, or door to door sales as it’s often called in Latin America, has been part of Belcorp’s backbone since its inception. The company was founded to empower women to become entrepreneurs and now has more than 800,000 independent consultants onboard. The pandemic and the inability to sell door to door shifted much of the face-to-face interactions to a new online model.

Belcorp’s digital transformation turned into digital acceleration during the pandemic as consumer behaviors and preferences changed.  “We are transforming the consultants into social sellers, beauty advisors and influencers,” explains Gopalan. “In our new model, every consultant will have their own online store. The consumer buys from this store and Belcorp ships directly to the consumer. This new model changes the business logistics and allows us to obtain improved insights on how to manage the relationship, and customer purchase behaviors.”

This new online channel empowers consultants to reach more consumers outside of their usual network through social platforms and networks and encourages online sales. The beauty advisors can use their product expertise to showcase their favorite products and strengthen their relationship with customers online. “This stimulates sales through social media, which is crucial for us” says Gopalan.

Belcorp was also able to shorten its consultant onboarding process from one full week to 15 minutes, making it more inclusive and available to a broader audience.

From the final consumer's perspective, the new model allows personalization across the entire customer journey and reduces the lead time between making the purchase and receiving the final product.

Turning customer insights into actions

“We aspire to be the leaders in digital selling - and for that - we need to keep the consumer in the center of the business” says Gopalan. To better understand and manage customer's insights he established a Customer Relationship Management team. Consumers are demanding more immediacy and customization through all the touch points, Tableau enables the eCRM team to transform insights into actions and quickly respond to the consumer preferences and needs.

During the pandemic, for example, there were many changes in consumer habits: “some of the products they used before were no longer necessary, women were no longer wearing makeup on a daily basis. On the other hand, we saw an upcoming trend on skin care products and hand sanitizer”, the reduction of the go-to market time enabled the company to bring innovation to the customer in less time while keeping up with the market trends.

“While some of the customer behavior changes are here to stay for long term, some will be short term. Human beings are social in nature, they want to connect, feel and touch things in the stores so we do see a coming back some time next year” anticipates Gopalan. By then, their eCRM team will have enough insights to continue delivering amazing, personalized experience to the customers. 

Continuous learning & sky-high adoption rates

Data Analytics and Artificial intelligence (AI) are a big part of Belcorp's strategy. Gopalan, who believes in continuous learning and is constantly in the forefront of technology and its evolution, has over 22 years of leading large-scale transformations for Fortune 100 companies across the globe and has experience of the impact AI can have across different verticals.

“From cost efficiency to revenue increase, AI can have a tremendous impact on a company's financial results and accelerate its growth” he explains.

To be able to explore AI’s full potential, Belcorp first had to modernize its Business Intelligence, democratize its data with a self-service BI, and establish a data culture. The process started in 2018, and that was the beginning of a successful partnership between Tableau and Belcorp.

The project started with a few standard training sessions, and very soon the business teams realized that they no longer required the support of the BI team to perform daily analytical tasks. They were empowered to conduct their own analysis and make data-based decisions. As the adoption rate spiked so did the need to create a continuous learning environment to promote data culture and elevate its results, thus Belcorp Data Academy was born.

Data Academy goes far beyond advanced data training, or the learning paths that until recently, were part of Belcorp's daily life. Data Academy represents a change of mindset. It was conceived by Gopalan, together with the Business Intelligence team, to be the transformation that he expects to see in the company. 

Data Academy has a very clear mission and set of values: "To empower business people with technological skills that allow them to make decisions based on data, and for that we provide them with the best analytics development program in the market." 

To create the Data Academy, Gopalan and the Business Intelligence team looked for benchmarks in the market, and established partnerships with key education leaders to design a program that catered to Belcorp’s needs. 

The program was designed taking in consideration 6 different career paths with specific objectives for each curriculum. It uses gamification as a tool to engage participants and is periodically evaluated using Kirkpatrick’s model.

Before rolling the program across the organization, Gopalan personally trained the executive committee. “If we want to change the mindset, it needs to be done from top to bottom.”  

Gopalan’s vision was to evolve from looking at current data to predictive analytics. Now that Belcorp has reached this stage, the goal is to evolve to prescriptive analytics by 2023. “We know it’s ambitious but are we’re putting a tremendous amount of effort on this strategy to get there.”

Empowering the right people with the right technology, and continuous learning tools has amazing results. Belcorp now has more than 3000 active Tableau users, more than 11,000 dashboards, and has extremely engaged internal data community. Being a data-driven company also helped the team deliver 400% more projects in comparison to the previous 18 months.

Gopalan says, “We created a very productive data community where businesses can take advantage of analytics to empower the whole organization”. The data community is managed through an internal online social network where users can interact, share content, ask questions, and ultimately have some fun. To engage with the team there is a busy calendar that includes trivia competitions, webinars and fun events.

In the backend of Data Academy, Tableau is used as a powerhouse to track its evolution and daily status. “Everything is in Tableau - who is learning what and how much they have learned in the courses. Every leader can track the progress of each member of their team through a dashboard” Gopalan explains.

Tableau as the cockpit of the revolution

Becoming an AI-driven organization by 2023 is Gopalan’s main challenge. To get there, he manages a Monthly Transformation Office where he and his committee can define goals and review the progress. “I set the agenda with the current transformations, dashboards and business cases - everything is in Tableau” Gopalan explains.

Tableau serves as a cockpit to integrate all of the company data. Through the platform, they were able to capture and track the whole digital transformation. “I am not a big fan of PowerPoint or Excel so everything is in Tableau - from the 170 capabilities we mapped, to technology adoption scale, and from consumer behavior insights to financial transactions, Tableau has it all.”

I am not a big fan of PowerPoint or Excel so everything is in Tableau - from the 170 capabilities we mapped, to technology adoption scale, and from consumer behavior insights to financial transactions, Tableau has it all.

Inspiration as a productivity tool

“Tableau has inspired me several times throughout my career. During the Tableau Conference 2019 I watched a keynote with a video that really caught my attention: ‘We are data people’” says Gopalan.

The CDO records multiple videos to inspire his team and to promote data culture around Belcorp. “As a Leader, the role modeling is so crucial. What Leaders say and do can influence the whole company. I tend to create a lot of content and videos, because videos have a lot of power.” Gopalan adapted Tableau’s message to create his own version saying what data means to the business and what it means to people. “Data is beautiful and it becomes clear and transparent to everyone”.

Hard work and a touch of humor are his recipe to success: “We try to have fun at Belcorp. It is not only about hard work but how we reach things in a very fun way and make life exciting for people. We feel that the power of data is so critical for everything.”

Tableau has inspired me several times throughout my career. During the Tableau Conference 2019 I watched a keynote with a video that really caught my attention: ‘We are data people’