By Managing Partner, Stephen Baer
The Development Process And Lessons Learned
For a young cosmetics brand, it’s challenging to ensure that products are known and highlighted in the open-sell environment. IT Cosmetics, a division of L’Oreal and top beauty brand sold at ULTA Beauty, QVC, Sephora, and a variety of other retailers, set out to find creative ways to make fast facts and information available at their educator’s fingertips. In 2018 Shannon Pirie Charles, Group Vice President of Education asked, “In an open-sell environment like Sephora and Ulta, education is pivotal and we are constantly asking ourselves…how do we stand out?”
It was easier for IT Cosmetics when they had fewer employees and mostly sold in the United States. But as the sales and education team grew, with products sold in 22 countries, the video calls, emails, and oversized PDFs weren’t enough anymore. Charles’ team was putting out fires as educators internationally called last-minute for training materials.
She thought a training app was the answer, but the ones she saw were boring. “I didn’t want to create another app where someone just checked the box to show they did it,” Charles said. Traditional training videos with two people modeling sales techniques? “Those are painful,” she said. Most of the games offered in training apps? “They’re the games no one plays, except maybe my grandma.” Instead, Charles wanted to make her educators’ lives easier, providing a solution for people to get all the training information when and wherever they wanted. Sharing her vision at an international IT Cosmetics leadership presentation a few years back, she said, “I’m going to create something as engaging as Instagram and as addictive as Candy Crush.”
Sample IT Cosmetics game from The Training Arcade®
The First Steps: Making Decisions
Charles fell into cosmetics training through sales management. But she also has a master’s degree in clinical counseling and worked with teen boys diagnosed with ADHD. Not only can she read people well, she knows that in today’s TikTok environment people don’t have the time or attention span for product lectures. She needed something different to get the educators to click, learn, and stay interested.
Her interviews with a handful of gamification agencies were disappointing. She saw good graphics, but not the level of creative thinking she wanted. She perked up during the last interview on her list with The Game Agency. With them, she saw a willingness to think outside the box. “I felt like I could rock the boat, push back, and ask to do things differently,” Charles said. “When I came up with an idea, I didn’t want to hear ‘no,’ I wanted to hear ‘let’s try it.’” And try it they did.
IT Cosmetics wanted to highlight that education is a journey and we are always evolving and learning. The Game Agency developed The Journey, a platform with a global travel theme, incorporating famous landmarks and their cosmetics products for branding in the Motivate Cloud Learning Management System (LMS). Users get a virtual passport showing their personal information, accomplishment levels, and badges, plus their flight path leading them to the next learning module on their gamified journey. IT Cosmetics chose custom animations to make it more fun, something that’s not mandatory, “but it goes further in building interest and is more engaging to the users,” said Creative Director Allan Rust of The Game Agency.
An image from the opening animation of IT Cosmetics’ Journey LMS
Building A Comprehensive Platform
The LMS contains games, a searchable community forum, and an interactive EDU manual. The Game Agency’s Training Arcade includes a suite of nine games with educational components, which can include a customized skin and game elements. Educators at one of Charles’ in-person training sessions played Jeopardy!® in the platform, with IT Cosmetics content. The company customized a “Jump” game using their own moisturizers as the jumper, with a branded background. IT Cosmetics can build new games all by themselves now, in a matter of hours, and add them to their LMS.
Charles launched the new training platform to U.S. educators in October 2019, rolling it out to the other 22 countries this year. “As an educator, you look for the lightbulb moments,” she said. “When we launched it for the first time, I saw on their faces I made the right decision.”
One of the big hits is a simple interactive program showing test tubes of ingredients. Users click the tubes to determine what’s in the CC+ Cream. The user then “builds” the cream. This is popular and memorable as an open-selling floor demonstration tool, as it creates hype and showcases the product. It’s also a great way to get educators to engage with the platform on their own time.
IT Cosmetics incentivizes its educators on their training journey with rewards for completing modules and interacting with the community. They offer tangible gifts like products and branded items, but also experiences, like Charles coming to sell with them for the day, and taking the team to dinner.
The Motivate Cloud platform navigation buttons can be quickly toggled into eight languages (and the Training Arcade games into 16 languages). Clients provide all educational content and are responsible for translations. “We give them the ability to download localization sheets so a localization company can update the content for another language,” said Rust.
Sample image from interactive EDU manual in which employees can search all products by color, ingredients, and pairings
Ease Of Use
The games and forums are fun and helpful, but Charles said the main attraction is the EDU manual. The original manual was a 900 MB PDF document, often too large to download, sometimes rendering it useless when in the field. The document was updated twice a year, with all staff members poring over the physical copy. It took a month each time to identify product changes while tagging up to 19 associated pages per product needing updates as well. The guidebook was outdated within weeks of publication, and the staff dreaded the process.
The new manual requires no downloading. It’s a living document on the LMS, updated as needed by IT Cosmetics. Updating product information means changing a field in an Excel file, which automatically populates to the appropriate places on the website. “In less than an hour, it’s updated on the site,” Charles said.
IT Cosmetics can create and upload new interactive micro-slides, videos, and games along with PDFs on a daily basis. The platform puts all training resources in one place.
Lessons Learned In Creating A Gamified Learning Platform
Charles said she learned some lessons in creating the LMS. Given that she had a vision for this platform, she wished she brought developers into a “train the trainer” session earlier, so they could better understand the IT Cosmetics training process. Doing so a few months into the working relationship proved to move the vision from her brain into a custom platform for everyone to experience. She recommends this step for every company developing an LMS. “When you’re both speaking the same language, that’s where the magic happens,” she said.
She also didn’t realize upfront the amount of work needed on IT Cosmetics’ end to make their program digital. Charles initially thought they could just give The Game Agency the PDF manual to create the EDU document. However, in the lipstick category alone, there were 12 lipsticks and every color needed different photos and coding.
In rolling out the program, IT Cosmetics rerouted all information requests coming via phone and email to the LMS. Charles said it’s important to model the behavior she wants by asking educators if they’ve checked the LMS when they have a question.
Shannon Pirie Charles demonstrating IT Cosmetics application process
Moving Into The Future With Gamified Training
While this LMS was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more useful now, as educators aren’t traveling for training. With COVID almost all training is digital now. IT Cosmetics will resume in-person training when it’s safe, but even then, not all educators will get in-person training. The Motivate Cloud platform educates, activates, and celebrates employees making it especially helpful for those newer in the job or who work in a more remote area. Charles says, “The feedback is phenomenal both internally and among IT Cosmetics’s sister companies,” who are looking for their own custom experiences. Gamified training is the wave of the future.