A Forge ARticle 

Unilever | Skinsei

A lean startup approach to innovation

The Background

Unilever’s growth strategy in Beauty & Personal Care (BPC) is predicated on its ability to bring exciting, category-leading innovation to consumers across the globe.

Delivering a portfolio of new BPC branded propositions helps Unilever meet the challenge of a fragmenting landscape in which smaller agile competitors collectively take share from bigger players.

Delivering against this requirement means that Unilever has to think and act less like a corporate and more like a startup.

It requires those appointed to the task to free themselves from traditional ways of working, embrace rapid prototyping and adopt a more agile and disruptive approach. In short, adopting a lean startup mentality.

It was against this context that the team behind the launch of the ground- breaking subscription skin care brand Skinsei came to us.

The Challenge

The team had already done great work creating a strong rounded product & concept and an initial hypothesis around who they thought the target customers were likely to be, but in order to begin the process of bringing the product to the marketplace, they wanted help to get more answers:

a) Developing a much deeper understanding of the target customer(s): who they were, how to identify them, what their needs, attitudes & behaviours  were, as well as triggers and barriers to usage

b) Clarifying how that consumer understanding would then shape the product & proposition in order to position it for success

Importantly the Skinsei team needed an agile insight partner, a group prepared to embrace a lean startup mentality. A team that would be comfortable working iteratively. A team that would be prepared to challenge the status quo.


The Approach 

We developed an agile co-creation approach specifically for this challenge, that would help to build on the foundational insight the team already had, but enable the team to dig further and get that additional insight they required.

Following a rapid but thorough resight about the audience, we created two audience profiles that we aligned the team against. We then did an in-depth recruitment exercise, to ensure that our final community was comprised of the best, most engaged and representative consumers to co-create with, both digitally and in-person.

We combined in-person workshops, where the full client team worked directly with the respondents, as well as online tasks, so that our consumer community acted both as inspiration and architects for the client team. A live resource  to build from, learn from and refine with. This combination allowed the team to move at pace, creating the minimum viable product and getting prototypes out early to explore.

We were in constant contact with the group post-workshops via a combination of WhatsApp, Skype and email, allowing us to share, probe and follow-up specific topics. This enabled the proposition to be developed and tweaked via real time feedback.

By creating this bespoke flexible approach, we were able to invest in precisely the right type of respondent, facilitate flexible interaction and utilise the power of Perspex thinking throughout, enabling the team to deliver rapid ideation, testing and getting the product to market in record time.


The Solution 

This lean, fluid approach helped the team to chart a course through many of the questions and priorities that needed to be addressed at that stage of development, in order to create a highly compelling & coherent product & proposition ready for successful launch.

The key questions the findings from the project were able to address included:

a) Validating the idea and degree of openness towards a premium and personalised subscription-based skincare proposition

b) Understanding how naturals should be incorporated into the overall proposition, exploring the concept of wellness and whether this could be translated to skincare 

c) Understanding how technology could be meaningfully incorporated into the customer journey, as well as the on-going regimen

d) Understanding the relative importance of the microbiome in the hierarchy
of needs

e) A more precise capture of the target audiences and building further confidence around the viability of the product proposition

The Outcome

Launched in 2019 as a premium, personalised and subscription-based skin care regimen, Skinsei is the new disruptive product that’s got everyone talking.

As well as providing insight that enabled the Unilever team to successfully deliver Skinsei, we were able to provide the right combination of challenge and flexibility that ensured we were able to meet the tight deadlines and budgetary constraints that accompany any team in a startup.

If you want to understand more about how The Forge facilitates agile approaches, enabling you to learn and iterate more quickly and finding the insight that can power or accelerate your venture, then please contact us.

Photo credits: Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash and Valeria Boltneva & Mustafa ezz from Pexels

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