Blackmores to enhance presence

Regional expansion: Henfrey says Blackmores is looking to enlarge its footprint in Asia where its business is fast growing.

Health supplement maker to beef up online and traditional platforms

AS global disruption comes to the fore, retailers are looking at how best they can capitalise on this phenomenon to drive their businesses.

The vitamin and dietary health supplement market is one of those industries that is not spared by the technology wave sweeping across the globe.

With this in mind, the Australian-based health supplement maker, Blackmores Ltd, is beefing up both its online and offline platforms in Malaysia, to deepen its presence in the country.

The group’s chief executive officer Richard Henfrey tells StarBizWeek that retailers who are successful are those that can merge and tap both platforms – online and offline – into their business plans. Consumers are spending more time and money on omnichannel experience before making a purchase, he notes.

“In Malaysia, we have been in the market for about 30 years. Unlike other markets, Malaysians love to purchase at shopping malls and this provides a good opportunity for us to work with our partners through these platforms. Hence, in-store visibility of the brand is a must-win battleground.

“Blackmores has started to tap on the company’s huge data of customers for its online platform. This initiative will help us in deciding what are the products that need to be developed and can help the company position itself in all the relevant markets in the future,’’ he says.

The online platform, Henfrey says, is not about hard selling but rather to engage with consumers, that is help them understand what products are best for them based on their needs and health concerns.

In a way, this helps to personalised the customer’s health needs and creates customer experiences or interactions that are relevant and unique, he adds.

“Plans are in the pipeline to introduce a wider range of beauty products and other supplements in the Malaysian market. Blackmores products in the local market are distributed through pharmacist chains as well as some flagship stores. Plans are under way to distribute products via e-commerce,” Henfrey says.

Forging closer consumer connection is one of the top strategies for Blackmores. Through the use of digital technology and data, he says, the company hopes to drive closer interaction with consumers, some of which is via the relevant websites or through educational means.

According to Henfrey, as part of its expansion plans, the company is also looking to enlarge its footprint in Asia where Blackmores’ business is fast growing.

“We have a big business in the region. There are a couple of markets the company is looking at although there are no definite plans at the moment as to which markets it intends to venture into. Blackmores business in Asia is growing about 20% per year and it is an important market for the group.

“The region on the whole is largely driving the company’s business growth unlike Australia which is a matured market. Huge opportunities abound in this region,’’ he notes.

Based on the audited Nielsen figures, Blackmores is the No. 1 retail brand in Malaysia. It is also the top retail brand in Thailand, Singapore and Australia.

With many products flooding the market, what makes the Blackmores brand unique?

Henfrey points out that the uniqueness of the brand stems from the origin of the product. The founder of the product – Maurice Blackmore – placed strong emphasis on the importance of health and balance that one needs in life, he says, adding that as a naturopath his ideas about health were way ahead of their time.

The belief in the health-giving properties of herbs and minerals led him to develop a whole system of healthcare based on naturopathic principles.

As an industry leader in Australia for more than 80 years, he says the health supplement maker is proud to be pioneers in natural healthcare and is committed to deliver innovative products, reliable health information and unsurpassed product quality to customers.

Henfrey stresses what sets Blackmores apart from its competitors are stringent product checks – from product sourcing to the finish product – as well as ensuring top quality products.

“Feedback from our suppliers, based on their communication with customers, has further attested to the company’s commitment to product quality, he adds.

On the relevancy of traditional media as an advertising platform amid the disruption of technology in the media landscape, he says traditional media will retain its role in connecting with consumers.

The important thing is to have a brand presence which is visible in the market and traditional media is still a relevant advertising platform in this regard, he notes.

For example, in Australia, he says there is a consolidation in advertising in broadcast TV and he believes both online and offline on the whole are here to stay in terms of advertising platforms.

Zooming in on the prospect of the health supplement market, Henfrey says it is bright. He attributes this to the ageing population leading to higher life expectancy.

“For example, 60% of people in Asia alone will be over 65 years of age in 2030. As life expectancy increases, consumers become more concerned with their health and fitness. Apart from this, they are also more conscious of natural health supplements, hence this supports the growth of the supplements market globally,’’ he explains.

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