Combining Beauty with Technology to Create A New Era | Liz Bacelar

Liz Bacelar

Executive Director Global Tech Innovation

She founded a company to advise top brands like Gucci, Tiffany, and H&M about innovations. The combination of lifestyle, retail, and tech brings new growth opportunities. Now, Liz Bacelar is working as executive director of global tech innovation at Estée Lauder. In her current work, she focuses on NFTs and the metaverse. ‘It is an evolution of the internet that CEOs and CMOs cannot ignore.’

Many fashion companies need help finding a strategy. “If you were right now doing a virtual catwalk with avatars and you don’t have a plan for how this catwalk transitions to sales and if you cannot speak beyond just that event, you don’t know what you are doing,” Bacelar says during a talk at London & Partners. “Innovation is knowing why you are doing it right now, what the behavior in society calls for it is, and that would give you a result in your business.” She expects that new digital worlds will interact with physical channels.“We are looking at ourselves, how can metaverse technologies improve our company,” she explains at GDS Summits. “Digital doesn’t mean weakening the physical channels. 

For instance, the metaverse and NFT adoption could be a huge physical store play.” She notices how the physical and virtual worlds are already intertwined. “Using a digital asset and picking up a product at the store, or buying a physical product and winning a digital asset, is already familiar.”

Connecting leaders in retail and fashion to technology

Liz Bacelar, known as an innovation specialist, started her career as a journalist. “It was all about finding stories, sometimes about natural disasters or investigational stories.” She received an Emmy nomination when working as a TV producer for CBS News. She noticed how tech was accelerating then and wanted to work on it, but her employer hesitated. “Talking up tech was an invitation to hurt your career, and then I realized this place is like the Titanic. There’s got to be a place that if you move with the speed of light and have great ideas, you are rewarded, and it wasn’t the media,” Bacelar recalled during a video talk at Bellwether Culture.

So, she started her own companies, one after another. First, she created Decoded Fashion, a worldwide event series connecting leaders in fashion and retail to new technologies. Under her guidance, the company hosted networking events and pop-up summits in twelve countries. But these were meetings, and she also wanted to see actions. Then, she founded Current Global, a platform for innovation in the fashion and retail markets based in London and New York. The idea was to create the missing link between technology, lifestyle, and retail. The firm gathered brand and retail leaders to partner with top innovators and startups. She advised CEOs and CMOs in the luxury and fashion world, including Gucci and H&M, to find technical solutions to maximize consumer engagement and conversions. In 2020, Current Global was acquired by the brand consultancy platform Together Group.

A successful executive with 10+ years of demonstrated ability to deliver mission-critical results, drive digital transformation, produce innovative events, and build and manage global teams. Entrepreneurial team leader with excellent marketing and communication skills, adept at creating strategic cross-departmental alliances to drive key business initiatives. Innovation executive with an extensive network and deep industry experience in Technology, Consumer Brands, and Experiential Events. A global thought leader in emerging tech with a track record of incorporating new revenue streams.

 Liz was recruited by the CIO to create and lead the Global Tech Innovation Team at Estée Lauder Companies. This team now powers emerging tech consumer experiences and business opportunities for our 20+ brands in the US, China, Europe, and LatAm. Her work includes education and adoption of AI, Web3, NFT, Metaverse, and inclusive technologies, as well as the launch of several pilots.

 Before her career in beauty, Liz was credited with igniting the evolution of “fashion and tech,” connecting technologists and executives through her consultancy and global industry events. She founded the international conference series Decoded Fashion, which became the ultimate destination for marketing leaders to discover the newest e-commerce, in-store, mobile, and social ideas. After the company’s acquisition in 2014, Liz launched the consultancy The Current Global, which was acquired in 2020.

What we can Understand from Ready Player One

In her work for Estée Lauder, Bacelar focuses on the metaverse, NFTs, and other emerging tech opportunities. She is convinced that the metaverse is the evolution of the internet and believes TikTok and YouTube will eventually migrate to it. “We are moving towards web 3.0, a secure and decentralized 3D internet. We already know that it is an internet in which the physical and digital are intertwined with products having as much or more value in virtual form. The metaverse is meant to be an immersive and vast social universe.” She refers to the novel and then the movie ‘Ready Player One,’ which makes the metaverse concept understandable. “I really recommend you re-watching it. At the very end, it suggests a new way of life in which we can balance our physical and digital selves. Oasis, the operating system in the movie, looked sci-fi, but it is increasingly becoming a mass market experience.”

One of Estée Lauder’s brands, Clinique, was the primary in the company to establish a presence in the metaverse with the launch of the Skin School x Clinique Laboratories. In the virtual space, visitors could attend virtual skin classes, participate in live chats, or see behind the scenes of Clinique beauty products. “I can discover products online, talk to an avatar, or present myself as an avatar,” Bacelar explained during CES 2022.

Testing NFTs

Many marketers still need to be convinced about using NFTs in virtual worlds. Do consumers really care? “We decided to test it while working on an NFT project,” she recounts at GDS Summits. “We have our own initiative, Tech Day of Pink, which was inspired by the company’s breast cancer campaign.” Tech Day of Pink aims to unite technologists worldwide about breast cancer awareness, education, and fundraising. “It was created by our Chief Information Officer Michael W. Smith, and we released about a hundred NFTs to raise money for breast cancer research. There was no grand marketing plan, we were just trying to test it out. And we were surprised, maybe a little shocked, to see that the entire collection sold out in days. We gave no explanation of what NFTs are or how it works. It was clear there was a very real appetite for digital assets within our consumers. They understand the basics of it and are eager to know more.”

The question for brands is where to invest if you want to be part of the emerging metaverse. Should you invest millions in buying a plot of land in a virtual world like Decentraland and build your own virtual flagship? “The first investment you need to make is developing the knowledge in your teams to understand what is ahead and how to make informed decisions.” She acknowledges that the metaverse is not easily accessible to everyone. “It is no longer male, but inclusivity is needed. There is a need for doors to be open and education mechanisms to be implemented to make this more accessible to different audiences. We think we have a role to play there. We are deep into the space to work with our entire portfolio of brands.”

Imagine the metaverse through the eyes of the consumer.

For Bacelar, it is all about innovation. “Innovation means creativity. It is exactly that. It’s you being able to think outside the box. I get really upset when people ignore what innovation actually means,” she says during the London & Partners talk. She was surprised to find out how many CEOs work. “We see people doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, like expecting growth from a company without revamping what you are doing. There is not going to be any growth because you are doing the same thing. You need creativity and courage to be able to do things in a different way.”

Although there are many uncertainties around the metaverse, some brand leaders make the mistake of waiting too long. “They wait for the adoption curve to accelerate, catch up, and strategize. But unlike social media platforms, we were given years to strategize and catch up. We are not going to be given much time. More and more brands are bringing their consumers to these platforms. The first step in this journey for you as an individual marketer is to play with these concepts. (…) As you immerse yourself in this, even in the smallest possible way, you start understanding how to see all of this through your consumer’s eyes. So, stop reading about it and start doing things in these virtual worlds.”

The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) is celebrating the grand opening of its Global Technology Center in Bucharest, Romania. This is an essential step for ELC to further improve and elevate the Company’s Information Technology function, strengthening its competitive edge through technology. The Bucharest office and offices in Long Island City, New York, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, embody ELC’s global technology management and innovation approach. The office demonstrates ELC’s recent investments in digital tech centers worldwide, enhancing its capabilities and diversity.

Since the creation of the Bucharest office in 2021, the Information Technology team has already employed more than 150 dynamic, qualified employees, adding value across paramount business areas. The work in the Bucharest Global Technology Center supports the company’s operations and technology goals, both globally and regionally. The office provides digital solutions to improve ELC’s high-touch consumer experiences and high-functioning supply chain network through its artificial intelligence, cloud acceleration, intelligent automation, omnichannel, and other capabilities.

“The Bucharest Global Technology Center is growing The Estée Lauder Companies’ work to transform in to the most advanced technology-powered beauty conglomerate in the world,” stated Michael W. Smith, Chief Information Officer. “Digital is an essential part of the beauty industry today and we must continue to win in this sector. The opening of this office enables ELC to more boundless technology solutions to the business and enhance greater value to our customers. I’m excited to continue to develop our presence around the world, employ outstanding talent, and build the beauty understanding of tomorrow.”

The new office, situated centrally near Bucharest Old Town, features state-of-the-art technology and a collective space to facilitate strategic thinking, team building, and creation. The sustainable office building has received outstanding energy, water usage, innovation, and more certification. This location is readily accessible and in a vibrant city area near significant sites, including parks, galleries, and more, providing an ideal work-life for young talent.

" Innovation is knowing why you are doing it right now, what the behavior in society calls for it is, and that would give you a result in your business. "

Liz Bacelar

Executive Director Global Tech Innovation

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