In conversation: Adore Beauty CEO Tennealle O’Shannessy and Klarna chief expansion officer Camilla Giesecke discuss innovation, setbacks and global growth.

adore beauty ceo

Klarna chief expansion officer Camilla Giesecke interviews Adore Beauty CEO Tennealle O'Shannessy for International Women’s Day.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, this year Klarna is powering a series of conversations between Camilla Giesecke, chief expansion officer at Klarna, and women founders from retail and e-commerce whose brands are leading through innovation and relentless customer obsession. Klarna, a leading global retail bank, payments, and shopping service provider, is proudly partnering with these international brands across all their markets, helping them stay competitive and build loyalty by reshaping the entire shopping experience around the customer.

In Australia, Camilla spoke with Tennealle O’Shannessy, CEO of Australia’s leading online beauty company Adore Beauty. Founded in 2000, Adore Beauty’s vision is to help customers feel more confident and fabulous every day by delivering an empowering and engaging beauty shopping experience that is personalised to their needs. Tennealle joined the fast-growing brand as CEO in 2020 after a career spanning management consulting, online education and digital innovation, guiding the company through its ASX listing later that year.

Camilla: Tennealle, we all know success comes at the end of a long road of trying and failing. And sometimes sacrificing things we care about or making compromises. What is the one thing that you never compromise?

Tennealle: I consider myself a values-based leader, and how you achieve your success is equally as important as what you achieve. I think our definition of success evolves and grows as we gain experience, the failures, setbacks and obstacles are all valuable teachers, but for me personally I could not compromise the values I hold myself to.

“Our definition of success evolves and grows as we gain experience, the failures, setbacks and obstacles are all valuable teachers.”

Camilla: Everyone talks about customer obsession and customer centricity. But we’ve used these terms to such an extent, that I wonder whether this hasn’t become too abstract. For us at Klarna, it means helping consumers save time and money, to have financial control and make informed decisions. It also means being a global growth partner for retailers. And we always challenge ourselves to live up to that definition, to do it better. What is your own definition of being customer obsessed?

Tennealle: At Adore Beauty, we think about beauty as a self-care category rather than one focused on appearance, we have long sought to transform the beauty shopping experience by empowering our customers to engage with the beauty category in whatever way works for them — as captured in our tagline ‘whatever makes you, you’.

How we do this is by helping customers feel more confident and fabulous every day by delivering an empowering, engaging and personalised beauty shopping experience underpinned by authentic, trusted content and education.

Camilla: I love your approach to customer obsession. From a Klarna perspective, one of the things I’m passionate about is working with our retail partners to grow their business in their home market but also help them expand in other countries. What role does expansion play in your growth strategy and what are you looking for in a partner when expanding?

Tennealle: We are very confident of our progress in our core market here in Australia, and the continued transition from offline to online channels. In the short term our market leadership ensures we are best positioned to capitalise on the accelerated online penetration as Australia catches up with UK, US and China penetration levels. Adore Beauty is executing a clear strategy, and we will build on the strong momentum established over the past 18 months to cement our market leadership and position us for the continued structural shift to online.

Longer term we see significant additional addressable market opportunities through expanding into new business lines and geographies — the unique capabilities we have built around media and content, and personalisation, as well as our work on Private Label and geographic expansion into NZ position us for this.

“We will build on the strong momentum established over the past 18 months to cement our market leadership and position us for the continued structural shift to online.”

Camilla: It sounds like there’s a lot ahead for Adore Beauty — very exciting. Now, I wanted to move on to innovation. Some may argue that it is an overrated and vague concept and that, instead of asking ourselves on how to innovate, we should be asking — how we can create great things? Where do you stand on this and what is your definition of innovation?

Tennealle: Our approach to innovation at Adore Beauty has been to seek to understand how beauty customers will be shopping in the next five to ten years. What will be their most important problems to solve? How are we uniquely placed to solve those problems? We then seek to leverage the considerable data assets we have to take an analytical approach to innovation. On the customer side, we have a deep understanding of the trends that are emerging, our customers behaviours, and what is resonating. Let me provide an example of this relating to our Private Label offering due to launch later this year. Our approach has been to leverage our unique customer knowledge and data to identify gaps in our target markets, and to tailor brands and products to address these.

Camilla: It is tough to build a business. What would you say to young women who are considering becoming entrepreneurs? And what advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

Tennealle: Building a business can be hard. In the early days, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. I think people really enjoy being mentors and advisers; supporting the next generation of leaders. As a new leader, you should take advantage of those opportunities. You’re not expected to have all the answers — asking for help is actually a sign of strength.

And to my 20 year old self: Understand your strengths, what you’re good at and what you bring to the table. Equally important is understanding your blind spots. Then look to build a team around you that complements you. So, it’s not about the skills of any one individual, but about the team as a collective and if you have the right capabilities to solve problems. In my early career I was very focused on what I could achieve as an individual, with lots of hard work. Maturity has taught me that the real magic happens when you bring a diverse team together and collaborate.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. I think people really enjoy being mentors and advisers, supporting the next generation of leaders.”

Camilla: This is valuable advice to leaders at any age and a timely reminder that the team you build is critical for a business’ success. This is one of the many reasons that ‘Hire and develop exceptional talent’ is one of Klarna’s core values. We believe that true leaders recognise those more talented than themselves and see differences as an asset. In my own career, I’ve always been able to do by best work and make most significant impacts when I’ve been empowered to take chances and lean into my strengths, and it’s an approach I try to foster within my team every day.

Thank you, Tennealle and congratulations on everything you’ve been able to achieve at Adore Beauty!

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