HARNN Europe CEO gives an exclusive look behind the scenes of the wellbeing brand

Antonio Hernandez, CEO of HARNN Europe, on the opportunities and challenges in online retail, the future of the cosmetics and wellness industry, and what he believes can never be digitalized.

Marc Bölsterli
Marc Bölsterli

Antonio Hernandez, CEO of HARNN Europe, on the opportunities and challenges in online retail, the future of the cosmetics and wellness industry, and what he believes can never be digitalized.

Hier geht es zur deutschen Version dieses Interviews.

HARNN is a young brand in the European market. Can you provide a brief summary of what the brand is all about, for those who are not familiar with HARNN?

HARNN, a Thai brand, was founded over 20 years ago as an owner-operated company by Paul Harnn. HARNN promises its customers wellbeing based on natural and herbal ingredients.

HARNN has two central business areas. In the B2C area, products are sold directly to consumers through our online store as well as in physical stores. In the B2B area, we focus mainly on hospitality. Hotels and spa providers in the luxury segment are our main target group. In addition, HARNN develops individual fragrances for business customers.

In Asia, HARNN is already a well-known brand. We started distributing and marketing HARNN products in the European market 6 years ago through the exclusive licensee, MindAct Retail AG.

How does the brand differentiate itself from other cosmetic and wellness brands in the European market?

At HARNN, we cater to luxury customers and treat them as honored guests. Hence, our sales representatives are hospitable hosts.

Moreover, HARNN is known for its exceptional product design and has won prestigious design awards. The brand is committed to producing sustainable and ethically sourced products that are free from animal ingredients.

"HARNN is known for its exceptional product design and has won prestigious design awards."

In addition, HARNN is very innovative. New products are brought to market quickly, as everything from the development to the production of individual ingredients to the finished product is done in-house.

What is the strategy to increase HARNN's presence and market share in Europe?

On the one hand, the launch of the new online store was an important milestone. It caters to customers from seven European countries. The online store is available in three languages, and prices are displayed in local currencies.

On the other hand, we want to expand our product range. We see great potential, particularly in the area of supplementary nutrition. We already have organic tea with medically proven efficacy, but we plan to launch more products in this area to tap into its potential.

At what point did you make the decision to primarily sell products online?

We made the decision six years ago when we acquired the HARNN license for Europe. The advancements in eCommerce indicated that this was the way forward.

However, we also value physical stores and their importance to HARNN. Unfortunately, COVID-19 forced us to temporarily withdraw from brick-and-mortar retail. Nonetheless, we are actively developing innovative concepts to make a strong comeback.

What are the challenges with this omnichannel strategy?

It needs integration of all channels: The brand experience at the various touch points must be unified. The organizational structure should be adjusted accordingly, and all employees must be trained to communicate HARNN's values and emotions consistently across all channels and locations.

"To be successful with an omnichannel strategy, you need to integrate all channels."

Building customer relationships is known to be of great importance in the luxury industry. How does HARNN build relationships through its online channels?

The launch of the new online store earlier this year has opened up many new opportunities for us. The new store offers an improved experience for browsing our collections and products, with a focus on highlighting the benefits and emotions associated with our brand. We have also connected our new platform to various other platforms, which allows for more efficient and consistent communication with our customers. This has made our brand more accessible and has helped to strengthen our customer relationships. Additionally, we have implemented an easy-to-understand loyalty program that does not require customers to carry cards, and offers accessible benefits.

What were your main objectives for the new eCommerce platform?

Our main aim was to increase visibility, thereby strengthening brand awareness and making the brand more tangible. We aimed to communicate effectively with our customers by speaking their language. Ultimately, we wanted to boost sales.

Which functions of the new eCommerce platform should customers be familiar with?

Our new platform is designed to make it easy for customers to intuitively find the products they are looking for. For example, we have introduced a detailed filter function that allows customers to filter products based on over 70 different fragrances. We also want customers to enjoy their visit to our online store. That's why we've added high-quality images and videos in a social media style, to enhance the HARNN brand experience.

Are there any success stories you'd like to share since the launch of the new platform?

Based on our past experience, we anticipated that it would take at least three months to fully integrate the new platform and return to our normal sales level. However, we were delighted to see that we achieved our usual level of sales in just a few weeks. To our surprise, sales continued to grow rapidly, and after two months, we had already surpassed the sales of the previous year.

"After two months, we had already multiplied the previous year's sales."

What do you think the future holds for the wellness and cosmetics industry in the luxury segment?

There is currently a lot of misinformation being spread about the ingredients, origin, and manufacturing of products. As a result, there are new legal measures being developed to address this. This will result in a much-needed consolidation. Many brands, including some well-known brands, will disappear and the industry will return to its original roots.

How does HARNN deal with the issue of sustainability?

First, it’s important to define the term "sustainability", which has become somewhat limited in its meaning within society. Many people believe that a product can only be considered sustainable if its ingredients are natural.

"The term 'sustainability' has become somewhat limited in its meaning within society."

However, sustainability goes much further: it requires a sustainable mindset that leads to sustainable actions. In addition to the products, social aspects — such as fair treatment of employees — also play a major role.

What analog tasks or activities do you think will never be digitalized?

Emotions. We experience emotions through our five senses, and it is simply impossible to digitalize them. As a result, our products cannot be solely experienced digitally.

What motivates you personally?

Every day, I feel motivated by my work, which is a perfect fit for me. HARNN's brand and products have always fascinated me. That’s why I reached out to them directly to get the license for Switzerland and Europe. I have not once regretted my decision.

For further information about HARNN, read the case study.

Written by
Marc Bölsterli

Marc Bölsterli is a Digital Communications Intern at Voa Labs. He manages all social media channels, writes blog articles and newsletters, and collaborates on client projects as a communication specialist.

Previously, Marc worked in various gastronomy and hospitality businesses, where he gained his passion for teamwork and customer-centricity.

Marc holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus on marketing from the University of St. Gallen (HSG) and is currently enrolled in the Master in Marketing Management also at the University of St. Gallen (HSG).

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