Concierge Commerce: The Future of Online Beauty Experiences? (Stylus/Decoded Fashion)
Look back a few years and you’d be pressed to find a beauty brand outside of the luxury market that offered personalised, VIP-feel experiences to its customers. Now, however, mass market brands are able to use tools like social media to forge deeper relationships with their customers, whatever their average spend. Here, we take a look at ‘concierge commerce’, targeted content creation and personalised shopping experiences.
Shaking up the E-Commerce Space
Because there’s a different lipstick, foundation, moisturiser and conditioner to suit everyone, it’s easy to see potential difficulties in selling beauty products online. Top online retailers are beginning to solve the problem by focusing on samples – a key part of experience when discerning consumers head to cosmetics counters – which prevent customers from choosing the wrong product after purchasing it online. Feelunique – which has reported a 27% increase in sales year on year (£80m total) to March 31st, and is currently on track exceed £100m in sales in the current financial year – offers a ‘Pick and Mix’ sample selection to its customers, who can pick out five samples per month and pay £3.95 for the postage, which can then be redeemed against standard-size products. Feelunique also sends out a ‘Try Me’ sample with certain full-sized products, so customers can get a feel for a new product; if it turns out they don’t take to their new perfume, they can return the full-sized version for a refund.
Then there are beauty subscription services, like Birchbox, which presents customers with a unexpected-yet-curated selection of beauty products every month. This encourages subscribers to try out something new, while still tailoring the selection inside according to the customer’s skin and hair type. The formula obviously works, as the service has since expanded into a bricks-and-mortar flagship in New York, allowing customers to come in to create their own custom beauty boxes.
Replicating Luxury Experiences By Going the Extra Mile Online
With customers, particularly environmentally conscious millennials, increasingly interested in the origin of the products that they’re applying to their faces, it makes sense that premium skincare brand Tata Harper has adopted a transparent approach to its production processes. Head to the brand’s online store and you’re able to check out its Open Lab and Traceability Program, which allows customers to learn more about where their products were made; they simply need to enter the code printed on the bottom of their Tata Harper skincare packaging, and they’ll then be taken to a page detailing when that batch of product was created, and which of the brand’s employees created it. “We really believe that there’s an unspoken promise between us and our customers,” Tata Harper explains online. “The Open Lab program is all about the how, the why and the who behind our skincare products.”
For other brands, replicating a luxury in-store shopping experience online is all about making personalised product recommendations. Despite undoubtedly being inundated with requests since launching its low-priced skincare range, The Ordinary, Canadian-born beauty company Deciem encourages its customers to get in touch via email or web form with any skincare-related questions. The brand’s team will then reply with a suggested regimen, personalised based on the customer’s skin concerns. Deciem, along with other digitally savvy beauty brands, also makes the effort to reply to customers’ queries on social media.
Content is King
Working out new ways to stand out in a crowded online market, many companies are turning to creative content to build hype around their products. Having a strong editorial voice is essential for companies like Victoria Health, which focuses on health, beauty and wellbeing products with plenty of research behind them. The online-only company has an extensive editorial section, with articles on everything from acne to hair loss written by experts from various fields, which include links to relevant products stocked by VH to bring the customer back to the product. The company’s monthly newsletter, delivered by post to regular customers and paying members, otherwise known as VH Addicts, gives the brand’s founders, Gill Sinclair and Shabir Daya, further opportunity to connect with their devoted fans.
Indie beauty brand Aesop also uses content to connect to its customers without force-feeding them with product. The brand has a literary-focused blog, The Fabulist (described as “a literary gesture born of the enjoyment and intellectual nourishment Aesop derives daily through the written word,”), for example, as well as a microsite, Taxonomy of Design, that unpacks the aesthetics of each of its carefully designed, unique stores. Unlike much of Victoria Health’s content, Aesop’s creative output doesn’t promote the brand’s products directly, but instead reinforces its brand image and messaging, while occasionally pointing browsers back to the brand’s retail site.
Content continues to reign, with in-house content creation teams becoming increasingly common features in a brand’s marketing arsenal. Content savvy brands are ensuring eyeballs are on their products with core values, and connected storytelling techniques remaining key to keeping their consumers engaged and spending.
This post was originally written as one of my weekly pieces for Decoded Fashion. You can view the original blog post here.
Image credit: Tata Harper