Consumers are not only doing more and more cosmetics shopping online but they are also scouring social networking sites for information and tips on beauty matters.
Cosmetics brands need to reach out to these consumers, learn about their beauty habits and inform them about their products.
The internet as a shopping destination
As a shopping destination the internet is the only retail channel to be holding onto growth in the recession, according to NPD.
Last month, the firm published research indicating that online beauty product sales were up one percent over the past year.
While spending dries up elsewhere, the internet is a growing source of beauty dollars.
Nonetheless, the total number of online cosmetics sales remains relatively small and the internet today offers more as a marketing tool than as a shopping destination.
Beauty brands can reach out to large numbers of people using social networking sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
For example, instructional videos from Gillette on body shaving published on YouTube only two weeks ago, have so far attracted well over 1 million views.
Success on YouTube has even prompted product launches. Lauren Luke, a 27 year old mother of one from the UK, whose online ‘make-up tutorials’ have attracted 40 million viewers, used her web-fame as a platform to launch a new cosmetics line entitled ‘By Lauren Luke’, with the help of Anomaly and Zorbit Resources.
What social networking sites most commonly offer is a means for existing beauty companies to reach out directly to consumers.
Social media advice
Raphael Viton and Nick Kinports from innovation agency Maddock Douglas spoke to Cosmetics Design last week to explore the potential of such ‘social media’ marketing. To listen to the interview click here .
As they pointed out social media is “perfect for cosmetics” because it is a high-involvement category where information, feedback and testimonials from trusted sources play an important role in buying decisions.
To take full advantage of the opportunities presented by social networking sites, marketers have to be prepared to adopt a new mentality.
Wading into social networking sites and posting fake product reviews is not the way forward. Such an approach damages credibility and trust which are the values social media can help companies foster.
As Viton said companies are best off entering into a discussion with consumers asking them about their beauty preferences and offering tips.
An example of a company that has gone down this route is Sephora. The beauty store has a strong and active presence on YouTube and Facebook where it talks to consumers, offers beauty tips and guides, and keeps women up to date with its latest offers.
It is not only the big social networking sites where beauty companies can interact with their existing and potential consumers. Viton said there is a lot of activity in niche online communities where brands can talk to a more targeted audience.
Examples of such sites given by the social media expert were women’s community sites such as bellasuga.com, glamour.com and epicurean.com.
So far relatively few companies have really exploited online opportunities and many big beauty companies are set to lose out to smaller more internet savvy brands unless they actively engage with their consumers on the internet.