Beauty Marketing Made Over

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Buying beauty products is a very hands-on experience, which can make it tricky for marketers in the online space. But these days brands can’t afford to ignore sites like Facebook and Twitter even if their customers can’t try out products there.

“People usually do not buy beauty products online — they replenish online,” according to Jennifer Walsh, CEO of Behind the Brand Media. “If people see others talk about a product online or on TV, nine times out of ten, those people will go to the store.”

So, besides inundating customers with free samples, what’s a beauty product company to do to market itself on the Web?

Plenty, it turns out. From offering virtual makeovers like the new Makeover Studio from Daily Makeover to leveraging entire online communities such as the recently launched E.L.F. Beauty Network, makeup and skin care companies are finding ways to create their own hype and to use existing buzz to their benefit.

Over 60 beauty brands, including Mary Kay Cosmetics, Avon, Maxfactor Clairol, and Rimmel have licensed the virtual makeover application Makeover Studio, which launched last month from Daily Makeover. According to the company, Makeover Studio makes “the online experience more like a department store beauty counter experience.”

That’s because Makeover Studio includes new rendering and visualization functionality as well as face-tracing capabilities and a large range of makeup finishes, Daily Makeover says.

Even with these advances, challenges remain. One of Mary Kay’s independent beauty consultants, Lorraine Kinslow, has a virtual makeover tool on her Web site as well as an extensive customer base that frequently orders online. She notes, “I have established 90 percent of these customers first by having them try the products in person. Then they continue to reorder online.”

In cases like this, makeup companies can also allay fears by appealing to customer pocketbooks. Social media sites are an increasingly popular way to distribute discount codes, sale news or special offers to loyal followers. One company doing so is skin care line Lather. Company rep Lori MacGregor recently started a Facebook page where she posts items about upcoming events, promotions and new products. She also uses Lather’s Twitter feed to follow beauty bloggers, which she says has allowed her to introduce Lather to them and their readers.

E.L.F Cosmetics, which recently launched the E.L.F. Beauty Network, offers another example of how brands are utilizing user-generated content. This site is an upgrade to the company’s old site — AskELF.com — and includes discussion groups, forums, beauty advice, recommendations and other ways for customers to interact with the E.L.F. brand.

E.L.F. Chief Marketing Officer Ted Rubin said the company’s many fans are vocal on YouTube, Twitter and blogs. So, E.L.F. decided to capitalize on this chatter and create a single space where all of the content could be aggregated along with content the brand produced itself. That site debuted in January.

But, according to a recent study from Grail Research, beauty product companies could perhaps do a better job of utilizing at least one form of user-generated content: blogs.

The Grail study focused on women’s skin care and blogs and found there are over 26,000 beauty blogs in existence. These provide often untapped information on women’s behavior and attitudes toward skin care. The study found that it’s possible to analyze blog comments in a quantitative fashion and that companies can use that information to learn more about customer preferences.

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