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Web 2.0 and the Cosmetic Industry

By: Randy Schueller and Perry Romanowski
Posted: August 28, 2008, from the February 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Forums consist of member-written threads, which are a series of comments about a specific topic. These comments may be moderated or reviewed by the person(s) managing the forum before they are posted publicly. Forums may be managed by private groups or they may have commercial sponsors. These virtual communities can be an exciting way to tap into what consumers are saying about the products they use and their beauty care habits and practices. It’s amazing—a brand manager can read what thousands of consumers say they like and don’t like about every type of cosmetic product imaginable. Again, this information is no replacement for real consumer research, but it can be a valuable tool. One of the most interesting aspects of forums is the sense of virtual community that can develop for regular users. An example of this kind of community is the Long Hair Forum (longhaircareforum.com/home.php), which, as the name implies, is dedicated to the topic of growing long hair. Members share pictures of their hair, discuss how long they’ve been growing it and swap their favorite tips and tricks. There also is plenty of lively debate about the best type of hair care products to use on very long hair—their hair care tips forum features an astonishing 652,000 conversations.

If you are interested in makeup and skin care insights, check out the forums offered by some of the major beauty magazines. The forum for Allure magazine (boards.allure.com/ index.jspa) is a good place to start. Total makeovers, a directory of spas and salons, plus listings of readers’ favorite products are among popular forum topics. Skincarescience.com’s forum (www.smartskincare.com/forum) also allows readers to discuss their favorite skin care products, but this site is special because it has a scientific, rather than marketing, perspective. Another good forum is Leslie Baumann, MD’s, skin care forum, (www.drbaumann.com/forum/). Baumann is the author of The Skin Type Solution and a professor at the University of Miami—as well as the chief of its division of cosmetic dermatology.

Finally, a passionate group of product fanatics can be found at forum.lush.com/forum. Lush users are very dedicated to their brand—this forum contains more than 500,000 posts from more than 17,000 registered users.

Online Shopping Sites

Another useful source of information on competitive products are the online pharmacies and other sites that sell health and beauty products. Their information may not be as complete as what would be found from a database service such as Mintel, but they are easier to use and free. They make available ingredient lists and claims—always useful when scoping out what the competition is doing—as well as pictures of product packaging. They also typically include information on package details—including claims, ingredients, usage directions, warning statements, price and size.

While online shopping sites lack the interactivity and consumer connection that blogs and forums provide, many of them do include a section for consumer comments. These can be useful to glean some information about consumer behavior and beliefs. The three best are Drugstore.com, Beauty.com and Ulta.com.