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Paths to Purchase

By: Sara Mason
Posted: June 22, 2010, from the July 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 5 of 7

Retailing has changed quite a bit because of the growth of the Internet. Many traditional brick-and-mortar stores and catalogs have expanded to an online presence, and certain products are easier to sell online than others.

“The advantages of the Internet to the beauty industry are enormous,” said Leslie Linevsky, co-founder, Catalogs.com. The company currently represents more than 650 retail clients, and 19 merchants in the beauty and cosmetics category. “E-commerce selling of beauty and cosmetics is one of our very strongest categories because everything ‘fits.’ Especially when women—and now men, too—know the brands they want, it is so incredibly easy and convenient to shop online.” In addition, most beauty products are relatively lightweight, so shipping charges almost never impede the decision. Even though customers cannot test cosmetics online, brands that sell online can offer samples, trial sizes and free gifts, which is especially effective through social media. According to Linevsky, there are five main advantages of selling online instead of at a retail brick-n-mortar location.

Tied for first and second are unlimited selection and accessibility. “Shoppers have the opportunity to purchase anything their hearts desire, no matter how obscure or unique or how big or how small the products may be,” she explained. Third on the list is knowledge—the ability to read customer reviews and comments prior to purchase. “Social media—specifically blogs, Facebook and Twitter—allows brands to easily disseminate targeted messages about new product, or answers to customers’ honest—and often very specific—questions,” said Linevsky. A well-managed social media campaign directed and targeted to the beauty industry is certainly an advantage. Beauty products are perfect for referrals and recommendations and how-tos.

Incentives is fourth. For example, in its 14-year history, Catalogs.com has learned that more than 75% of merchants offer exclusive savings certificates to motivate and inspire a consumer to take immediate action, and, “It’s a strategy that works well, especially when a retailer rewards the consumer with free shipping if spending over a set amount of dollars,” said Linevsky. “This strategy not only accomplishes increasing the average amount each consumer spends, but also captures the data of a potential life-long repeating customer, which is worth a lot.”

The fifth advantage of selling online is convenience. “We all lead very fast-paced, crazy lives, filled with incredible restrictions on our time,” she explained. “Shopping online is not only convenient, but also time efficient and eco-friendly.” Linevsky emphasizes that print catalogs offer many of the same advantages as shopping online. “It is interesting that many shoppers will forgo a visit to a store if they have a print catalog to browse, and that those same shoppers then make their purchase online,” she said. This is one reason that a multichannel approach to beauty retailing is key.