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Paths to Purchase

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

page 7 of 7

After inventory costs and prime retail space disputes, the most important frontier for brand owners today is highly fragmented digital media spaces and their transformative effect on consumer brand experiences. Whether you sell online or not, customers are rapidly embracing social media for brand research and testimonials. Information, feedback, validation and opinions from trusted sources play an important role in branding, especially given consumers’ high involvement with the beauty category. A more creative and dynamic approach is required to follow the needs and wants of well-informed, increasingly discerning and omnipresent consumers. In addition to creating cohesive and effective brand positioning, cosmetic brands need to reach out to consumers wherever they can. People have very individual shopping preferences, and the brands that market through every channel will have a competitive advantage.

Brands can use e-commerce Web hosting services such as ATG—whose clients include Sephora, Yves Rocher, P&G and JCPenney—to cut costs by outsourcing technology and business processes. Such firms provide e-commerce and cross-channel commerce software services. Once relegated to small business initiatives only, today e-commerce as a service (also known as “e-commerce on demand”) can deliver the full functionality required to deliver a highly sophisticated e-commerce experience. At the same time, it holds the potential to lower entry costs, improve productivity, and increase ROI. E-commerce optimization services allow retailers to deliver a relevant and consistent customer experience—treating interactions over the Web, phone, chat, mobile devices, and even stores as one continuous, ongoing relationship, rather than disconnected conversations.

Good customer service is as important as ever. Even Internet companies cannot abandon the telephone. “We want to hear what our consumers and e-commerce merchants have to say about what is really working and what is not so we can provide the best service possible,” said ATG’s O’Neill. “We counsel our merchants to do the same—work to secure a customer and work twice as hard to keep them.” Brands are built with customer loyalty, the same as always.

Sara Mason is a freelance writer based in the Chicagoland area. She was previously managing editor of GCI magazine.