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Selling Online

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: December 5, 2006, from the December 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

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A successful U.K. women’s beauty and lifestyle Web site—handbag.com—reaches 1.3 million women every month. Founded seven years ago, its impressive monthly visitors statistic has been made possible by consumer uptake of broadband, which now accounts for 71% of U.K. Internet users, up from 49% just one year ago.

According to Euromonitor in its Industry Watch daily news analysis platform, the Internet can be used as an effective marketing tool to grow appeal among hard-to-reach shoppers—such as teenagers and men. “Purchasing personal care online is not only convenient, but great for consumers too embarrassed or self-conscious to purchase certain products face-to-face,” states Euromonitor, citing the example of men with a penchant for depilatories and other grooming products. Pitman agrees, adding: “There is more potential for targeting men than any other category, as men don’t like going round the shops.” The number of male grooming Web sites is increasing. Sites such as www.shave.com, www.buzzskin.com and www.mankind.co.uk score with men because these sites allow men to interact through questionnaires, message boards and quizzes—which also helps these consumers understand more about grooming without having to admit their lack of knowledge face-to-face with a beauty consultant.

In addition to brand-oriented shopping and information Web sites, there is a newer and potentially more powerful means of reaching consumers. Manufacturers are catching onto the growing popularity of blogs, which are available to anyone who wishes to post ideas or media online. “On such sites that provide access to consumer feedback and opinion, manufacturers can not only attain authentic product endorsements but also can learn about which aspects of their products are less effective,” observes Euromonitor.

Word-of-mouth recommendation rapidly is becoming the norm for users of the Internet, and it is a way of engaging and building community around brands. People rely on information from each other rather than institutions and can quickly let others know when they are not happy with a product. Social computing of this kind may be seen as a threat to marketers as they lose control of the message. However, those selling authentic products can enter into dialogue with their customers and use this new media as a means of testing out product concepts and advertising. In short, the Internet is an extremely fast-moving marketplace that will play an increasingly important part in beauty companies’ marketing plans.

*Decision News Media (which owns Cosmetics Design Europe and Euromonitor) will participate in the trends presentations at the 2007 in-cosmetics show, which takes place in Paris on April 17–19, 2007. For further information, visit www.in-cosmetics.com.