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What is the right approach for health, beauty and cosmetic brands to delivering successful ecommerce?

There are a multitude of factors that will ultimately determine the success of an ecommerce project. Even though the market is now relatively mature, there are still far too many ecommerce sites that fail to deliver a unique online experience that resonates with today’s savvy online consumer. The Red Tree is delighted to feature this comprehensively thought-provoking piece from Nic Aylett, Managing Director at independent ecommerce creative agency Neue Media.

The health, beauty and cosmetics industry is a fiercely competitive market, where the need for differentiation is paramount for a brand to stay strong and thrive. Consumers are now demanding a higher level of online services, reflecting the beauty shopper’s point-of-sale journey in a brick-and-mortar store, where the sale is won or lost. This is where the interaction of the brand comes to life and where seeds of loyalty are planted.

Successful online brands follow a best-practice approach, and have four key things in common. These are:

1. Understanding the target audience, and what matters most to the beauty consumer
2. Brand clarity and consistency throughout the whole online journey
3. A good user experience, creativity and technical execution
4. Content that emotionally connects with the consumer

1. Understanding the target audience, and what matters most to the beauty consumer

To create a successful ecommerce strategy you need to determine who are your potential customers, and to understand their emotional needs and concerns. Armed with that information, you can develop strategies that will make your customers become attracted to your products, which will increase conversion rates. Your audience is unique to your online store and it is composed of established connections that you can reach out to. Research can determine which of today’s online beauty shoppers are best for your market, how often they shop, what they shop for and what motivates them to shop online. It’s important to focus on what they actually want to hear and not what you want to say.

2. Brand clarity and consistency throughout the whole online journey

Getting your brand story straight – and telling it straight on every touch point of the brand, on and offline – is the cornerstone of business communications that really work. Brands that get this right build a reputation and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. They produce highly effective and consistent marketing; they think and act single-mindedly. And when the moment to tell their story comes, precisely the right words are on the tip of their tongue. A compelling, authentic and distinctive brand story is the foundation upon which to differentiate your brand and make an emotional connection with your customers, increasing brand awareness, igniting brand advocacy and powering your online sales.

When the time comes to make a purchase online, the customer must know that the product they are about to buy, whether moisturiser, perfume or eye shadow, is the best choice for them amongst the many alternatives there are in the market. All signals, both subtle and blatant, from entry to the site, the customer journey, through to purchase and after-sales communication, should reinforce the brand story and the values you live by.

Créme De La Mer is a good example of how to communicate a brand story online. They have repeatedly used bold imagery and video to constantly re-inforce their brand message, their association with the sea and the nourishing properties of kelp throughout their website. The choice of content is engaging, meaningful and interactive. It communicates their passion and belief using short concise messaging that is quick and easy for the user to digest.

The website is also a great example of what can be achieved by investing in good quality content. The striking photography is unique to Créme De La Mer and its execution with messaging help demonstrate the values the brand lives by, from website to product, with all elements working as a family. More often than not, brands fail to translate the quality of their brand online and this was certainly the case with Créme De La Mer prior to their current site being launched. Now, on entry to the site you feel you are entering a Créme De La Mer branded environment and not an ecommerce site selling Créme De La Mer products.

3. A good user experience, creativity and technical execution

Heath, beauty and cosmetics is a hugely personal purchase, so the ability to present users with more relevant experiences in the purchase cycle resonates with brands today. Increasingly competitive landscapes mean it is more important now than ever to get the right message to the right person at the right time. However, unless the personalised experience has been implemented based on thorough insight, the customer is more likely to leave the website rather than make a purchase. Therefore, to achieve valuable insight, you need to work from good data to begin with. This allows you to understand what needs to change on the website for a particular audience to improve their experience.

A personal experience is one of the things that brick-and-mortar stores are perceived to have an advantage in over online stores. The challenge for ecommerce sites is to try and replicate the personalised experience a customer has in-store. The level of data available in the online world enables you to know exactly who the customer is, what they view, and when they buy and why, opening the way for an even more powerful reality; one that enables advanced behaviour segmentation, dynamic pricing and vibrant online content that empowers retailers and brands to grow past traditional marketing strategies and create real-time personalised campaigns to reach consumers in new ways.

However, the sharing of personal data has always been a sensitive topic, and many consumers simply do not feel secure giving out personal information online. This can be an issue of brand perception, as customers who ‘trust’ a brand are more likely to be forthcoming with their information when it is requested.

Your creative and technical execution must be driven by credible evidence to influence your delivery, which stems from your initial research and understanding of the consumer through several disciplines including psychology, web architecture and human behaviour. It’s important to avoid design based on assumptions or opinions, and also design by committee, as this is just based on perceptions and not on facts and hard evidence.

4. Content that emotionally connects with the consumer

Consumers respond to online stores that provide them with personalised content but also good quality content that is engaging, meaningful, thought provoking and relevant to them. Retailers need to think more like magazine publishers with a more seamless blend of content and ecommerce, rather than simply as an online business selling products that consumers may have read about elsewhere. Rich editorial-led content, thought-provoking messaging delivered through a defined tone of voice and relevant memorable imagery will connect with the psychology and emotions of the beauty consumer through their subconscious, influencing their buying decision and enhancing their relationship with brands and products. Beauty is a very emotional purchase that can be encouraged by creating an emotional hook that entices the user into the flow of the website, a seamless online experience that avoids dead ends, but instead guides the customer to your online objective… sales.

Clarins have embraced this on their website, in particular their ‘Clarins Mag’ section which serves as a digital magazine that breaks outside of the traditional website layout. Each article highlights a consumer need and concern through strong visuals and key messaging, with relevant products to purchase. Video demonstrations outline the product application including advice and tips. This has been executed at a very high standard, keeping the user engaged with high quality content and slick features which all contribute to a great user experience.

Today’s online shopper has a growing appetite for video. It’s more engaging for website visitors, and tells a brand or product story in a more immersive way than text and images do. For health beauty and cosmetics it’s a platform to showcase the product, its application and the ritual a consumer would experience at a brick-and-mortar store.

Video can be used as a blend between engaging content and ecommerce with ‘add to basket’ links added to video content. Brands that have this seamless ecommerce functionality integrated with video can see basket values increase by an average 30% and repeat visits to their site from customers who have built a loyal and trusted relationship with the brand.

Marks & Spencer’s have created a new channel on their website called M&STV which adopts a QVC style approach. This use of online video to build brand loyalty is extremely potent as the viewer is able to immediately interact with the brand, capturing and developing the dialogue between brand and consumer, ultimately converting viewers into sales.

M&STV offers its customers short videos with style tips and advice, which combined with high-end production values gives customers a reason to keep returning to the site. Adding in the ability to list products next to the video to click through and purchase, simplifies the buying process for the shopper.

The opportunity to develop video content is too big to ignore. Beauty online retailers need to take efforts a step further and start leveraging the power of online videos to sell more and help communicate the benefits of a product in making a beauty consumer look and feel the best they can. The following statistics highlight this:

-Consumers watch product video 60% of the time
– 52% of consumers say watching product videos makes them more confident in purchase decisions
– 3/5 consumers will spend at least 2 minutes watching product video
– 1/2 consumers are less likely to return a product after viewing a video
– Shoppers who view product video are 174% more likely to purchase


It is now easier than ever before to trade online, but it is now becoming increasingly more difficult for online retailers to stand out in the market place. Health, beauty and cosmetic brands should be clear about:

– Who their key customers are and the prime prospects they most want to influence
– Who their immediate competitors are
– The ability to demonstrate what differentiates them from other brands
– Why their products are the best in helping the consumer feel the best they possibly can

There needs to be a clear strategy for bringing the brand proposition to life through all communications that stand out and resonate with the consumer.

The customer journey starts when the customer first sees the entry point for your website through a Google Search results page link, an online advert, a printed advert or email newsletter. Each entry point and the journey through the site needs to look, feel and sound like your brand and the qualities and values it lives by. Capturing the attention of customers through relevant, rich, engaging and quality content that addresses the customers’ needs and concerns on every step of the journey creates conversion and loyalty; bad content and poor execution only creates conversation.

For more on this article, or to get in touch with Neue Media, call +44 (0) 208 144 9301, email or visit Neue Media.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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