The media is the message

The media is the message

Ecommerce offers a myriad of options and services to the consumer. But as Nic Aylett explains, in a race with a record field of runners, failure to invest can compromise success.

Ecommerce is maturing; personalisation, better online features and functionality are offering consumers more engaging content across multiple devices, helping customise options and make better buying decisions. Savvy brands are now exploiting technical advances to provide consumers a seamless online experience. The digital landscape continues to evolve, providing consumers and brands the opportunity to capitalise on new technology. Whatever your digital strategy may be, it is vital to invest in doing it well so that your online presence represents a true reflection of your brand its values. Failure to invest can lead to a negative brand perception, creating barriers to conversion in an already crowded market.

The online beauty market grew 21.1 per cent from 2012-3 to an estimated £734 million; digital is transforming the retail experience with ecommerce expected to account for 23 percent of all UK retail sales by 2016, the greatest penetration of any mature market.

It is significant that over the last 15 years, ecommerce has evolved from static to interactive. When you consider the technology we now interact with daily, it is clear that the world around us has changed. Today's online experience is so much more than add-to-basket and checkout as interactive consultations offer personalised recommendations, how-to video guides and step-by-step advice with the resulting higher user engagement, increasing time on site and bigger conversion rates. Beauty and cosmetics work hand in hand with digital – these days we are obsessed with getting the look, following beauty bloggers and vloggers, price comparisons, and influences through social media.

A recent Google Digital Beauty Study found that 43 per cent of online shoppers go to five or more beauty websites before making a decision, and ultimately, one in four beauty shoppers make purchases online. All of these purchases are driven by an army of bolt-ons provided by ecommerce sites; free shipping, flexible delivery options, live chat, free product samples, online reviews, loyalty programmes, auto-replenishment, good customer service and of course a bottom line of price. Digital consumers expect these to be readily available via desktop, tablet and mobile, which is fast becoming the device of choice to compare and discover new brands. In fact, new research recently revealed that mobile commerce will account for 24 per cent of overall ecommerce revenues by the end of 2017. But whichever platform a consumer uses, they require a highly-engaging experience wherever they encounter a brand, based on cohesive strategies that tie back to the brand’s message.

There a high rewards of embracing these new media habits with early adopters seeing immediate return on investment and bragging rights over the competition. But getting it wrong, without the right investment and execution, and you’ll be spending time and money trying to win customers back – over 60 per cent of adults said they would be less likely to buy from the same company if they experienced issues while conducting a transaction. Poor user experience, coupled with a lack of insight about why customers are abandoning websites is costing brands billions of pounds of 'lost' sales. Those who are able to quantify site abandonment estimate they are losing the equivalent of 24 per cent of their annual online revenue due to a bad online experience. This equates to around £14 billion lost in the UK in the last year. Nearly 20 per cent of businesses rate their understanding of online customer experience as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor.’ Food for thought.

It is vital for brands to ensure that the customer journey is as pain-free and seamless as possible. What may seem a small and irrelevant issue can be a major barrier to conversion. The most common causes of online customer struggles are:

  • Bad navigation and poor find-ability
  • Lack of information
  • Payment problems
  • Checkout problems
  • Process issues
  • Form filling problems
  • Registration problems
  • Security or trust issues
  • Page not available
  • Broken links

Research shows that a lack of understanding of the online customer experience, plus insufficient budget in creating a polished, well-crafted site is the main result for customer struggle. Brands are investing in the online channel, but these are not matched by investments in online customer experience. Online creativity is not necessarily complemented with an efficient customer journey. In fact, a trend is developing in which websites are either over designed or trying to be too clever with technology. It about getting the right balance, to engage, entice and excite the user, but make that journey considered and effortless.

So how can you get the best out of your online presence? Beauty and cosmetic ecommerce specialists Neue Media highlight how brands can improve visitors' user experience while maximising conversion rates.

Platform to success:

  • Your website needs to be fully responsive, changing layout for mobile, tablet or desktop, to give an optimised user-experience.
  • The design should be easy for users to navigate and find the products they are looking for with a minimum of effort and clicks. Drop down menus should be used to filter and therefore narrow the customer’s product selection. Using a larger panel introduces more space to include a bigger product range, additional offers and promotions, personalisation and sign-posting / messaging. A search feature should also not be ignored, as this has a high conversion rate.
  • Display your products clearly through different categories to cater for how users are searching, by collection, area of the body, concern, solution, type of product, fragrance, etc. A similar approach can be used on category pages to further filter user requirements, by price, colour, texture, finish, benefit. 83 per cent of beauty consumers consider this very important.
  • Data capture is a key objective so it needs to be easy for customers to sign up to a newsletter. Include terminology to encourage a user to register, along with what can you offer them in exchange for their personal data.
  • Making customer service information accessible reduces buyers' concerns. This content includes Contact, Privacy policy, Returns policy, Delivery information and live chat if you can support that service. 2/3rds of online beauty consumers will pay more for good customer service.
  • Not every user knows the product that is right for their look, style, skin concern or type, so an online product advisor, consultation or virtual makeover that is structured correctly will provide a ‘small’ selection of personalised results.
  • Offer your customers free samples as part of the checkout process, 38 per cent of beauty consumers see this as very important.
  • Offer your customers free shipping, 69 per cent of beauty consumers see this as very important.
  • As early as possible get across who you are, what you do, how do you do it and why.
  • Your home page should have prominent calls to action and signposting to encourage the visitor to further explore the site. These should be directed at the brand, products and data capture.
  • Use strong imagery that is recognised as your brand. Avoid using generic imagery, you need to have a style and take ownership of your brand assets so that they work as a family.
  • Use short and concise messaging that acts as an emotional hook, providing content your users what to hear.
  • Feature your products on the home page through to purchase with each page having its own strategy
  • For maximum engagement use video; this should be considered throughout the site with brand communications, how-to guides and product demonstrations.
  • Show great content but do not fill the pages with clutter, noise and distractions. Keep it clean and considered.
  • Product imagery should be big with the option to enlarge or reduce – give the user the option on how they want to shop.
  • Product pages should show multiple product shots, in the packaging, out of the packaging, showing the content, application to skin and the various colours – you need to show it all. Different skin colours should also be taken into consideration. Video should be used to demonstrate the product application and the steps that a consumer would take in a store. Consumers are increasingly expecting this. They are also more likely to be shared if they are interesting. Show other recommended products that the user may like that complement or are part of the ritual or ‘complete the look’
  • If a section is content heavy, make sure it is tabbed to keep the page tidy and ensure the visitor can find what they need to know quickly. Avoid overcrowding the page.
  • Reviews and ratings, both positive and negative, help encourage users to purchase

Beauty at Google Event Report 2014

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