August 4, 2011, 10:42 AM

This iPad app helps mom buy cosmetics, and keeps her kids quiet

Benefit Cosmetics deploys iPads in stores with a tips and reviews app.

Lead Photo

The merchant's iPad app enables women to watch videos and read customer reviews, and offers games for children to play while mom's busy.

Many women love to spend quality time at a cosmetics store or the cosmetics counter in a department store trying new products or getting treatments. But the only feedback they can get is from the beauty associate—or her bored-to-tears child who’s screeching to go home.

Benefit Cosmetics, a beauty products and treatments merchant, wants to get the most out of that brief time they have with a customer and keep those kids entertained, so it turned to Apple Inc.’s mega-popular tablet, the iPad, to help both mother and child. M-commerce technology provider Branding Brand built for Benefit an iPad app and kiosk-like stand that enables women to watch videos of the latest make-up styles, get tips on selecting and applying cosmetics, and read customer ratings and reviews of all the products Benefit offers to get as much feedback on a product as she likes.

What’s more, the iPad app features a web and games section for anxious children and bored husbands. The games section replaces coloring books and crayons Benefit beauty advisors store behind the counter.

“We were inspired by our customers, who we see pulling out their mobile phones in-store to check out the ratings and reviews for a product they’re thinking about buying,” says Valerie Hoecke, vice president of digital experience and commerce at Benefit Cosmetics. “We really wanted to make it easy for them to get any supplemental information that will help them choose the right products.”

Women can browse the app while they wait for an appointment to get their eyebrows arched, for instance. Or use it in conjunction with a beauty associate. But the presence of the iPad begs a question: Why have one with trained associates waiting on customers hand and foot?

“No doubt, our beauty advisors and aestheticians are the most critical contact in our stores—we have an amazing staff who are extremely attentive to our customers,” Hoecke says. “Really, the iPad is there to help those beauty advisors as a secondary tool. It’s something our customers can browse and play with if they show up early for an appointment, a way for them to see how they can connect socially with Benefit, a way for them to watch our latest videos and tips, and one more way to learn about our products.”

Hoecke also places great emphasis on access to ratings and reviews, which associates alone obviously cannot provide.

“We live in the era of the hyper-informed consumer,” she says. “Our customers visit our stores to try our products, but we know they also research online. One incredible source of information online that isn’t usually easy to access in stores is our ratings and reviews feature. We felt that giving our beauty advisors easy access to ratings to share with customers in-store, and allowing our customers to see how strong our product ratings are, would enhance their in-store experience.”

To start, Benefit has deployed iPads in its 14 Benefit Boutique flagship stores. If the iPads meet with success, Hoecke says the merchant will consider adding the tablets and apps to more locations, including its Brow Bars and counters in department stores. Benefit Cosmetics sells products in more than 2,600 stores worldwide.

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