November 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Health / Beauty

E-retailers can show their true colors


The Internet does many things well as a retail channel and one of its strengths is presenting colors. Nowhere is that more important than on web sites that sell health and beauty products.

Make-up counters in physical stores offer the best first-hand view of product colors and textures, but the lighting can range from incandescent to fluorescent and can cause variations in hue. E-commerce retailers rely on pictures to depict texture and color, and many have mastered the use of digital images. shows off that mastery with its color comparison feature. “Our Color Play tool is interactive and allows consumers to view, compare and play with shades across product categories, effectively illustrating MAC’s authority on color,” says Salima Popatia, executive director, MAC Cosmetics. “This feature engages consumers and provides an alternative way to shop, delivering a material lift in conversion when compared to the site’s average conversion rate.”

In addition to rich images, cosmetics sites in this year’s Hot 100 provide detailed information to help shoppers navigate nearly endless options regarding selecting and applying makeup. features Beauty Central, a comprehensive content area offering skin care tips, trends and how-to videos. The site’s product pages feature customer reviews and an opportunity to ask a question.

Some sites offer skin and hair care advice to complement products they sell. sells botanical-based beauty products and presents extensive product information. Aveda presents reviews, some with details about the reviewer, such as hair type or other traits, how long they’ve used Aveda, and links to other reviews.
A natural beauty

It’s hard to sell beauty goods online because unlike, say, apparel, the product images don’t speak for themselves. However,, which sells botanical-based beauty products, fills the gap well with extensive product information. Aveda not only has reviews, it has tons of them-one product has 666-and reviews include information about the submitters such as hair type or other traits, how long they’ve used Aveda, and links to their other reviews. To save shoppers time, Aveda includes overall item ratings on product pages so users can get a quick feel for general feedback without scrolling through pages of comments. Aveda also helps shoppers sift through its extensive offerings with categories like top-rated products, award winners, editors’ and stylists’ picks, and must-haves under $40.
Personal touch

The skin care and beauty experts at Clinique Laboratories LLC are bringing the personal attention of a department store makeup counter to an online marketplace, Using the “My Skin Consultation” function, visitors can receive detailed skin care suggestions and product recommendations by taking part in a 10-step questionnaire and updating their “My Clinique” profiles. The site automatically develops a customized skin care regimen and recommends products that match a shopper’s needs. The process is quick and easy, taking under two minutes. Customers can also find beauty tips, both in article and video form, in the “Expert Tips and Trends” section. Videos break down the makeup application process into steps, explaining subtleties and providing helpful hints.
Color that jumps

To sell cosmetics online a retailer must deliver vibrant images and enable shoppers to compare the many shades of makeup. MAC brings luxuriant colors and rich textures of makeup products to its web site through various tools, including a Color Play feature that enables shoppers to compare products side by side. The site is dominated by a deep black background, enhancing the display of eye shadow, lipsticks and other makeup products. “Black is in our DNA,” says Toni Lakis, vice president, design. “It’s very much part of our brand. We wanted our site to be sexy as well as showcase our extensive color range in the best way. In our stores our makeup artists are dressed in black, so all you focus on is their makeup. We wanted to translate that experience online.”
Curly is cool

Talk about a niche. Ouidad Products LLC created to offer women with all degrees of curls not just beauty products for curly hair but for every different kind of curly hair. In fact, shoppers can click on The Curl Profiler and learn precisely how curly their hair is, and from there view only products designed to meet their specific needs. A well-written blog features plenty of vibrant images. And a video introduces shoppers to the eponymous Ouidad, who discusses herself and her history-and, of course, her hair. The web store has added the blog, message boards, Q&A;, educational videos and more to create a destination tailored to its well-defined customer base, says Pat Campbell, director of marketing. Since adding the social setting, traffic has doubled over 2008.
A fan favorite

Multi-channel beauty products retailer Sephora USA Inc. has more than 227,000 Facebook fans. The reason? It gives consumers ample reasons to sign up. On Facebook it announces exclusive fan-only promotions, keeps shoppers informed about online and in-store events, highlights weekly discounts, posts videos, photos and polls, and provides a discussion forum. It also uses Facebook to create buzz. For instance, in June, Sephora’s fan page teased the launch of Sephora Favorites, 10 sample sets of the company’s best-selling products, by announcing the line one set at a time over 10 days. On, Sephora features Beauty Central, a comprehensive content area offering tips, trends and how-to videos. The site’s product pages feature loads of customer reviews, as well as the option to ask a question.

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