Beauty and the Blog
The internet is proving to be an increasingly influential beauty tool.
By Joanna Cosgrove
Without a doubt, the Internet has revolutionized how women shop for beauty and fragrance products. The Pink Report of 2007, “Beauty and the Blog,” a new report from The Benchmarking Company of Washington, DC, revealed some surprising details about how influential websites, beauty blogs and message boards have become when good product news (and bad) is spread via keystroke. In addition to creating a buzz, the information superhighway is more often being viewed as a key tool in a brand’s integrated marketing program to drive retail purchases in stores too.
According to Alisa Beyer, president and CEO of The Benchmarking Company, of the women who regularly use the Internet, a majority search beauty brands to find product information, to learn about trends, to compare prices and then to buy - in that order. “Women buy beauty products online and join beauty related blogs because it’s simply more convenient for many of them. Here, a woman can ask questions anonymously and get different opinions from people who share her same concerns or who have gone through a similar experience,” she said. “Women thrive on a sense of community and social responsibility. A woman feels she can help another woman by exchanging positive or negative experiences. They don’t always need to physically go to the counter to hear a sales pitch; they can trust their online sisters.”
And for those concerned that increased Internet traffic could put a dent in physical store visits, Ms. Beyer says the reverse is actually true. “Beauty brand managers should also know that women still view magazine ads, friends and family, television advertising and in-store demonstrations and salespeople as more influential factors when deciding to buy beauty products than the Internet,” she said.
In Search Of…
Women who turn to beauty websites and blogs for information are typically loyal, often checking in for updates at least once a week. Ms. Beyer noted five reasons why women join beauty communities: “1.) it is easy to find the information that I need, 2.) I find interesting material each time I visit it, 3.) it allows me to post comments, 4.) it is friendly and easy to use, and 5.) it is always updated on beauty events,” she said.
The study also revealed that 63 percent of female Internet users rated a product or service online using an online rating system mainly to share their experiences. “This interest in sharing opinions has really fueled sales,” she said. “What we found of real interest here is that of the women who joined a blog and began participating in discussions, 67 percent feel they are more likely to buy a beauty product if they read a good comment posted in a blog, message board or social network. And 54 percent feel they make smarter buying decisions since they started visiting blogs, message boards and social networking sites.”
Product information is the most appealing part of a beauty brand website and, according to the study’s respondents, most site visits are prompted by a manufacturer’s marketing action, such as advertising, email campaigns, samples or promotions and because they found the website while searching for a specific topic. “They visit these sites to get product information (71 percent), to download coupons and samples (46 percent), to learn application tips and tricks (37 percent) and to find out about trends (30 percent),” commented Ms. Beyer. “Women under 30 are more likely to visit a beauty brand site if they see an ad on TV (42 percent), a product in the store (42 percent) or if they found out a celebrity uses the brand (12 percent). Women over 50 years of age are most likely (42 percent) to visit a beauty brand site after receiving an email from the manufacturer.”
And when it came to getting a handle on the scope and draw of beauty blogs (there are hundreds of thousands of beauty-related blogs online, with content raging from sublime to absurd), The Benchmarking Company narrowed its focus to spotlight types of applications within certain beauty categories. “For instance,” said Ms. Beyer, “hair care is discussed by women more as a topic on blogs than facial skin care, makeup and bath and body care combined. On hair care related blogs, 52 percent of the discussions focused on color followed by shampoo with 24 percent and conditioner with 14 percent. Of the top 20 facial/skin care blogs and message boards, 40 percent of the online discussions focused on moisturizers, followed by facial scrubs with 17 percent and facial tanning products with 16 percent. Of the makeup blogs, mineral makeup, foundation and mascara each account for 19 percent of the general discussions.”
In addition to examining the behavior of women who use the Internet as a tool for beauty research, Beauty and the Blog also ranked the top drawing sites. The top five of 100 ranked beauty brand websites were: Bath & Body Works, Avon, Cover Girl, Bare Escentuals and Victoria Secret’s Beauty.
The report then ranked the top 100 beauty brands “by share of discussion” – meaning where the brand was discussed on other blogs, message boards and social networking sites. Researchers found Chanel, Sephora, Dior, NARS, and stila as the top five brands being discussed.
And finally, the report broke out the top five categories of beauty (haircare, facial skin care, bath & body skin care, makeup and fragrance) and ranked the 20 blogs in each category, based on share of discussion, for a snapshot in time: January 1 – March 31, 2007. “What we found here was fascinating,” remarked Ms. Beyer. “Although the vast majority of the beauty discussion is happening on beauty sites, much of the beauty discussion is happening on sites other than beauty-specific sites. For instance, it came as no surprise to us that www.makeupalley.com consistently ranked in the top five for each beauty category, and that www.vogue.com.au also made the top ten in each category. However, we found heavy beauty conversations at www.the-n.com, a pure media message board, www.mothering.com, a site for new moms, and even www.badgerandblade.com, a site geared toward men and shaving.”
Ms. Beyer said that what makes these sites influential is not only the numbers of conversations happening on them, but the passion in those conversations, likening the Internet phenomenon as “the world’s largest and most influential water cooler.”
“This is an exciting opportunity for the beauty industry to reach and educate women consumers in a way they’re proving to be very open to. Women are talking about the beauty brands they are most frustrated with and those they adore with millions of women online,” she concluded. “Providing consumers a place to create and share thoughts and opinions online has the potential to dramatically change how beauty brands do business.”
More info: http://www.benchmarkingco.com