How have you managed to continue thriving in the competitive online marketplace?
We have been able to stay competitive for two main reasons: first, dedicated commitment to vendor/brand relationships. We know that the relationship we have with various brands is the cornerstone of our entire merchandising strategy. Not a day goes by where we take for granted the privilege of selling any particular brand. We believe in providing a collaborative environment where working with a brand can help increase sales and create a win-win situation for all involved.
The second major reason is our obsessive focus on our customers. Our customers drive our business. Customer comments and NPS scores are all routed to every employee in the company. We look at things like what people are searching for on our site, where they are spending time, etc. We really scrutinize the customer path—the page they land on, where they go to on the site, where they’re confused. We study Web analytics on how people engage, even off our site. When we saw keratin treatments being searched on Google, we incorporated related products and how-tos on our site. So we’re very proactive by looking at hair customers’ searches. We continually seek to make the site easier to use and provide products the customer is looking for. Our product development is heavily driven by customer feedback as well.
How do you attract new customers and retain current ones?
We have a very broad-ranging online marketing program. We are very active with paid search, and are bidding on more than 1 million key terms. Our email list is approaching 1 million opt-in names. We have a formal blogger/vlogger-outreach program and affiliate program as well. Our referral program is relatively new and generating very positive results.
We are currently working on developing a more formal loyalty program. Starting in 2012, we will begin offering benefits such as invitations to private sales, sneak previews, deluxe sampling and a VIP reviewer program.
What are some of the other noteworthy features of the site?
The main aspect is our intense focus on hair. We have a wealth of information in our Hair 101 section with numerous how-to articles and videos. Our reviews are the most popular aspect of the site, and we continually get very positive feedback about the benefits of our reviews. Our reviews are unique in that you can filter by hair type. In addition, numerous customers provide photos or videos with their reviews. Our customers love to share good and bad experiences, and we offer a platform to facilitate that dialogue. Consumers are cynical about companies saying their products are great, so that added credibility comes from a like-minded consumer. In fact, because of our reviews, about half of the time a customer will find us by searching for a particular brand on Google and will end up buying another brand.
Our Top 10 lists are very well-received. Our merch team incorporates customer feedback, quality inspections and reviews, and curates an outstanding assortment by category. Many customers appreciate the assistance of cutting through the clutter and isolating their choices to a handful of outstanding options.
In addition to traditional product-based navigation, we also have a “shop by” feature that lets customers shop by hair type, benefit or concern. In addition, we have a “Specialty Shop” category, where we have assortments for things such as “Travel Shop,” “Kinky, Curly, Wavy Shop” or “Stylists’ Favorites.”
[Photo credit: David Giacomini, CEO]