Beauty Companies Are Leading at Website Personalization

It has been called “The Uberization of Everything.” It’s an economic trend that has forced your products, fantastic as they may be, into sharing the spotlight as only one part of the consumer’s overall brand experience.

We’re talking about consumers’ new-ish propensity for comparing every interaction they have with a brand to whatever the most positive, most-elegant brand interaction they hold as their personal high watermark.  As a B2C or D2C brand, this effectively means you’re in an arms race to make the most of every interaction you’re able to drive between your brand and prospect audiences, especially website visitors.  For this reason, all roads lead to website personalization.

It wasn’t so long ago that 1:1 website personalization was a daunting-at-best and technologically demanding undertaking for an organization. More recently, as ever-smarter SaaS products have emerged, some of the world’s leading beauty industry brands have shown formidable leadership in how to best leverage the new tech.  

Their success has even led to the creation of a critical new metric for e-commerce marketers to start measuring, but more on that later.

First, let’s have a look at how these companies have approached their website personalization.

Visual Purchases vs. Technical Purchases

Let’s start with a quick look at what makes a website visitor convert to a paying customer and some factors that drive their purchase decision.

A visual purchase is perhaps the simplest of all e-commerce transactions.  It happens when a shopper buys something based purely on how it looks. Basically, when a shopper quickly makes a personal decision about what they like or don’t like based purely on the images being served on the site.

An example of a visual purchase would be wallpaper. The shopper may have some secondary considerations such as dimensions or material, but overall they’ll be choosing wallpaper based on design.

Another example of a visual purchase would be fast-fashion clothing. Occasionally the shopper may have some more detailed requirements such as inseam or sleeve length, but, overall, they’ll buy the item based on visual, aesthetic preferences related to their personal sense of style.

Framed in eCommerce terms, as you scroll through a product landing page (PLP), we’re talking about visitors clicking through on products that look good to the shopper. The chances are that the product description page (PDP) if they even look at it, will not change the shoppers’ minds about whether or not they will want to buy the item.

A technical purchase does not simply visually jump off the PLP for the shopper, but rather the purchase is driven by a deeper look at the product attributes as they stack up against the shoppers’ need. In this case, the visual aspect is simply the first on a checklist of factors in the consumers’ mind that they will use to match their need to a product selection. 

Here’s a surprising fact: Beauty companies offer a technical purchase.

For example, let’s look at a skincare website. As the shopper scrolls through the PLP, they’ll see dozens of products in similar-looking bottles with similar names and countless product attributes. At this point, the products are largely undifferentiated in the consumers’ mind, kind of like standing in the toothpaste aisle at your local pharmacy.

The only way for them to get more information about any given product, and hence inform the purchase decision, is to click through to the PDP and read the product description. Once they’ve read the product description, they can now assess whether or not the product is right for them.

As an eCommerce leader, you know that a good 45.68% of your visitors will bounce on their first page, and only about 2.86% of your visitors will purchase something.

When you figure in further that the industry-standard average session duration is around 3 minutes, there’s no way that the visitor is taking the time to reach each of the site PDPs.  If they can’t quickly find what they’re looking for, most of them will leave the site.  That doesn’t leave much room (or time!) for error.

So, if a shopper needs to read full product descriptions of multiple products before finding the right item, it’s not surprising that many shoppers will leave before the conversion happens.

This breakpoint in the discovery/purchase flow is the pain point that has led beauty companies to seek a more thoughtful way of doing e-commerce. 

They asked themselves, “How can we most simply guide our customers to the products they need without having to go through the PDP’s full description?”

Lag Metric Reporting vs. Product Recommendation Software

In their search for the perfect tech stack, beauty companies have discovered that not all tech is created equal. 

Website personalization is vital, and many companies claim to offer it, but the reality is that most solutions offer an underwhelming experience.

How many times have you personally been retargeted for products that had nothing to do with your actual wants and needs? Probably many. How many times have your eyes glossed over generic product recommendations due to irrelevance? Probably many.  

This type of marketing is based on assumptions drawn from lagging metrics, and assumptions are not personalization. 

To provide a truly personalized shopping experience, you need insights about the visitor to whom you seek to deliver the personalized experience.  To get insights, you need to listen to your shoppers by engaging them in the right way and at the right moment in their buyer’s journey.

Click-tracking and heatmaps, the basis for common website personalization solutions today, only provide data about activity that has already happened on the website.  By the time you receive most of this type of reporting, it’s too late to do anything to enhance the visitor’s experience with your website.  These lag metrics then allow you to do things like remarketing to your visitors on all ad platforms and making generic product recommendations such as “people also bought” or “you may also like.” 

As marketers make their way up the data stack toward the holy grail of predictive analytics, the most critical next step to achieve (that you can do starting right now) is to use the visitor’s data to make personalized recommendations in real-time, effectively reducing their burden of choice.  We’re talking about a level of real-time website personalization that is as helpful as a well-trained retail sales associate.

Chatbots vs. Quiz Maker Software

Becoming a better listener starts with shifting your mindset from offering product recommendations solely based on your hypotheses.  It means helping web visitors find the products that they need or that they’re looking for, based on their self-articulated requirements, just like a great retail store clerk would do.

What does this improved way of helping your website visitors look like in action?

First, like a helpful retail sales associate, you need to listen to their needs. That means asking questions. Understanding what people buy is only part of the story. For any purchase decision beyond the purely visual, you want to know why they buy what they buy. Uncovering the pain point or the need your shopper is trying to solve gives you a true insight into how to best curate the rest of their buyer’s journey and, ideally, future relationship as a customer of your brand.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; let’s get back to that first conversion.

Second, you need to match the needs you’ve uncovered to your product catalog. To do so, your product tagging needs to be intelligent, accurate, and complete. 

So, let’s assume you’ve already tagged your inventory adequately. From here, you need to build in logic to cross-reference everything your shopper has told you about their needs to your tagged inventory and pull out the products that are a match.

Third, it means packaging those products into enticing recommendations. You also want to offer context as to why you’re suggesting these products. It’s not enough to tell someone they should buy something; you need to explain how it matches their needs.

Fourth, and finally, you need to personalize your site for the visitor so that their experience with your website now clearly reflects this new understanding. Listening to your shoppers and offering product recommendations is just the first step. You need to give a cohesive experience from one session to the next that makes your shopper feel seen, understood, and remembered.

They Understand the Power of Website Personalization

You may be wondering what all of this looks like in practice. This all sounds good, but what are some concrete examples of beauty brands successfully following these principles?

amika

  • Discover how Automat is helping amika customers choose products and perfect hair care routines created just for them.

PCA SKIN

  • Learn how PCA SKIN goes beyond single-intent shopping and static upsells with automated product bundling their customers love.

oVertone

  • Experience how Automat helps oVertone build purchase confidence through relevant product reviews and product recommendations perfect for them.

Tatcha

  • Discover how Tatcha is helping its customers choose the right skincare products and beauty rituals for their personal needs.

Try any of the experiences above to understand the power of personalization.

They’ve Unlocked the Value of ROPS

You know your return on ad spend (ROAS) like the back of your hand. 

You know that your remarketing ROAS far outperforms your prospecting ROAS. You know that optimizing ROAS is the difference between making your targets or missing them altogether. 

The chances are that your eCommerce business lives and dies by it; this is not an uncommon situation.

The ROAS you can live with or aim for will depend on your industry and your margins. In fact, according to this reporting published by Google, ROAS varies pretty wildly between verticals, with some as low as 1.25% (or 125%).

No one denies that you need to spend some ad dollars to generate qualified traffic: organic is excellent, but in the competitive field of eCommerce, it’s seldom enough on its own.

The issue is that once your shopper clicks on an ad and lands on your site, they’re left to their own devices. Sure, you have a live chat option on the bottom right-hand corner of your store, but statistically, unless someone is asking WISMO (where is my order?) or asking to make a return, they’re most likely going to ignore it.

One-size-fits-all approaches are not good enough. As we mentioned above, only around 2.86% of your visitors will purchase during any given session. Put another way, that means approximately 97% of your visitors are leaving your site without buying anything.

To address this issue, you need to offer a personalized shopping experience for every single one of your visitors. That’s what’s going to help you move the needle on your ROAS. Targeting and ad creative can only get you so far; their job is to get the visitor onto your site.  You need to then serve something compelling to the consumer if you expect to take the relationship with them to the next level.

You’re probably thinking about the meticulous care you put into merchandising your site to perfection and how that’s helping your customer find the best products. That’s an excellent and critical foundation; your site on its own is probably a well-considered v1. of how to deliver the best possible experience for the most significant possible cross-section of your buyer persona, but now it’s time to optimize.  It’s time for website personalization.

We’d humbly like to introduce a new marketing metric to the lexicon; return on personalization spend (ROPS).  Your ROA is an excellent measure of advertising success, but it’s not your ad that’s going to drive most visits over the line to a sale.  It’s time to start thinking about your ROPS.

On average, Automat customers see 10% revenue uplifts and upwards of $4.30 ROPS (or 430%). 

If you’re ready to unlock personalization for your business, book a demo today.

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