For many years, there was a general rule about customer opinion in the cosmetics industry: it mattered, but didn’t usually make a difference. Why was that? Mainly because it took so long to reach the main offices of the brand. By the time it did – a process that could take anywhere from several months to several years – a decision will have already been in effect for some time and the dust would have settled. Often with customers lost.
I am, of course, speaking of the discontinuation or changing of product lines. Cosmetics have always been a quickly rotating industry. Because new items had to be placed on shelves, old ones had to be axed to make room. Anything that sold below a certain line, regardless of popularity, would be given the chop. Then another item, which may or may not find success, would be put in its place.
When a customer (or many) disapproved of this change, there was little recourse at their disposal. They could contact the company in question and complain to customer support. But that logged complaint would be lost in the sea of communication, and might not even be seen. If it was at all, it would take a lot of time to get there.
In other words, once an item was discontinued, that was pretty much it.
Over the last couple of years we have been seeing this problem ebb. According to the founder of genf20plus.com:
Direct communication with the head office of any business – and even the CEO or head of production of a cosmetics business – is possible. All it takes is an email, and you have networked with the people responsible for the brand.
Now we also have a secondary, more helpful means of doing this. It is social media, which has put customers right at the front line of decisions made by cosmetic brands. When someone wants to see the reemergence of an old shade or product, they can go to the Facebook or Twitter page of a company and make their voice heard.
We even have contests being held now on sites like Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook and others than allow customers to lodge votes on what they would like to see being sold. Because of ecommerce there is no shelf limitations. Which means discontinuation is no longer a necessity, and old products can find their way back. Or new ones can be sold without having to switch them out over time.
We have seen many situations where this has changed things. But some popular case studies are:
- Estée Lauder recently held two contests for two of their owned brands; MAC Cosmetics and Bobbi Brown. In both cases they presented a group of old shades they had discontinued. Then they invited their customers to vote on which ones they would like to see brought back, leading to literally hundreds of thousands of votes. Now those items will be sold exclusively online, through a Facebook link. This not only engaged customers, but connects them more strongly to their social media profile. It was so successful that Bobbi Brown is planning a second vote in February.
- In 2011, Lancôme saw a huge surge in customer complaints via social media about the elimination of Blush Subtil in Cosmopolitan Pink. In response, they chose to bring it back for sale online, and it has been a great appeasement to unhappy customers who regularly used it (via lifecell-anti-aging.com).
- Earlier this year, CoverGirl began using their social media page to allow customers more interaction. They launched Hot Tools, a lookbook that features various products and different colors of their cosmetics. It works as a kind of catalog.
- Popular hair care brand Garnier USA uses their social media page on Facebook to give away free samples, coupons and hold contests.
What are some of your favorite examples of how cosmetic brands are using their social media pages to connect with customers? Is it a trend you think will continue and perhaps expand over time? Could this be the link many have been waiting for into full social media commerce for the beauty industry? Let us know in the comments!