Forget AO.com, does Benefit Cosmetics offer the best ecommerce experience?

In a previous post I asked the question “Is AO.com the best ecommerce experience online?

In my opinion there are four areas in which the brand excels and that are the foundation of a market-leading online experience.

These are:

  1. Knowing and communicating your unique value proposition.
  2. Being truly, passionately customer centric.
  3. Harnessing social proof to make this central to the purchasing decision.
  4. Embracing the full spectrum of testing and optimisation.

Whenever a website is praised or wins an award, I always check to see what all the fuss is about.

Using these four criteria as a starting point, you can begin to assess whether or not a website can truly deliver the goods.

I am always curious to see who can join the illustrious list of true disrupter brands such as Uber and AirBnb, and as my previous post concluded, AO.com hs joined that list having disrupted the white goods industry.

As such, when I read that Benefit Cosmetics (part of the multi-billion, multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH) was recently awarded ‘Best Beauty Brand Online’, I had to check it out for myself and see whether the brand is worthy of the title!

So here goes. Will Benefit join the illustrious list of disruptive brands and cement itself as a trailblazer for the beauty industry? Let’s find out.

1. Knowing and communicating your unique value proposition

Universal header area

Landing on the homepage – or other primary landing pages – I’m extremely surprised to see that Benefit Cosmetics doesn’t dedicate any part of the primary header area to communicate anything tangible about its unique value proposition.

Prime website real estate is just being neglected.

This online crime happens all the time.

Brand X feels like it is big enough, credible enough and well known enough to not need to communicate why visitors should stick around and buy from them and not one of their competitors.

As crowded as the beauty market is, you would think every brand would jump at a chance to communicate their USPs.

It doesn’t matter how big or well-known you are, you should always be providing visitors with reasons to stay.

On primary landing and decision making pages, under the navigation

Just as Benefit doesn’t communicate any form of its unique value proposition in the site-wide header, it doesn’t dedicate any area under or around its primary navigation for communicating what makes the brand and products special.

As I shared in my AO.com critique, we all know about the fact that people need to see things a number of times before it typically “sinks in”.

Never has this been more important for retailers than with your unique value and service proposition messages.

In summary, Benefit Cosmetics is failing to communicate its value proposition clearly on key landing pages.

2. Being truly, passionately customer centric

Providing customer journeys that match different types of buyer behaviour

The two ways to browse products on Benefit Cosmetics are to ‘shop by product’ and ‘shop by dilemma’.

Though ‘shop by dilemma’ is an intriguing concept, only having two initial options to start a product search is limiting.

What about shop by latest releases, shop by most popular, shop by highest rated?

Even with a small product set compared to a retailer like AO.com, visitors will still benefit from being able to browse your range by other ways than just the type or category of product.

Replicating the offline shopping experience

Benefit Cosmetics is doing some really positive things in this area, not least actively encouraging visitors to visit a store.

Often multichannel retailers are almost afraid of promoting their store finder as they want their online visitors to buy online.

Truth is, bridging this gap (and encouraging the multichannel shopper) will in turn help create new customers who have the potential to become brand advocates.

The terminology used in the primary navigation ‘Get Serviced’ followed by the headline ‘Pamper Yourself Pretty’ are excellent examples of using emotive language and speaking directly to the visitor.

Creative and persuasive copywriting is certainly an area that Benefit has prioritised as part of its online user experience and it shows.

Store integration is intrinsic to the online experience.

In the section ‘explore our services’, hovering over any of the services immediately presents you with a ‘Find a Store’ button – this subtle hover state change ensures visitors are drawn to what they want you to do.

Benefit has another whole area dedicated to its customers with the ‘Wow your Brows’ page.

From striking, emotive imagery and humanised language, to video content and specific advice tailored to women’s different styles of eyebrows, this is an extremely (and impressively) customer-centric page.

I can’t help but wonder why it doesn’t promote this specialist area in the universal header!

In addition, it dedicates a whole section of the homepage to helping fix ‘Beauty Dilemmas’.

This once again showcases visually striking images that ooze brand personality (which is consistent throughout the whole site).

In summary, when it comes to being truly, passionately customer centric, Benefit is doing a lot right.

3. Harnessing social proof to make this central to the purchasing decision

Customer satisfaction is one of the first things new visitors are presented with

First-time visitors to AO.com see a prominent customer satisfaction score on the homepage.

When examining Benefit’s homepage, apart from a sub headline ‘What benebabes love most’ (which doesn’t provide you with any way to find out what or who are ‘benebabes’) and some very small hearts, there is a distinct lack of social proof used to demonstrate the popularity and advocacy of the Benefit customer base.

Of course it has the standard social links in the footer, but visitors have absolutely no idea if Benefit has 500 or 500,000 Pinterest followers, or 250 or 250,000 Twitter followers, or 800 or 800,000 Facebook likes.

I will let you guess the numbers behind the brand…

Prominence of reviews

As mentioned, with the miniscule love hearts under product images it’s almost as if Benefit Cosmetics doesn’t want visitors to think about or look at the reviews.

It would be interesting to see if any research was made in this decision.

Not only that, you have no idea whether products have seven or 700 reviews until you get to the product page.

From my experience, I always advise retailers to clearly communicate how many reviews you have for a product prior to visitors going to that product page.

Detailed, intelligent, informative, relevant customer reviews

Whilst the reviews are not prominent on the homepage, once you get on the product page Benefit has an exceptional rating and review system.

It provides both fantastic depth of reviews and also puts the visitor in control of seeing the reviews most relevant to them.

This shows how important Benefit take its customer reviews and the review system should be applauded, but ideally it should look to get this in front of the customer earlier in the journey.

4. Embracing the full spectrum of testing and optimisation

Unlike with AO.com (which is a brand I know truly embraces the full spectrum of optimisation), the very fact that Benefit doesn’t appear to have a testing tool installed says to me that this is one of the biggest opportunities for its next phase of growth.

What do I mean by the full spectrum of testing and optimisation?

Very few businesses embrace the full spectrum of opportunities on offer from A/B, multivariate and personalisation testing.

Typically testing is quick and simple and focused on the low hanging fruit (what we at PRWD call iterative testing).

The biggest business growth opportunity many businesses are missing out on is the impact and growth that innovative and strategic testing can deliver for their business.

In conclusion…

In summary, Benefit Cosmetics is doing some fantastic things with its digital experience to convert visitors into customers.

But as this quick evaluation has highlighted, there are a range of opportunities which can take it to the next level:

  1. Effectively communicating the unique value proposition to differentiate itself in the marketplace.
  2. Utilising the scale and passion of its social communities and customers to better effect.
  3. Most importantly, recognise that full spectrum optimisation represents the biggest growth lever.

What banks can learn from Mondo’s record-breaking £1m crowdfunding campaign

Mondo Bank has a long journey ahead of it as it seeks to become the Facebook or Google of banking as venture capitalist Eileen Burbidge envisions.

But it took the upstart bank just 96 seconds to raise £1m from 1,861 people through a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube.

Thousands more would-be investors were left out, demonstrating that there’s significant demand on the part of everyday consumers to invest their own money into building the bank of the future.

For the banking establishment, Mondo’s record-breaking crowdfunding haul, which was a part of a larger £6m funding round led by traditional venture capitalists, might not be cause for concern in pure dollar terms but it does reflect how consumer finance is changing.

Google courts enterprise marketers with launch of Analytics 360 Suite

Google has unveiled Analytics 360 Suite, “a complete measurement platform” targeted at enterprise marketers.

According to Google VP of Analytics, Display and Video Products, Paul Muret, Google Analytics 360 Suite is designed to give marketers “a complete view of the consumer journey and then make sense of it all.”

Once they have insight, Google aims to help marketers drive results.

To do all of this, the search giant has combined six products into a single platform:

  • Audience Center 360, a data management platform (DMP).
  • Optimize 360, a website testing and personalization solution.
  • Data Studio 360, a data and visualization tool that can be used to analyze data collected by all of the Google Analytics 360 products.
  • Tag Manager 360, which is based on Google’s existing tag management solution.
  • Analytics 360, the professional analytics solution that Google previously offered under the name GA Premium.
  • Attribution 360, an attribution platform that marketers can use to evaluate the performance of their campaigns across channels.

Google says that Analytics 360 Suite has been several years in the making, and was developed based on feedback it received from enterprise marketers, many of whom complained that their existing marketing analytics tools were not meeting their needs.

Integration, integration, integration

Google believes it is delivering on those needs, and early customers like L’Oreal Canada, which says it has doubled anticipated revenue with Google’s new offering, are already singing Analytics 360 Suite’s praises.

But Google’s secret sauce might not be breadth or depth, but rather integration.

Audience Center 360 offers native integration with DoubleClick and over 50 third-party data providers.

Tag Manager 360 plays nicely with a variety of third-party vendors, including Turn, comScore, Criteo and Marin Software.

Attribution 360 is capable of distributing data to DSPs and RTBs, can pull in data automatically from DoubleClick Campaign Manager, and offers an Offline Conversion Connector to help marketers attribute in-store sales to digital campaigns.

Analytics 360 works with all Google ad products, and can be used to create remarketing lists that are automatically available in AdWords and DoubleClick Bid Manager.

Because many marketers are already so heavily invested in Google’s ad-related services, all of the integrations Analytics 360 Suite offers could give Google an edge when trying to win over marketers who are currently using competing solutions from a variety of vendors, some of whom only provide one or two of the functions in Analytics 360 Suite.

That makes Analytics 360 Suite a threat to many companies, including Adobe, which offers a DMP, Adobe Audience Manager, and Tableau, which offers a business intelligence data visualization solution.

Analytics 360 Suite likely won’t be cheap – reports suggest pricing will be in the six-figure range – but if Google can lure enough enterprise customers with a one-stop shop proposition, it could prove to be one of Google’s most important product launches in some time.

What does content strategy mean at The Economist?

The Economist has caught the eye of late, with notable successes in creative programmatic and experimentation with social platforms.

I caught up with Heather Taylor, Director of Content Strategy at The Economist, to ask a few probing questions.

What does content strategy at The Economist entail? And is it easier or harder doing it within an organisation so well known for great content?

I work on the Content Solutions side of the business so I create content programs for our sponsors.

It’s just as important for me to understand how our audience consumes The Economist as it is for the editorial side.

I’m looking for what content and ideas have most value to our readers, while creating value for the brands we’re working with.

I’m really lucky to be working at a brand like The Economist. We have editorial guidelines and standards that help us maintain a trusted relationship with our readers, and allow us to maintain the quality of content our brand is known for.

That’s why brands and agencies want to work with us. We value transparency.

Our relationship with our readers comes first – and that ends up serving our clients very well.

I think in this age of sponsored, native and branded content, publishers still must stay true to themselves. If you erode your brand, you lose your value and the trust readers have in it.

the economist

To what extent is personalization a priority, across the website and your contact strategy?

Personalization is important, but not at the price of showing an entire story.

On the ad side, we have cookie-based targeting that allows us to show content to readers based on their interests and what they’ve read.

We also create program pages that surface content based on a user’s entry point or base it on what content they tend to consume more of.

So for example, if they keep watching video, we’ll surface more video content in the mix, or if they come from a social channel, we may surface shorter-form content to start.

At all points, we’ll allow them to go deeper into stories but help bring to light the content topics and types they engage with more.

But technology is just a set of tactics. From a strategic point of view, we need a deep understanding of our audience in order to serve them.

Personalization is just one way we can do so, but we have to create the right content in the first place for that approach to even happen.

What’s The Economist view on ad blockers?

Let me give you my take on ad blockers. People are going to block ads. They have been doing that for a very long time.

But people block ads because the targeting isn’t right, the frequency of placement is intrusive, and the ad gives no value.

The programs we do with clients are about digging into new research, new POVs and new results that can actually help our readers with their day-to-day business decisions.

We make any portal into those programs be something engaging and enlightening, so even if that idea isn’t applicable, our readers are not thrown off by it, or think it’s out of place.

How important is video in your content strategy?

Videos used the right way are very key. We are visual creatures. I think videos can help us get a quick understanding of a topic or it can be used to move us.

Videos that go viral tend to have an emotional hook, because people like to get that thing that makes them feel good and to share it so others can feel the same way.

Also some topics and ideas lend themselves better to video, especially those that help make better sense of complex issues.

But video isn’t the be all and end all. I think video is a part of a bigger world of content – especially when your audience has specific needs.

When we conducted our Missing the Mark research we actually found a high percentage of business leaders looked more to long form text when researching a business idea, or looking further into a business-related matter.

Video is a great way to grab attention and pull people into deeper content, but you still need a healthy mix, especially when you’re looking to communicate more than a sound bite.

Part of The Economist’s Missing the Mark research

missing the mark research

We’ve seen The Economist experimenting with a variety of social platforms. Do you foresee content being consumed more & more away from economist.com?

Yes. But that’s what’s happening across the entire industry.

More and more, individuals are using social channels as their portal to the internet so they look to consume everything there.

It’s about being where the readers are, and understanding that it’s not about page views on one site, but the consumption and engagement of content everywhere across the web.

We know how to communicate especially well with people who like The Economist. We can find people like that everywhere.

How much testing do you do around subscription selling on site? How do you hold back & not make the site too distracting while maximising conversion?

This is not specifically my area but I know that we do a tremendous amount of testing and have learned that engagement with our content is the key to selling subscriptions.

Our marketing is true content marketing in that the content is both our marketing and our product.

For more on The Economist, why not read the following:

Why Is Search Engine Marketing So Effective?

Why Is Online search engine Advertising So Effective?

SEM (Internet search engine Marketing) is a pooling of various internet marketing techniques to raise traffic circulation to an internet site, a blanket term that includes SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SMO (Social Media Optimization), pay-per-click advertising and marketing, and paid incorporation into online search engine.

However why is SEM so effective? A good SEM project can vastly raise your internet site’s website traffic and even boost sales, more so compared to other advertising campaign. So why does it work so well?

The response is variety. SEM draws on many different approaches, as opposed to depending on merely one. SMO “gets the word out” to entire areas of people who stand to be interested in your services and products. Pay-per-click marketing works much like typical advertising, placing your advertising campaigns on the screens of hundreds otherwise thousands of home owner across the internet. Paid addition makes certain that online search engine navigate to reviewing as well as listing your web site in a timely fashion. As well as Search Engine Optimization makes sure that your site’s META tags, keyword material, and backlink promos all work together to guarantee that your website puts as high as possible on stated internet search engine.

In essence, where your traditional advertising campaign could target just one or more areas, excellent SEM covers the complete spectrum of advertising opportunities.

Be sure before spending for SEM that you understand just what the company is offering, however. A friendly SEM service will certainly be upfront concerning which of these solutions it supplies, and just how much it bills for them. Some SEM services concentrate on only one or more elements of internet marketing, such as search engine incorporation as well as Search Engine Optimization, as an example. Others supply certain solutions for low prices, yet fee dramatically more to for example the full spectrum of SEM. And there is nothing wrong with paying an SEM solution to do strictly Search Engine Optimization or strictly internet search engine addition. But you ought to understand ahead of time that that’s all the solution prepares to do, and that anything even more will certainly set you back additional.

SEM works because it works with the natural patterns of traffic on the net. It capitalizes on ads, on internet search engine, even on word of mouth with social networks. A great SEM business recognizes ways to utilize each electrical outlet of marketing to its ideal advantage, as well as your business booms as a result of it. That’s real trick of SEM; knowing how to deal with the internet, rather than working against it.