Shopping online was on the rise before COVID-19 shutdowns led to an explosion of online sales, buy-online-pick-up-in- store, curbside pick-up and home delivery. The convenience became addictive and most people won’t go back. Think of your new routines: What new app, service or website did you try?
Today, e-commerce has fundamentally changed the way professional beauty distributors sell and salons, spas, barbershops and independent beauty professionals buy their products. As a result, in 2020, we at iBeAuthentic were tapped to set up more e-commerce platforms for distributors—and professional brands—than at any other time in our history.
And it’s no wonder. We’ve seen the value of online ordering. In 2020, an average of 80% of salon orders were placed by salons—as opposed to DSCs placing the orders for their salons—which shows steady growth since 2016, when salons placed just 55% of their own orders across our iBeAuthentic sites. For distributors who are not yet selling online, the good news is that it’s not too late. We can get you set up and selling within 3 to 6 months.
Your audience is waiting for you to meet or exceed their best online experiences. Beauty professionals want to buy online from their distributors with the same functionality, navigability and convenience they experience in their personal lives. If customers are ready to buy online, that means that distributors must find a balance between a B2B and B2C interface to meet user needs and hit sales goals. If you’re ready to get up and running on an e-commerce platform, let us walk you through the primary considerations.
Step 1: Review business rules integration
Typically, our setup process lasts from three to six months, but if the existing business rules don’t integrate into a new system as smoothly as planned, the integration process might take longer to complete. Now is an excellent time to look at your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and confirm that they’re ready to handle an automated e-commerce platform. We suggest reviewing the existing processes and new offerings you desire on your e-commerce platform. This review ensures that customers get the best user experience moving forward. Functional site integration includes a thorough examination of how the inventory management system and e-commerce site will communicate when it comes to:
- Multi-tiered pricing
- Customer territory exceptions
- Product limits
- Loyalty programs
- Conditional introductory offers
- Purchasing for class and event tickets
Step 2: Plan for initial then ongoing content
Launching an e-commerce platform is a full-time job for one person in marketing plus your e-commerce team. At iBeAuthentic, we have many teams doing the work behind the scenes to build each platform. The first step involves our IT web developers. Then, our content management team takes over.
The most time-consuming step is working with your manufacturers and brands that you will be selling online to gather the product descriptions, ingredient listings, videos and imagery to load onto the new e-commerce platform. This process can take up to three months, depending on how many brands you will feature.
The project’s scope of work continues to grow with new line and product launches, new promotions, discontinued products or shades, new sizes and more each month. It’s critical to know your customers’ businesses intimately, so you understand which promotions, kits and packs will open new doors, accelerate sales with current customers and help customers delight their clients.
At iBeAuthentic, we work closely with our clients to plan enough time for uploading the new promotional mix for each campaign period, as well as for testing the campaign before going live.
When it comes to content management, your online presence must be consistent in design and tone with your offline marketing, including your magazine and in-store promotions. This takes time, but it pays to remember: Your e-commerce platform is not simply a selling channel; it’s the most important component of your brand story. All channels must consistently complement each other in branding and promotion to achieve true success. In the same way, all internal and external salespeople must know the promotions and most up-to-date branding on the website to carry out that success.
Step 3: Facilitate customer engagement
Distributors—and most notably, your salespeople—can accelerate an e-commerce platform’s customer adoption rate. All it takes is a little shift in framing.
The biggest benefit of your e-commerce platform is that it allows your sales team time to engage with their customers more strategically. The sales function will evolve to create more opportunities for conversation. Instead of using salon-visit time for order taking, a DSC will now revolve the experience around customer connection, strategic planning and education, knowing that they can place the order after leaving the meeting.
Think of engagement as a 3-step process:
- Engage your salespeople. They are the front-line warriors who are responsible for retaining your loyal customer base.
- The more the salesperson is engaged, the more the customer is engaged.
- Each salesperson becomes a strategic partner to each salon in their territory. That means that instead of focusing on how many promotions they are required to sell, DSCs will invest their time into planning promotional calendars, providing feedback and introducing new categories and products to each of their customers.
Step 4: E-commerce drives the rest of your business
Once you launch your e-commerce platform, it becomes the driving factor behind all of your sales and marketing initiatives.
- Create the connection among your e-commerce platform and your print and digital magazines, phone automation, text campaigns, promotions and more.
- Develop a plan for all of your brands to link to your site, so they become a high- referral traffic source.
- Stay engaged in the digital conversation by using social media marketing to educate your customers about all of the benefits your e-commerce site offers them. Remind them daily that your e-commerce platform will make their lives easier and purchasing more convenient. Let them know who at your distributorship is available to help them set up their account and how to reach them.
We are ready to help you!
At iBeAuthentic, we know how to develop a distributor’s e-commerce strategy efficiently and effectively, based on our many years in the industry. At our studios, we have the tech capabilities to facilitate your e-commerce integration and the professional team to keep the platform functional and your content current. We will assign an IT web developer, a content manager and a graphic designer for your distributorship, plus more team members, as needed, to maximize your goals.
We recommend that you designate an internal project manager as the primary connection with our team. As buying habits change, we adapt to meet your distributorship’s needs and the needs of your customers. We are eager to bring a more evolved digital shopping experience to all aspects of the B2B and B2C worlds.
To learn more, schedule a call with Dave Anttila (firstname.lastname@example.org), business development and partner; Kaleena Matzke (email@example.com), marketing manager; or Erin Noha (firstname.lastname@example.org), digital media supervisor, who co-authored this article in partnership with iBeAuthentic and Beauty Industry Report.