Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Want new makeup? Let Integrated Marketing Communications light the way!

How many of you have bought something and then only used it once or twice? I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve done that, mostly with clothes and makeup. But in this economy, it is more important than ever to make every penny count, which means more of what we buy will take on the characteristics of High-Involvement products. In layman’s terms, this means consumers must spend more time judging whether they’ll like one product better than another (read: a Blush from Benefit versus a Cheek Stain from Tarte), and how much value they’ll get from buying something (will this new blush make me only a little bit cuter or a lot more cuter?)
When I go shopping at SephoraUlta or even Target, I find myself unable to make decisions about beauty products in a timely manner, much to the chagrin of those shopping with me. It’s not that I don’t know what I want-there are just too many choices to choose from!
 To combat this decision paralysis, companies can turn to Integrated Marketing Communication methods to push customers through the decision-making cycle by helping to whittle down different options. This is done by understanding the customer. In my Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University, a core tenet is: understand the customer. This is valuable information for any company that wants to continually create products that a consumer will not only love, but also will actually buy; and marketing messages that consumers will be receptive to. After all, with no sales, there is no revenue, and eventually, no business.
There are several ways to utilize digital technologies to improve the customer experience. In my last trip to my local Target with my teenage brother in tow, there were interactive touch-screens in the beauty aisle that even made my brother want to stick around in the beauty aisle! At one touch-screen, I selected my age, my skin type, and my top two skin concerns, and was then given three different product recommendations. These touch screens are thoroughly effective in helping customers (or as Target refers to them, guests), with product selection, because it involves the customer in the process of eliminating superfluous options. By guiding a guest through a structured process, she feels more confident in her purchase decision because the products are tailored to her specific needs.
On the web, an emerging trend in beauty and fashion is product personalization. On Jewelmint.com, customers take a style quiz, and then are given monthly jewelry recommendations based on the quiz. These quizzes and product recommendations help customers prioritize their attention towards different pieces of jewelry by specifically highlighting certain pieces. Moreover, Jewelmint is taking a page out of Direct Marketing’s book by keeping customers in the database, and then tracking relevant customer information. Direct marketing has value for a company because it creates a list of customers segmented by the standard demographics and psychographics, but also by purchase frequency (how often is someone buying jewelry from jewelmint?), and purchase value (does our customer spend a lot on our products?). With these lists, a company can continually refine its product and marketing offerings to its customers, creating a better company-consumer relationship.
            In my Direct and Interactive marketing class, our professor emphasizes creating communities as a social media strategy. American Apparel does a great job doing this through its Reviews sections. But “Wait,” you say, “almost every website has review sections these days!” That is true, but American Apparel’s customers are significant, because it is not uncommon for their customers to share their height and weight, and then which size of clothing they purchased. This ability for American Apparel customers to share height, weight and size information creates a better shopping experience for customers, because it helps online shoppers decide between sizes. These types of reviews help customers eliminate decision paralysis, while connecting American Apparel customers with one another.
As a beauty junkie with limited time to explore different shades and colors of makeup, I would adore a way to help me find the perfect red lipstick. 
Of course, the best method is to grab a friend and just try them on. But, by understanding IMC principles, a company could potentially follow the Target kiosk model to understand my beauty needs, and create red lipstick recommendations that I can feel happy spending my money on. When marketing beauty and fashion products, it is essential to focus on decision paralysis, especially when shoppers in this economy are more discerning than before. By first understanding the customer, a company can successfully eliminate decision paralysis, as exemplified by Target, Jewelmint and American Apparel.

Stephanie Fang is a Senior at Northwestern University. In addition to pursuing an Integrated Marketing Communications certificate, she is an Economics major and a Business Institutions minor. Her favorite aspect of Social Media is the viral video, because they allow her to see cool ads that she wouldn't see on television, and help fuel her addiction for YouTube viewing parties. Follow her on Twitter at @StephFang_me.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog...Really well thought out and a great topic. Now, just start by establishing what I will learn and who you are [you expertise] in paragraph 1 and then repeat it at the end. It is a good blog and intriging twitter tweet.