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The changing face of beauty buyers: are brands ignoring the importance of mobile marketing?

As I sit at the breakfast table finishing my morning cup of tea, I grab my moisturiser and decide to save a few precious minutes by multitasking, only to find I am down to my last smidgen. “No problem” I say to myself smugly; smartphone at the ready, I’ll join the other 73% of UK consumers who check their smartphones and emails first thing in the morning and order a new pot straight away. If I’m lucky it will be here by the morning.

So I Google, visit my favourite beauty site only to find it looks like something designed for people with 20/20 vision: microscopic text, impossible to read, endless scrolling across the screen to get to where I want to. And let’s not even get started on the buttons. So after ten minutes of time wasted having accidentally placed the entire range of Christmas gift sets in my basket, I abandon my multitasking mission. Forget mobile ready, I’m ready to launch my mobile out of a second-floor window.

So why is it that so many big beauty and hair care brands still seem to be ignoring the unavoidable, head-on reality of how important it is for their site to be mobile ready, and how being ready can make a hugely positive impact on their bottom-line business?

It’s a fact that globally there are more people in the world today that have mobile phones than bank accounts. In the UK nearly 11 million people use an iPhone and just over 28 million have an android device. It is also estimated that by the end of 2013 there will be nearly 40 million mobile internet users, rising to an estimated 47.1 million by 2015. Perhaps most importantly for online e-commerce brands, trends also indicate that purchasing products via mobile will also increase sharply in the next three years, rising from 25.6 million users in 2013 to 35.8 million in 2015.

There is a sizeable school of thought who argues that the mobile is going to completely supersede the computer and the TV, ultimately becoming the preferred medium for almost every activity that currently uses other forms. The fact the device will happen to make phone calls will be a bonus.

When you dig a little deeper into the online beauty behavioural habits of us women, it gets even more interesting. Last year online beauty sales reached £606 million and are estimated to be £715 million by the end of 2013. Even though 53% of all people in the UK have a smartphone, a whopping 85% of females between the ages of 22-44 have one (33% higher than the population average) and 50% of women between the ages of 45-54 own a smartphone. This tells us there is a huge potential segment of the market out there for beauty brands selling their products via mobile devices; but it is even recognised as having potential, let alone being exploited by them?

Having looked at a total of 66 top hair and beauty sites (both content/information only and e-commerce) over this last week, it seems that it’s a very mixed bag when it comes to thinking about having a mobile-ready or responsive site.

Out of thirty-seven top skincare brand sites examined using mobile devices, including the likes of Clinique, La Prairie and Guerlain, a staggering 61% of them did not have a site that was mobile or tablet ready. Even more surprising, over 80% of the sites which were not mobile ready were e-commerce; transactional sites where user experience is a key factor in the purchasing behaviour of both new and repeat customers.

The hair care sector performed slightly better from a sample of twenty-seven top sites – including Redken, Tigi and Wella Professional – but with still a whopping 40% of brands not having a mobile ready or responsive site. From these sites, three were e-commerce, the rest being content and information based.

So what does this mean for beauty and hair care brands that haven’t got a mobile ready site? Is it even anything to worry about?

Two of the top beauty and hair care brands we’ve worked on – Perricone MD and Phillip Kingsley – have kindly allowed us into their world to take a look at the real stats about mobile marketing and what impact – if any – it has had on their business in the medium-term.

Since developing a mobile template for their site last year, Perricone MD has seen impressive double-digit growth in both number of orders and conversion rates from the iPhone and other smartphone devices. Since launch, they have also seen three-digit percentage increases in the number of mobile devices placing an order on the site, alongside a sharp increase in the amount of time visitors are spending on it.

And it’s a similar story on the new Philip Kingsley responsive site, launched earlier this year. Stats show more than a 50% increase in sales from all tablet and mobile devices.

However, the iPhone has been the real star of the show here, with double-digit rises in revenue generated and orders placed via the device. Engagement levels are also up, with visitors from the two main devices, iPad and iPhone, showing significant growth of 26% and 62% respectively on customers who visited more than three pages in any one session. Returners to the site are also showing double-digit percentage increases and total traffic to the site has grown fivefold.

So what can be taken from all this? I ask again, are mobile and responsive sites something that we should even be worrying about yet? Is it really going to impact on my business?

I think it’s fair to say it’s something that can’t be ignored. The age of the mobile device is here to stay, whether we choose to embrace it or not. The growth curve has already started to bend upwards and it’s worrying to see so many powerhouses of the beauty and hair care world trailing behind, often reluctantly following at best, showing little innovation and leadership when it comes to mobile device user experience for their customers.

Investing in a new, mobile ready, responsive site may be a heavy burden to bear at the moment when marketing budgets are being squeezed more than ever, but mobile templates (such as the BBC’s website) could be the way to go in the short-term.

In any case, the facts speak for themselves. Beauty and hair care brands beware; ignore mobile at your peril!

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