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If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the online beauty industry has come a long way in the past few years, thanks to technology.
You’re no longer stuck trying to find your shade match by guessing if the picture of the foundation bottle is true to its color. Instead, you can take a detailed quiz that’ll match you to the right shade. Also, instead of trying to choose a routine to tackle your skin concerns by yourself, you can now chat with consultants via live chat who will create a routine for you.
Yes, technology has come a long way to help make shoppers’ lives easier, but the ecommerce beauty industry is still rapidly growing—and you need a way to stand out early on. Luckily, there’s one tactic that’s always worked well and will continue to for this industry: word-of-mouth marketing.
Considering 74% of consumers say WOM is key to influencing their purchasing decisions, this is not an area of your business that you want to ignore.
Let’s talk about our formula for driving WOM.
Good product + branding + customer experience = word of mouth
In our opinion, the equation for organic word of mouth includes a good product, brand, and customer experience (CX). Before you invest any time in word-of-mouth strategies, you must have all three ingredients for the equation to work.
Chief Marketing Officer at Jones Road Beauty Cody Plofker explains why: “I think the most important thing for strong word of mouth is a great product, and a strong brand that communicates in a clear and unique way, making it easy for people to talk about you. Also, giving an unbelievable customer experience makes people want to talk about you.”
Think about it…
If customers don’t feel like the product is worth the money they spent on it, they’re not going to recommend it to others. Additionally, 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties. If you have a good product, interesting branding, and a memorable CX, then word of mouth will come naturally.
Let’s look at an example
Paige Harris, Marketing Manager at Enzuzo Privacy, purchased Prose hair products because of its strong branding. But before she made her decision, she asked her friends on Twitter what they thought about the brand.
Despite getting mixed reviews, she was so impressed with Prose’s branding and buyer experience that she decided to try it anyway. Once Paige received her package, she enjoyed the quality of the products and ended up telling her friends about Prose.
“The product works really well and the buyer experience is strong. They also have great branding. I first got served an ad and that's how I converted, but then I converted three of my friends through word-of-mouth.” - Paige Harris, Marketing Manager at Enzuzo
Paige’s experience is a great example of how having the three ingredients in our word-of-mouth formula works. Even with the negative reviews people shared on Twitter (among many good ones, we’ll add), she still purchased and told her friends about the brand after realizing the products, branding, and CX are good.
Once you have these three ingredients, it's much easier to invest in WoM strategies.
6 ways brands are driving WOM in the beauty industry
The most successful ecommerce beauty brands use a variety of WOM marketing strategies—and you’ve likely fallen prey to them in the past. Let’s look at some examples to inspire you.
1. Turn loyal customers into micro influencers with UGC
What are you doing with all of those pictures customers are taking of your products and tagging you on Instagram? Please don’t say “nothing.”
You have a prime opportunity to engage with shoppers by repurposing these photos on your own social media channels. It’s literally free advertising, people!
In fact, 48% of customers say that UGC is a great way to discover new products, and roughly 30% of the time millennials spend consuming all media is spent on UGC. Shoppers want to see real people using your products, so make it easy for them to find by resharing these posts.
Blume uses its UGC to turn loyal customers into micro influencers. By resharing the photos and tagging customers’ profiles, they’re showing customer appreciation that gets other shoppers excited to share UGC too.
Also, when potential shoppers visit Blume’s Instagram page, these UGC images act as a review to help sell Blume’s products.
Resharing UGC on Instagram is also a common tactic that well-known beauty brand Glossier uses, and considering 70% of their online sales and traffic come from peer-to-peer referrals, they’ve clearly cracked the WOM code, so it’s worth getting inspiration from them.
2. Use returns creatively
According to Cody Plofker at Jones Road Beauty, you can use returns to help drive word-of-mouth. And their strategy is quite creative:
“One thing I’ve seen our Director of CX and Retention do is allow a customer to keep the products and suggest they give them to a friend if they want to return them. People are surprised, and even though they didn’t like the products for themselves, the CX makes them want to give them to a friend.”
(Yes, they still refund the customer. They just don’t make them ship the product back.)
For brands in the CPG space for makeup and skincare, this is a great way to repurpose products and potentially acquire a new customer who does love them.
3. Create a referral program
Are those statistics enough to make you interested in a referral program?
Product recommendations come up more often than you think. According to Paige at Enzuzo, she asks friends for recommendations quite often. “Almost monthly, I have conversations with friends where we share products, or I ask where they've gotten something, then they share and I end up purchasing,” she said.
One of these conversations was about Prose Hair—and if you look at their referral program for inspiration, you’ll see how easy they make it for customers to share their referral code and see how much they’ve earned over time.
Word of mouth is powerful because it's coming from someone you already trust, and referrals help incentivize both the referrer and receiver to drive these WOM interactions.
P.S. If you’re looking to set up a successful referral program, we have a guide that teaches you how in 6 steps here.
4. Invest in product education
Educating customers about your products is essential for driving WOM. If you can show customers how to be successful with your products, the happier they’ll be with the result, the more likely they’ll share your brand with friends and family.
There are many avenues you can take to educate customers—blogs, YouTube videos, email campaigns—But Irina Tudaorach taught us about the importance of starting at the source…
Irina is an ecommerce consultant with years of experience working with beauty brands like Flormar (part of Yves Rocher group), Guerlain (part of LVMH), and more. During many of these experiences, she’s actively participated in educating teams of beauty advisers (in stores like Sephora) on how to use makeup properly and sell it at the same time.
In her opinion, to generate word of mouth, you have to be present with customers and be proactive about responding to their questions. (Hint, hint, good CX.)
“We understood the needs of our customers and asked questions to help them choose the best product. If the products were not good for them, we don’t recommend. They told their friends this, and came back with them to buy other products. The second time they bought more and became loyal (customers) because the products were good but also because we cared about them.” - Irina Tudaorach, ecommerce consultant
Irina’s story is in line with a report by Spotlight Conductor, which says consumers are 131% more likely to buy from a brand immediately after they consume early-stage, educational content.
As an example, check out Bobbi Brown on TikTok. She uses her platform to teach people how to properly apply Jones Road Beauty products and answers questions people ask in the comments section.
5. Create and nurture a brand community
Communities are a great option for brands that already have a large loyal customer base. Giving these customers a community creates a space for them to openly talk about your products, share experiences, and help each other out—without you having to interact much.
Three Ships’ community, The Fleet, is an application-based community where loyal shoppers can earn rewards for sharing honest reviews and recommendations of Three Ships’ products.
Shoppers who are accepted as part of The Fleet can earn commission from referral sales, as well as get exclusive merch, collaboration opportunities, and more. This type of community marketing is more transactional between the customer and brand.
Clean Beauty Crew
Saie, on the other hand, is going with a more traditional community. With a group on Facebook with more than 2,900 members, Saie’s Clean Beauty Crew is a place for customers to ask for clean beauty product recommendations (from any brand), and stay updated on everything happening with Saie (including new products, upcoming sales, and more.)
This type of community is more education-based than Three Ships, and requires a bit less work on the brand’s end to maintain since customers engage with each other without being prompted.
When it comes to creating your brand community, there’s no right or wrong answer. These are just a few ideas to consider. For both Three Ships’ and Saie’s communities, customers are still organically sharing their love for the brand with others.
6. Work with affiliates and influencers
Let’s talk about the fact that a recent study by Sideqik found that 7 out of 10 consumers trust influencers’ recommendations just as much as the opinion of real-world friends.
That’s kind of mind-blowing, right?
You may have thought shoppers would trust their friends more, but these days people feel personally connected with influencers—and that’s why shoppers care about the products influencers recommend.
But beyond traditional influencer marketing where brands pay affiliates and influencers to post about their products on Instagram, the new thing people are raving about is live shopping.
Here’s an example from Lancôme Paris, which hosted an Instagram live shopping event with influencers Jamie Yeo, Cheryl Wee, and Ng Yi Lian. During the event, they all shared tips on recharging your skin and Lancôme products that can help.
The event also featured giveaways, which is a smart way to get people excited about watching in the first place (and to keep them engaged from start to finish). Throughout the event, the influencers also shared discounts for specific products and sent links for viewers to easily purchase them.
Bringing influencers on to these events means you can tap into their unique audiences that already trust their opinion, which in return drives, yep, you named it, word of mouth conversions!
Ready to drive conversions with word of mouth marketing?
The best part about word-of-mouth marketing is once your systems are in place, it’s an ongoing revenue train that keeps driving new customers to your store.
If you’re ready to create a word of mouth marketing plan, here are a few tips for success:
- Set up triggers to remind customers to share their experiences via email, SMS, social media, and on your website.
- Understand your LTV. If it’s lower than average, you need to understand why as this can have a direct impact on your word of mouth marketing.
- Incentivize customers for sharing your brand with others by creating a referral program.
And if you need help with creating a referral program, you know where to find us.