How Health and Beauty Account Managers can drive online sales

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When I was at P&G, one of the most common challenges that Account Managers faced was trying to keep up with the increasing demand of online while still delivering in-store initiatives. I worked in Health and Beauty for a decade across a portfolio of accounts such as Max Factor and Superdrug, so I know first hand how hectic and fast-moving the market is. Now having moved into the eCommerce space I get to help brands capitalise on the potential of the online marketplace.

Health and Beauty has made great strides in eCommerce and right below this summary I elaborate on the key drivers that are currently helping ambitious brands to grow their online market share...



  • In the UK eCommerce is growing at 15% per year and compounding to create a significant change.

  • Born-digital challenger brands appeal to a digital-native generation. Online social engagement creates brand loyalty and social media influencers have incredible promotional reach. Older generations are becoming more digitally savvy and must not be forgotten.

  • Mobile shopping convenience is changing the buyer experience. Access to infinite online information has empowered shoppers with a greater range of possibilities, increased choice and the ability to confer with peers. Sales no longer take place in specific locations limited by working hours, online stores never close and can sell to anywhere in the world.

  • Research online & purchase offline (ROPO) means that getting your online presence and product listings right effects more than just online sales, customers in physical stores are increasingly reading reviews on their phones.



For Account Managers, adapting to new shopping trends is a real challenge, especially in a market as active as Health and Beauty. It will be vitally important very soon to have the business infrastructure in place to be able to scale up, to meet joint business plan sales targets in an increasingly digital world, and not be left behind by the competition due to slow innovation.

Account Managers spend every day firefighting existing problems and time is already tight with the day to day management of what is affecting sales now and keeping up with evolving NPD trends, let alone preparing yourself for the future.

The growth of eCommerce can seem like a storm looming on the horizon. It feels to many Account Managers that when it fully arrives, it will shake up the retail industry, but because the growth is steady and slow, people assume there is no immediate change that requires urgent reaction. Growth in UK online sales has hovered around 15% every year since 2012. This compounding effect of sustained growth year on year is building up to a significant change but major companies are reacting too slowly and getting caught out by the consequences.

We have already seen huge changes in the industry. Only recently, big name retailers like Toys ‘R Us and Maplin were forced to go into administration largely due to being unable to keep up with online shopping trends and haemorrhaging sales to competition that did make advances online, making shopping more convenient and cost effective for customers. It seems like many more businesses will follow the same path as HMV and Virgin Megastore whose products became far cheaper and more convenient when purchased digitally. Everyone knows that change is coming, but for most Account Managers, eCommerce currently only accounts for around 5% of sales, and they are busy dealing with the day to day problems of their traditional brick & mortar retail. Adapting to a changing market and being able to capitalise on growing online shopping can feel like tomorrow’s problem.

However, eCommerce is not new. The concept of shopping online and having the products delivered to your door is already commonplace and even in an environment of increased concern regarding data protection, people are comfortable using websites that store their card details in an individual account for the sake of convenience. They expect that most products will be available online. Many consider it to be easier to find specific products online than in a physical retail environment as anything is only a search away, as opposed to wandering down the wrong aisle hoping that the shop even stocks the right product. As such, there is not a major culture shift required for the marketplace to expand - it is steadily growing.

In a similar vein, it does not have to be overly complicated to establish the business infrastructure to be able to scale up online sales when the opportunities present themselves. In fact, with centralised data it is simpler to keep track of all the required information for every product and for every different retailer than it is offline.


Online Social Influence

Some categories in Health and Beauty place great importance on third-party endorsement. The ideal situation for the brand is for happy customers to be recommending the products to more potential shoppers. This is the traditional approach to building a make-up brand that has expanded exponentially through the internet. A fan of the brand is no longer just recommending their new favourite product to a few friends, they could be talking to the whole world. There are over 1.5 million beauty videos featuring beauty products and how-to guides for make-up uploaded each month, accounting for over 4.6 billion views. Some YouTube vloggers have an incredible reach to a specific audience. For example, British beauty vlogger Zoella has over 12 million subscribers on YouTube, 85% of which are young women.

To capitalise on the new dynamic of constant connected conversation about beauty products, eCommerce sites like Beauty Bay have evolved from a dull functional catalogue of items, so often seen in online stores, to feature favourite products in engaging ways. It aims to entertain its audience to create fans who return for more information and ultimately keep shopping. The products the content creators know and love are showcased in make-up tutorials, colour trend reports, ‘get the look’ tips with product recommendations, and reviews from trusted experts. They even created an interactive campaign called dare to share, to encourage people that purchased make-up on the website to send in photos of themselves, which are then edited by professionals and posted online with information on what products were used. The campaign puts the consumer in the spotlight as brand ambassadors and makes the customers feel like models to create a very strong customer experience. This level of active engagement and positive social feedback by consumers introduces entertainment as part of the transaction and is the kind of shopper experience that creates brand loyalty and repeat purchases.

Innovation that takes advantage of the connectivity of the internet to enable customers to become brand ambassadors, and new fans to be seduced by the idea of the brand, are powerful tools in the modern retail marketplace. There is unlimited potential to the types of campaigns that can be created.


Mobile Shopping

Everyone owns a supercomputer small enough to fit in their pockets or handbags. In fact, we are all so obsessed with them that they rarely leave our hands. Famously, there is more computing power inside these little devices than in the Apollo mission that took men to the moon. We can access all the information that humanity has to offer and connect directly to anyone anywhere in the world, we have more power and knowledge at our fingertips than ever before in human history.

The ubiquity of mobile phone usage in our lives is staggering. On public transport, you will notice that nearly every passenger is transfixed by their phone screen for most of their journey. Every person, if forced to wait for more than a few seconds for a lift to arrive or for the barista to make their coffee, will take out their mobile phone to amuse themselves. Increasingly you will see that people are browsing eCommerce websites, scrolling through catalogues of available products as a form of entertainment. Those not actively looking at products are scrolling through social media feeds, being plied with adverts for products related to their interests. The new product tagging feature on Instagram is an example of the incredible potential for brands to showcase products to exactly the right audience online, as shown by baby clothes online shop Spearmint Love claiming a revenue increase of 991%.

The internet is a complex ecosystem of people’s interests. Brands can easily find their ideal customer through targeted advertising and consumers can find any product they want and have it delivered to their door.

Online shopping may only currently be around 5% of your sales, but there is so much innovation and changes happening to shopper behaviour in the online space that this is highly unlikely to remain so low. With the all-encompassing prevalence of mobile phones and the uplift in eCommerce campaigns aiming to capitalise on the convenience of people shopping from anywhere and anytime, it is a necessity to have a strong brand presence online to stay competitive.


ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline)

An important factor in the moment of truth purchasing decision made by customers online is the quality of the information presented on their screens. Unlike traditional brick & mortar shelves, the digital shelf is not limited by physical space. Product pages must have detailed descriptions and high-quality photos, maybe even a video, to stand a chance at competing against the infinite alternative options on different sites.

But it’s not just in the online marketplace where it is vitally important to establish your brand’s online presence. Shoppers standing in brick & mortar stores with the product in their hands will often have their phone in the other, Googling the product to read reviews online and to check the price against the listing on Amazon. Mark Felix, Director of Online Trade at John Lewis said:

"Mobile is becoming the glue between our shops and online. Increasingly, customers are using the two channels combined and for example use their mobiles to check ratings and reviews and further product information when in store."

When potential customers research online and purchase offline, it is evident that however important you might think your online shop is, it is in fact worth so much more as the online product listings and the brand presence online also influences physical sales in traditional retail environments.


Act, don’t react

It is not too late to take action to prepare for the opportunities created by the growth of eCommerce and implement best practises to make sure your brands do not fall behind. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but to extend the proverb, you have to be floating already to see the benefits. If you plug the leaks in the metaphorical boat, then the rising waters will carry you upwards. If you don’t, you’ll sink. Get your eCommerce strategy ready now to establish a strong online infrastructure to prepare for scaling up. The first step to fixing current issues is to identify them through analytics.

Only when the basics of good product listings in all online marketplaces are covered and maintained to create a strong foundation, can you really leverage advanced tools like promotion calendars, pricing notifications and customer feedback to capitalise on the growth of your online sales. Being in tune with the rise in eCommerce, and how your customers are engaging with it, can have a direct positive effect on KPI’s so it is well worth gaining a strong understanding to be ahead of the game and benefit from sales across all channels.



Charlotte profile

Charlotte Varney, Customer Success Manager

Having spent 10 years with P&G, Charlotte has worked across a wide variety of FMCG categories, brands and retailers to help them improve their customer experience and increase online sales. She started in FMCG Finance from which she brings an analytical and focused mind-set, that combined with her passion for the shopper, enables her to work with our customers to better translate insight into action. Charlotte recently shared what brands can be doing about their eCommerce opportunity, read about it here. 

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