The biggest change for us in the next year is completely getting out of the gray-market business. We are sacrificing this revenue stream, but feel the benefits of stronger direct-vendor relationships will more than offset the loss in the long run. We are making a concerted effort to increase our direct relationships as well. There are certainly many brands that will never adopt ecommerce as a viable channel. We hope that we can build such a strong ecommerce platform that is highly regarded by consumers that we can help change this stigma against online retailing. This has already happened in many other industries, such as footwear and fashion. But we won’t sit and wait for brands to join us. We have 300-plus brands currently partnered with us, and we are moving full steam ahead to grow our business.
In a recent survey of our customer base, we received more than 15,000 responses about merchandising. The vast majority would like to see us expand into skin care. They were less interested in fragrances or cosmetics, but there was a strong desire for skincare and antiaging products. We will likely expand into those categories more aggressively. However, our approach of being highly relevant, with rich content and deep expertise, will be applied to this, as well. So rather than jumping in with 1,000-plus SKUs in skin care, we will selectively add brands, educate our customer-service team, develop content supporting the products, and partner with brands for sampling/marketing programs. This formula has worked well for us with hair care, and we will follow this formula for skin care.
We are also experimenting with new channels. We have expanded our online marketing efforts to include behavioral targeting, co-reg marketing, mobile and video. In addition, we had great success with small, quarterly mailers this year, and mailed a mini-catalog this holiday season. We are very excited about the catalog and the enthusiasm from many of our vendors to participate.
Ultimately, this all ties back to our overall objective of meeting customers’ needs and partnering with vendors. By building an enjoyable and engaging destination for consumers to find the products they are looking for, we are meeting a market need and providing a valuable service—before, during and after the sale. By building strong partnerships with the brands we carry, we create an environment where we help grow the brands in a way that meets their branding and sales objectives.
We have won many industry awards, but the ones we are most proud of are customer-centric awards. For instance, we were selected as a Bizrate Circle of Excellence Platinum winner and received an “Excellent” rating from STELLAService. There have been numerous magazine mentions as well, including this quote from the November 2011 issue of InStyle magazine: “It’s the mother lode of hairstyling arsenals: There are more than 250 flatirons (sic) alone, and one has more than 5,000 reviews! Browse using easy sorting options, including stylists’ favorites, hair type, and top 10 lists.”
We are always open to partnering with new brands and welcome the opportunity, particularly with hair care. We are expanding into skin care and are open to those vendors as well. We have an amazing merchandising team led by Sylvia Zori (email@example.com) for appliances and Noelle Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s holding the flat iron on page 36.) for wet goods. ■
Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, MS.
[Image: Sylvia Zori, merchandising team, appliances. All Images and logo courtesy of Folica.com.]