E-Commerce Still Isn't a Priority for Most Hair-Care Brands

Hair-care and hair-color brands may be improving their digital presence, but when it comes to leveraging their e-commerce businesses through print and television, they're coming up short.
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Eliza Brooke
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Hair-care and hair-color brands may be improving their digital presence, but when it comes to leveraging their e-commerce businesses through print and television, they're coming up short.
A recent L'Oreal campaign starring Barbara Palvin. Photo: L'Oreal

A recent L'Oreal campaign starring Barbara Palvin. Photo: L'Oreal

Hair-care and hair-color brands may have stepped up their digital game last year, but they still tend to lag behind brands in other beauty categories, according to a new report from the research firm L2. While spending on print ads has flatlined, spending on television and digital ads is on the rise -- yet there appears to be a gap in using ads to promote brands' e-commerce businesses. 

L'Oreal has been making moves to blend its social and offline advertising, putting call-to-action hashtags like #AskHairGenius in its print ads to get people to engage with the brand online. Still, that kind of cross-channel promotion isn't uniform throughout the category. Although television ad spending is increasing for hair-care lines, just under half (48 percent) of brands have no digital integration with their TV spots — meaning they're not using the ads to boost their e-commerce businesses.

This lack of investment may be because e-commerce only accounted for 1.3 percent of hair care sales in the U.S. in 2013, thanks to lower brand loyalty and higher shipping costs on heavy bottles. Professional lines, for their part, have been hesitant to invest in direct-to-consumer e-commerce due to conflicts from salon parters.

If they're not fully investing in their own e-commerce sites, hair-care brands are putting money into their presence on Amazon, which is an increasingly important distributor for beauty products. In the pursuit of primacy on the site, brands regularly create product descriptions and video customized for Amazon, with 62 percent of them buying up sponsored links. Garnier has been the most aggressive on that count thus far.

As far as social media goes, hair-care brands do appear to be catching on to the power of Instagram. In the last year, the proportion of brands engaged with the platform has jumped to 67 percent from 43 percent in 2012. Their Instagram communities are still small, L2 notes, with the average size being just 12,000 followers — that's excepting brands like Revlon and L'Oreal Paris, which are miles ahead of their competitors at 88,464 and 85,324 followers, respectively. 

But brands with a weak Instagram presence should be getting on that -- fast. L2 notes that across the industries it looks at, Instagram pages can have up to 15 times the engagement of Facebook. Pinterest, too, is still a largely untapped resource for hair-care brands.