As someone who straddles the line between consumer and recommender of beauty products, I find today’s beauty news really fascinating. Allure, which I have read religiously for years, just launched e-commerce with Quidsi, the company which owns Soap.com and BeautyBar.com. Linda Wells, Allure’s EIC, told WWD, “We know that women have always shopped from the magazine,” including Donatella Versace, who gave Wells the idea for e-commerce in the first place.
The idea seems brilliant. The magazine’s website content and commerce will be integrated seamlessly, with a “buy now” button at the ready to allow readers to purchase products that are appealing. Allure has never been afraid to criticize products, and Wells assures its readers that advertising and editorial will be kept separate as always.
OK, so now contrast Allure’s concept with an article by Catherine Saint Louis that just appeared in the New York Times. A profile about one of our fave beauty websites, Makeup Alley, posits that women trust their peers more than so-called professionals in the beauty industry for recommendations. Here's why: “Unlike magazine beauty editors or in-the-fold bloggers who might worry that they’d be disinvited to the next Chanel shindig, the average woman has little reason not to rant about the bad reaction she had to, say, one of the company’s lipsticks,” Saint Louis writes. A blogger for the Harvard Business Review said of beauty editors and their ilk, “I’m not saying they don’t have value, but if you’re looking for an unconflicted source, you’ll probably look to a fellow consumer.” Um, ouch.
Polly Blitzer, who runs BeautyBlitz.com, was a tad defensive: “We are the beauty editors. The stuff we say is good is sifted through.”
I’ve bought countless things because friends whose taste and style I share, or who are physically similar to me, recommended them. But I’ve absolutely also torn pages out of magazines. And I find people constantly asking me for beauty product recommendations now because of my job. So I think the reality is, it's a grey area. Women want to weigh expert opinions against peer opinions and make the best decisions for them as individuals. Win all around.