Michelle Phan is buying back her cosmetics line from L’Oréal Group and merging it with her beauty subscription company Ipsy. Reports say the former parent company had high hopes from Em, but the brand’s weak sales failed to live up to the hype. L2’s latest Beauty Indexes suggest a similar story. Em built a large social presence around its iconic founder and was one of the first brands to experiment with new technologies. Yet, shortcomings in digital basics essential to scale (e-commerce and search) led to a decline in its digital position.
In the 2013 Beauty study, Em was lauded for its use of social media traffic to drive traffic to its site. Ranked 14th of 94 brands in the U.S. and placed in the Gifted category, the company leveraged its social media far more than the average company. It received 36.6% of its traffic from YouTube, 5.13% of its site traffic from YouTube, 0.11% of its traffic from Twitter, and 0.05% from Instagram. In contrast, the average Beauty brand in the Index received 2.19% of its site traffic from YouTube and an even smaller fraction from other social media channels.
In the 2014 study, Em was noted as one of the few brands to be sold on Amazon’s Luxury Beauty store as part of L’Oréal Group’s experiment with broadening the distribution of its Lux Portfolio on the e-tailer. This attempt did not scale Em sales, as Amazon’s Luxury Beauty stores failed to gain much traction either.
The brand was also featured as an experimenter with Guided selling tools. Revlon, Lancôme and Em all placed interactive tools on their site displaying how different cosmetics colors looked on models of different skin tones, something just 15% of brand sites in the Index had done. Furthermore, Em placed guided selling tools and shade finders within the product pages, not needlessly siloed as in many other brand sites.
Despite the innovative efforts, Em became one of the biggest losers in L2’s 2014 Digital IQ Index: Beauty with its rank sliding to 35th and monthly brand searches down 55% year over year at the time of the study. Em’s case drives home the importance of prioritizing digital pillars like brick-and-mortar locations, search positions, and e-tailer partnership over trends.
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