L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beauty reveals an industry rapidly growing in sophistication. Three out of four Index brands earned spots in the Gifted or Average categories, reflecting increased digital investments in the form of retailer partnerships, omnichannel initiatives, and influencer relationships. As in 2014, Color Cosmetics and Multi-category brands netted the highest Digital IQs; in contrast, Fragrance brands trail behind due to creative and licensing red tape.
1. Urban Decay
Digital IQ: 149
New in the Genius ranks this year, the brand offers the top mobile experience in the Index with optimized dropdown menus and checkout. Urban Decay also knows how to make the most of social media: popular content finds a new home as shoppable UGC on the brand site, where video tutorials also guide customers seamlessly to product purchase.
2. Maybelline New York
Digital IQ: 145
Maybelline achieves superior search visibility on e-tailers, in addition to demonstrating compelling product merchandising on Amazon. On paid search, Maybelline is the top performing Color Cosmetics brand. The company has also garnered above-average channel views on YouTube by stepping up investments in the platform’s TrueView in-stream advertising. On its own site, Maybelline lets users filter video content by zone, occasion, and skill level.
3. L’Oréal Paris
Digital IQ: 144
L’Oréal Paris is pursuing personalization as a key component of its digital strategy. The brand collects dozens of data fields for each product category, resulting in over one and a half million possible personas for Face Makeup alone. This means that the brand can theoretically match its account holders to one of 2.1 octillion possible personas – although it has still not figured out how to translate this achievement to its emails, which frequently lack personalization.
Digital IQ: 144
Lancôme is among the only Beauty Index brands putting its personalization intent into practice, visibly linking on-site actions to its CRM strategy. The brand uses makeup videos on its brand site to trigger emails featuring a shoppable list of products mentioned in the video. This savvy response successfully links several best practices, leveraging vlogger influence and video content to consistently guide customers’ purchase decisions across various channels. The trigger email effectively extends Lancôme’s site experience to the user’s inbox, ensuring that the interactive experience remains at the forefront of consumers’ minds.
5. Benefit Cosmetics
Digital IQ: 142
Benefit exhibits strong omnichannel efforts, offering online booking for beauty services at Brow Bar boutiques. Product pages are packed with functionality including UGC content and Q&As. The brand is also experimenting with cross-platform initiatives, such as hosting a Bahamas trip for Beauty vloggers in tandem with promotions of its They’re Real! Mascara and Push-Up Liner.
Digital IQ: 138
Previously ranked Genius, Clinique slipped into the Gifted category this year based on slow site innovation. But the brand made progress in other areas, like Snapchat, where it partnered with Sephora to drive both sales and awareness of its products. Hannah Bronfman, one of the brand’s newest ambassadors, took over Sephora’s Snapchat handle to promote several Clinique and Sephora items in a co-branded campaign. Since Clinique was not (and still is not) on Snapchat, the campaign strategically leveraged Sephora’s wider social scale.
6. MAC Cosmetics
Digital IQ: 138
MAC’s latest site launch eliminates clunky navigational elements. The new site prioritizes the mobile experience, with a responsive design allowing for cleaner integration of new content types. In addition, MAC tops the Index when it comes to mentions in top vlogger videos, claiming 10% of all mentions of Index brands.
Digital IQ: 137
Kiehl’s boasts a best-in-class mobile site with persistent live chat and mobile-optimized diagnostic tools such as Healthy Skin Routine Finder and Gift Generator. Along with Chanel, it is one of the only two Index brands owning all of the PLA real estate for their respective branded search terms.
9. Estée Lauder
Digital IQ: 135
The November launch of tiered loyalty program Estée Loyalty List represents a significant site investment. The brand’s targeted mobile design is also noteworthy, taking consumers through a series of questions leading up to a personalized product that they are then prompted to purchase. A mobile-optimized chat button at the bottom of every page provides immediate support for beauty advice and order inquiries.
Meanwhile, Estée Lauder drives brand awareness among millennial audiences with strategic influencer partnerships and popular video content. Estée Lauder’s “i love makeup” YouTube channel draws mostly organic views, unlike more overtly branded channels that rely on advertising. Launched in April 2013, the content hub has generated 560% more views and nearly 2,300 percent more subscribers than the flagship channel.
Digital IQ: 134
By partnering with one of YouTube’s most popular personalities, Ingrid Nilsen, CoverGirl gained a huge boost in organic search visibility. CoverGirl-branded videos gained first-page search visibility for the search “ingrid nilsen tutorial,” demonstrating that working with vloggers is often more effective than competing within the YouTube beauty ecosystem.
CoverGirl’s recent partnership with Ulta to promote its exclusive Star Wars product line via Snapchat is another step in the right direction. The brand capitalized on the hype surrounding the latest Star Wars installment by creating a new line of Beauty products. Six looks from the series’ characters were created using the new products, with a tagline asking: “Which Side Are You On?”
Digital IQ: 134
Olay throws its weight behind Facebook advertising, posting only a few times per week but ensuring that each piece of content achieves extended reach through advertising dollars. Consequently, Olay generates the second-most interactions per post among Index brands. The brand also compensates for low organic visibility in category search with an aggressive paid strategy. It owns 4.7% of total skincare ads, behind only Amazon.
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