We were among just 20 companies invited to participate in last month's Estee Lauder Companies Digital Media Day, an unprecedented event that hosted all of the CEOs and marketing departments from the various Estee Lauder brands.
The event represented a dramatic shift in thinking by the largest global beauty company: Estee Lauder has recognized that e-commerce is its largest revenue opportunity and that social media can change the face of its brands. When William Lauder stands up to deliver the keynote on this topic, you can rest assured the future of beauty is online.
So, what does all of this have to do with Gen Y? Simply put, Gen Y is the driver of social media, the demographic that purchases an ever-growing percentage of their cosmetics online. The fact that Gen Y is the largest generation to date means that they will spend more on cosmetics and beauty products over the course of their lifetime.
Their investment in beauty products and commitment to specific beauty brands will grow as their personal income increases. It is imperative beauty companies speak to this generation now, in their language and on their platform. They are not reading magazines. They are not watching TV. They are online and social -- and they are excited to discover you.
The beauty industry has a distinct advantage when it comes to marketing online and leveraging social media. Women want beauty products and are always eager to learn more about them -- it's the sole reason sites like BellaSugar and TotalBeauty flourish and their user bases continue to grow. Women seek advice and knowledge in this category, wanting to try new products and test out new looks.
Their purchase desire is unwavering. And the more the industry engages with them, the more apt they are to spend. The tools that Facebook, Twitter and blogs have delivered seem almost custom-made for an industry that has long realized that an expert's opinion or a girlfriend's recommendation can deliver far more ROI than any gatefold promotion, banner ad or TV spot.
Just how do beauty brands engage with Gen Y online? They get social. For this industry, it is no longer about the striking magazine spreads and the fashionable cover girl. This generation wants to touch your product. They want to talk to friends who have tried it and hear from specialists who can advise them. The key is to transfer the experience delivered in the department store to online social communities.
For this generation, brands would be better off training specialists in online communication rather than pouring more money into offline platforms. Brands can jump into the online beauty forums and partner with the beauty blogs, delivering their message in an authentic, organic way. By ensuring that there's a conversation rather than one-way communication, they can, in turn, ensure results.
Shopping for beauty products, whether a highly orchestrated makeover or just a jaunt to the cosmetics counter, has traditionally been an offline social experience. If companies are aiming to win over Gen Y, which has proven to live, breath and accessorize via online social media, then the future is clear: ecommerce and social media is the force that will drive beauty sales.