Aveda's E-Salon boosts real salons

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Aveda, has created an e-commerce and rewards program in an effort to assuage its salon partners' concerns about loss of sales to the Internet.

The launch this month of E-Salon on Aveda.com will direct registered online users of the site-67% of whom have never been to an Aveda salon-into the more than 6,000 salons with which Aveda partners with in the U.S., 2,500 of which are "concept" salons that carry only Aveda.

"For more than 20 years, Aveda didn't have any direct contact with consumers and now we're starting to do that much more," said Mark O'Berski, VP-consumer marketing and media planning for the Estee Lauder unit.

Personal care brands turn to the Web for a variety of reasons. The Body Shop, for example, put up a site in September geared to transform the 300-store retailer into a multi-channel marketer. It features all 750 of the Body Shop's products online for the first time. And, analysts said, when it went live, it wasn't late to the e-commerce party, because women are just beginning to look to the Internet for personal care products.

multiple reminders

Aveda is aggressively pushing offline outlets through its new online channel. As part of the program-which also looks to limit the growing amount of unauthorized Aveda sales online-E-Salon will offer concept salons a percentage of sales on the site, up to 25% if consumers enter Aveda.com through a link with a salon's own Web site. The move is also expected to give more shops incentive to become exclusive Aveda salons.

During the online purchase process, consumers are referred multiple times to several Aveda salons in their area. Shipments will carry referral notices calling for purchasers "to explore more of our Earth-sensitive products and services" and enticing them with the offer of a free "Aveda sensory experience," which can include hand or scalp massages among other things.

"We expect this to be our largest retail door," Mr. O'Berski said. Though he acknowledged that he doesn't expect online sales to reach "more than a few percentage points" of total sales, he said the effort will go a long way toward controlling how the very experiential Aveda brand is viewed by the public.

Mr. O'Berski suggested that capturing online shoppers will not diminish sales at its 135 retail stores or in salons but, in fact, may increase them. He cited research statistics that show 70% of people who shop online also buy in bricks and mortar and those people, dubbed "super-shoppers," in fact spend 25% more in stores than their non-Internet-shopping counterparts.

If Aveda manages to hook site visitors, it could have more than one benefit. Women are flexible about their preferred channel and fickle about their products, analysts said.

Aveda will promote the E-Salon program in a monthly e-mail campaign and in Internet and traditional print advertising beginning next year after salons have the chance to link up with their own sites, for which Aveda will create extensive in-salon collateral materials.

To further build relationships with consumers, Aveda is testing in the U.S. a rewards program that in London was able to drive frequency of visits to its retail outlets by 30% and hiked average spending by 18%.

PurePrivilege, which is rolling out to Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, offers member consumers a card-made of wheat compound rather than ecologically-unfriendly plastic-that earns them points they can build up for gifts ranging from Aveda candles to trips to Aveda's destination spas. In-store collateral in the three markets, e-mails and postcard mailings to its database will support the program.

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