Grab your airbrush and matte setting powder, it’s time to enhance your ecommerce look. And we’re going to learn from one of the best.
Back in the early 2000s when the internet was in its infancy, its adoption by businesses wasn’t a rapid free-for-all. There were strong doses of hesitancy and scepticism. And that can partially be understandable. The amount of internet users, globally, at the birth of the new millennium was just 361 million.
But creative disruptions present cracks in the orthodoxy that allow risk-takers the room to thrive – or fall.
One of the early disruptors in the beauty industry, caught meddling with the internet, was e.l.f. Cosmetics.
“We started as an ecommerce business when people didn’t think you could sell cosmetics over the internet,” said its CEO Tarang Amin. “We also offered extraordinary value. Our mission was – and still is – to make the best of beauty available to everyone.”
Despite the lack of encouragement for this young startup, the cosmetics company stuck to their instinct and ran with it all the way to the big leagues. It became one of the fastest-growing cosmetics brands in the country.
Yet with every jump forward, there is always a point in which you land because you must stop at some point. The key in this moment is to take another leap to reach further.
Like with all successful disruptors, whatever sticks spreads. Others get in on the action and expand their brands into the digital, along with greater shifts in consumer commerce habits towards online. And so with greater competition, e.l.f. faced new and greater challenges.
(Just like when the team tactics of a genius soccer manager (I’m pointing at you Klopp and your fierce gegenpressen tactics) pay off and results in success, you eventually get found out and your tactics are copied, your opponents become aware, and your advantage begins to slip.)
Following the early success of e.l.f. (which sells vegan and paraben-free beauty products) it began to face legacy system limitations. Slowing it down, it blocked the ability of the brand to leverage higher-functioning capabilities, to accelerate its growth.
Meanwhile, e.l.f.’s tech was being stretched to its ultimate limit: it started to open up a physical presence within large retailers like Walmart, Target, and Ultra Beauty, as well as expand across dozens of countries.
It was also rolling out endless products. “In a given year, we’ll launch over 100 new products,” added Tarang, “and we can do it in as fast as 13 weeks from initial idea to selling on elfcosmetics.com.”
With such innovation and expansion, its tech was no longer a facilitator but an inhibitor. “Any time we would come up with an idea, it was a challenge – it was a 6-month project,” added VP of digital Ekta Chopra. “We needed our technology to be as fast and agile as our product innovation.
“While e.l.f. is a digital native, digital has moved beyond ecommerce – it’s an ecosystem that includes social and other connected channels.”
Enter the Salesforce SWAT team
e.l.f. needed a tech solution to match its innovation and ideals. So they turned toward Salesforce, and its sky-full of cloud services, to upgrade its capabilities and help it connect across all of its channels.
It decided to integrate its website with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and Service Cloud.
“The customer is at the center of everything we do,” said Ekta. “We don’t just think about getting them to our site to make a purchase, but how do we build a relationship with them? So we use Salesforce for the full customer journey, from discovery to post-purchase, which builds that relationship and, ultimately, their advocacy.”
This cross-cloud combination solidified deep insights into providing personalized customer experiences, as well as enabled the necessary scalability in order to grow and expand. Such integration gives e.l.f. a holistic view of each customer, from pre-purchase to preferences and post-purchase.
“With the power of Marketing Cloud,” said Ekta, “we can create different customer journeys on the fly.” By customer journeys Ekta is referring to the multiple channels that are open to consumers when it comes to buying goods and services online: social media, email, digital adverts, etc.
This point is particularly important for e.l.f. because they have 37 million followers across its social media platforms: a rich pool of data that can be used for better customer experiences and offer tailor-made content, with the ultimate goal of higher sales and stronger customer loyalty.
Thanks to the Einstein artificial intelligence built into the Salesforce platform, e.l.f. is able to better predict not only what their customers want, but what each of their customers want, to deliver enhanced journeys via B2C Commerce Cloud and across Marketing Cloud.
“Einstein looks at customers’ behaviors and displays the products that are relevant to them,” added Ekta, “and it does this out of the box, without programming… And as customers continue to shop with us, Einstein learns more about them and makes their experience even more refined and targeted.”
The results have been impressive:
- Browse-to-buy conversion rates got a boost, reaching levels only really seen on Black Friday. And with the muscle of B2C Commerce Cloud, it was able to record a 50% drop in daily customer service tickets, resulting from less issues experienced on its previous ecommerce platform.
- Retention rates jumped between 55% and 65%, one of the highest in its commerce sector. As Ekta described: “Our data shows Salesforce as a leading driver in our higher performing KPIs.”
Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud integration
e.l.f. Cosmetics continues to innovate. It was actually one of the first ever businesses to embed data from Commerce Cloud to Service Cloud. What this does mean in effect? Well, this integration provides service agents with a singular view of the customer, anchored to powerful analytics in data and conversation history.
By removing the blockages thanks to increasing efficiency, e.l.f. capitalized on this by reassigning staff formerly working on case resolution and getting them to focus on customer loyalty instead.
“It has become even more important to keep that intimacy we have with our customers,” said Ekta. “So many of the core initiatives that we undertake – whether it’s understanding our customers better through data or personalization – ultimately, it’s making sure we’re there where and when they want us, and delivering the experience that they desire.”