Beauty E-Tailer Uses Blogs, Samples to Stand Out

James Maguire

Updated · Jun 27, 2005

When Jeff Binder chose his e-commerce platform, his chief concern was finding an integrated application with all the bells and whistles in one piece. In his view, this was important for one key reason: to enable better data tracking.

“We have a ridiculous amount of data,” says Binder, the CEO of Saffron Rouge, an Ontario-based e-tailer of organic beauty products. For example, “I could tell you exactly which customers bought Weleda shaving cream between December of last year and February of this year.”

This level of data collection is possible — or at least much more efficient — because Saffron Rouge uses an integrated platform, Binder says. “When you start assembling multiple pieces of software you end up getting data in different realms.”

The integrated platform that Saffron Rouge uses is NetSuite Small Business, developed by San Mateo, CA.-based NetSuite. The NetSuite platform “is built as one giant behemoth to do almost everything in your company,” Binder says.

The software is “dirt cheap,” he says, pointing to the license fee of $100 per month, per user. “You pay [more] as you go up in users and as you do more advance functions and features, like use multiple warehouses and multiple currencies.”

The advantage of NetSuite “is that when you’re starting out you’ve got a platform that can really scale up,” Binder says.

Seductive Samples
Apart from the efficiency of NetSuite, Binder credits other tools with helping him grow his business. One particularly effective strategy is sending a couple of free product samples with every order.

Loading... uses free samples to entice repeat customers.

Saffron Rouge’s customer service team chooses these samples based on the buyer’s profile and what they’re purchasing. Of the site’s 700 skus, it has about 100 sample size containers that are easily packed with an order. These free samples, “have really helped us a lot to grow,” Binder says.

And, “We unconditionally guarantee every product we sell,” Binder notes. “Even after they’ve opened it and used it.” Although of course customers must pay return shipping.

The Importance of Identity — and Blogs
To build customer loyalty, Saffron Rouge sends new customers an e-mail with background on the company. “It gives them more of a story of our mission and objectives,” Binder says. New customers also get a snail-mail letter with background material.

This extra communication is important because “it helps to reinforce and establish your identity, and I think establishing identity and positioning is very, very key,” he says.

“The beauty industry is so competitive, with so many brands vying for consumers attention — to cut through that clutter you’ve got to have a very clear identity, and constantly reinforce that,” Binder notes.

This process of customer education is even more essential in e-commerce, he says, because “the barriers to entry are lower, so it’s very important that you differentiate yourself, otherwise you just become one of many — and then your bread and butter is just based on product selection and prices.”

To better differentiate itself, Saffron Rouge will soon be revamping its site to “become much more blog-like.” That is, it will feature pithy, tell-it-like-it-is, deeply opinionated views on its many products. “We’ll really tell people very specifically what to use for what purpose, and why — it will really have a personalized voice to it.”

Vital Statistics
Name: Saffron Rouge, Inc.
Founded: 2002
Sales/revenues: Between $1-10 million/yr. (“We don’t disclose sales yet.”)
Content management/storefront system: NetSuite
Database backend: NetSuite
Visitor analytics system: HBX by WebSideStory
Ad server: SiteBrand
Affiliate technology provider: N/A
Payment solutions provider: WorldPay
Hosting provider: Netsuite
Number of tech staff: 2
Number of employees: 10
Key strategies: • Sending free samples with every order.
• Communicating identity with new customers to establish identity.
• Adding product review blogs to provide real product reviews.

James Maguire is a contributor to His column appears every Monday.

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