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Kick Start: working on your Himage

Chris Cassar and Rick Glenn saw an opportunity to sell men’s grooming and skincare products online and wanted their website himage.com.au to give male consumers the ideal experience. Enter the Kick Start panel with some surprising insights on how men feel about shopping.

The panel

  • Jonathan Crossfield, NetRegistry, expertise: web presence, online marketing
  • Louise Kelly, Hearts and Minds, expertise: marketing and branding
  • Hollie Turner, Pearl PR, expertise: public relations
  • Josh Mehlman, Nett magazine

Men need skincare too!

Josh: How did you come up with the idea for the business?

Chris: Rick and I met in London seven years ago when we were working together. We are both very time-poor people and we view online retail as a good option for people like us. We saw nobody was doing really well in the grooming area for men.

Rick: Retail stores such as Myer and DJs aren’t doing it overly well at the moment, especially since men have to shop in the women’s cosmetics area. And the range is pretty limited; there are maybe four big names. But once we researched the market, we found dozens of really top-quality male brands out there.

Chris: We’re mainly focusing on skincare: moisturizers, toners, and shaving at the moment. We’ve had research showing the market in Australia is worth $400 million. We thought if we could grab even a small piece of that, fantastic. We considered opening a retail store first but the options are limited; you need to go to Chapel St in Melbourne or Oxford St in Sydney. To get a store the right size, you’re looking at an initial commitment of $350,000. So we thought we’d do the reverse of what most people do and open an online store first.

How do men shop?

Hollie: Have you seen websites overseas that work well?

Chris: Our vision is to be like Mecca Cosmetica for men. Or there’s a site in the UK called WholeMan that does quite well.

Rick: Other websites offering similar products in Australia either have a really limited range or they have heaps of clutter. You can chat with other people and all these cute things, but it’s just sensory overload. We want to strip it back and keep it really simple. We’re talking about guys after all.

Josh: That mirrors how a lot of men shop in real life; they go in, buy what they need and get out quickly.

Louise: There are some very interesting things about male behavior. Something I find very intriguing is that a lot of straight men hate shopping. Unless you’re talking about metrosexuals, which is a very small segment, they actually find the whole thing embarrassing and think the process has been designed for women.

Rick: The women’s cosmetics floor is intimidating.

Louise: I speak to a lot of business executives on very big pay packets and they don’t even want to go into a shop.

Finding a target market

Hollie: You need to be very specific about who you’re targeting. Are you targeting gay men? The 25–30-year-olds?

Chris: Our audience is 25 and older professionals.

Hollie: I think there is a huge market for men in their late 20s and 30s who are starting to earn really good money. They shop online because they don’t have time to go shopping. The last thing my boyfriend would want is for his workmates to know he buys expensive eye cream.

Louise: But he does, and so do all his workmates.

Rick: We spent some good money on branding Homage and when we went through the process they asked us if we wanted to target the gay market specifically because that would make it a whole lot easier. But that didn’t sit well with us.

Louise: I think the whole pink dollar concept has fallen over. Gay men in their 20s and 30s hang out with their straight friends, it’s not a big deal anymore. They don’t buy a ‘gay brand’; they’re just looking for quality.

The classic problem is that marketing folklore tends to be about eight years behind what’s really going on and you can’t run a business on such out-of-date ideas.

You need to find men who spend a lot on grooming products and spend an hour with them. Find out how they make grooming decisions and how they feel when they’re making them. Being online gives your customers convenience and saves time but you’ll make a lot more money if your customers think you understand the way they think and feel.

Feeling emotional

Chris: Should we be pushing the angle that we have the biggest range in Australia?

Jonathan: There is a danger when you talk about your value proposition because it’s not going to be true forever. Right now you’ve identified this gap in the market so you’re going to create an easy-to-use website that is convenient for men and has the best range of products. But other brands are going to clue in and improve; you’re not going to be by yourselves forever.

Louise: The value proposition that my bells and whistles are better than their bells and whistles, doesn’t work anymore. The speed to market in copying products is really fast. The way to own the market is emotion-driven and you need to understand how to create emotional intensity. The way to do that is through in-depth interviews. You ask your focus group about emotional things, about their ideal self, and who they want to be when they buy your products.

We recommend you pick out five golden customers, people who spend more than 10 grand per year on grooming, and then you can really get into their decision-making processes.

Getting publicity

Rick: Is it worth doing a press release and getting some print media coverage?

Hollie: Since you’re launching an online service, why not start with where your audience is? You can do offline press later once you’ve got some profile. A really good way to get coverage is to do some research, as Louise said. The media loves research because they don’t have the time and resources to do it themselves. At the same time, you can find out a lot about your target audience.

Josh: From my experience, the best way not to get coverage is to send out a release saying, ‘Hey, we’ve just launched a new website.

Hollie: Josh would hang up on me if I said that.

Josh: But if you say, ‘We’ve done a survey on how men feel about shopping for grooming products, you’ll get a lot more attention.

Louise: You could talk about how men make decisions in the grooming market, where they shop, how they like to shop and what they’re buying.

Preparing for launch

Chris: We’re probably 2–3 weeks away from launching. What should we be doing now to get the website out there?

Jonathan: One idea is to create a blog, which starts a conversation with people. It’s not a corporate statement, it might be what you do in the morning to get ready or common mistakes people make, or whatever you’re thinking about that day. You’ll get reactions from people and they will probably ask, ‘Could you tell me more about this?’

Hollie: You could put together short videos and post them on YouTube. Perhaps reviewing products or advice on dressing up for a big party or how to give yourself a facial. That also gets a reaction.

Louise: You could also do something like Choice magazine for guys, doing some consumer research and having your own rating system, interviewing your suppliers about their products.

Jonathan: If I decided I needed face cream today, I wouldn’t know where to start. By putting up consumer advice you’ll generate a lot of traffic. I might type into Google ‘How do I look after my face?’ and there’s Himage telling me how to look after my face in five easy steps. Solve problems and you’ll start creating that culture of people coming to your site to get answers to these questions.

Website fundamentals

Josh: So how can Rick and Chris make the website represent the experience and brand they’re looking for? Jonathan: What you were saying before about keeping the site simple is right. I think the best word to describe it is predictable.

A lot of websites are designed from the business owner’s point of view, not from the customer’s. The owner says, ‘We want to see this on our website’. But when the customer gets there, it’s not logical or predictable.

The reason so many websites follow a similar pattern is that it works – people know what to expect. You make a difference in the other aspects of the site, especially the things you say.

Copy is the most underestimated aspect of any website. You must take time to think about what is written on that page and how people read it. People read online very differently, which means anything more than a couple of hundred words on a page is too much.

Rick: There are statistics about the number of people who don’t get past the first page.

Jonathan: There was a study in the UK that tracked people’s eye movements and they concluded 80% of people don’t actually read a web page, they scan the headings. They’ll only read the paragraph underneath if the heading has something to do with what they want to find out. That means every two or three paragraphs you need to have a heading that says what the next bit is about.

Every page has to have a single goal. The home page might have the goal to get readers excited enough to look on the product page.

On the product page, it will obviously pick a product and hit the buy button. One goal per page; anything more than that, you’re confusing them. Be very clear about what you’re motivating them to do and make sure the copy motivates them to do that in the first line. If that means you have 10 pages instead of five, those 10 pages will be better for it.  

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