Direct-to-consumer hair color specialist eSalon is broadening its distribution to traditional retail and home shopping.The digital-born Los-Angeles-based brand, which sells personalized at-home hair color, last week launched starter kits on QVC and in 1,500 CVS doors.ESalon launched in 2010 and has remained a direct-to-consumer brand since. Chief executive officer and cofounder, Francisco Gimenez, said the move into additional channels is primarily an attempt to acquire new customers. “We think it can be a great driver of growth,” said Gimenez, who added that the brand has sold six million unique at-home color kits since its launch in 2010.ESalon is not the first exclusively direct-to-consumer beauty business to cross into retail channels — ColourPop entered Ulta Beauty in February. The brand cited at the time that its move into retail was primarily due to the expansion of its product assortment with complexion, a category in which in-store try-on is often preferable to consumers. eSalon’s products are not meant to be tested in-stores — they are uniquely personalized to each customer.Until now, the brand has mostly made its customer acquisition attempts through paid promotion on Facebook, Google and Pinterest. These attemps have been successful — Gimenez said a given month can draw in 15,000 new customers to eSalon. But he said entry into the mass market, where most at-home color is sold, to drive customers to eSalon’s online offerings, could potentially double the number of new customers each month.“We’re seeing it as more of a conversion play for people who are already interested in what we’re doing,” said Gimenez, noting that many potential customers might have heard of eSalon but haven’t taken the plunge to purchase the brand’s products online. “Retail is the new way of doing [customer acquisition].”Purchasing digital media to advertise, said Gimenez, can become expensive once a business grows. “The first 100 clients you sign up are going to be the most economic — but then when you get the next 200 clients and you set up big campaigns on Instagram or Facebook, the bid for impressions is going to be higher. That’s the nature of the paid side.”The starter kits are designed to aid in the sign-up process for eSalon’s personalized at-home color kits. All of eSalon’s color products — except for universal care products like shampoos, conditioners, tints and masks — are completely customized to an individual’s hair color. Included in the starter kits is an access code redeemable for a custom hair color order. Also included with the kits is a color wheel meant for customers to hold while taking a selfie, to be uploaded during the personalization process — the wheel is designed to help with precise color-matching — and instructions detailing the eSalon sign-up process. The kits retail for $25 each on QVC and QVC.com and $15.99 each at CVS. QVC’s starter kit includes extra supplies not included in a typical order purchased from eSalon’s web site— such as a mixing bowl, application brush, clips, a cape and a timer.The company’s retail expansion comes during a period of hypergrowth mode. ESalon just moved its headquarters to a 39,000-square-foot space — three times the size of its previous location — in El Segundo, Calif., which includes manufacturing facilities. ESalon also unveiled a Millennial-inspired package design earlier this year, including a new logo and product names. Inside the facility is eSalon’s Color Studio, where consumers can experience eSalon services in person. Gimenez said there is potential to expand the Color Studio business in the future.
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