Seventy-five percent of women color their hair, but many relying on boxed colors aren’t pleased with the results, according to Francisco Gimenez, chief executive officer and cofounder of eSalon.

This story first appeared in the March 20, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Gimenez, a self-described “geek” entrepreneur who helped launch Pricegrabber.com, set out to create a technology that enhances the at-home experience. “While looking for a new business, I stumbled upon the world of hair color where there is a huge gap between people who use a box because it is convenient — but they are not happy — and those who are pleased with the salon experience but don’t like the time it takes and the expense,” explained Gimenez.

Although colorists were hesitant to “share their secret recipe,” Gimenez cracked the code to create customized  salon-quality color products.  “We combined technology with beauty expertise to make it happen,” he said about eSalon, which launched in 2010.

Customers complete online profiles answering questions typical of what colorists would ask such as eye and hair color.  The input is used to develop a formula personalized for them right down to their name on the package. One of eSalon’s 90,000 combinations is then shipped to their home complete with everything needed to mimic the salon environment such as directions for their hair type, professional grade gloves, an applicator brush and the proper shampoos — all for $20.

Despite all the right moves, eSalon’s early growth was at a slow pace. “We thought we’d be selling hair color so easily,” admitted Gimenez. At bit of detective work helped eSalon find blogs and content that helped women learn how to color better at home that they could tie to their site. “That helped engage the consumer and get them to buy a brand they had never heard of before,” he said. “It really started to move the needle.”

There are now more than 130,000 clients with average repurchase every six weeks. The company expects to produce more than 1.3 million applications in 2015. Without the concern about shelf space,  eSalon offers 20 different glosses to maintain color between applications. And because eSalon knows the color of each customer, the company can recommend the right shade of gloss.

Meanwhile, multiple bottles are sent to women with longer hair and highlighting kits are in the works. The company is moving more deeply into hair care, a category that can deliver great value because there’s no cost associated with shipping to retail doors. At-home dissatisfaction with boxes isn’t endemic to the U.S., Gimenez noted, adding eSalon just expanded to the U.K.

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