Byline: Laura Klepacki

NEW YORK — As it nears its first anniversary, plans to do some restructuring.
The beauty site, which enables women to create customized beauty products from lipstick to shampoo and now even fragrance, had its official launch last December. And as other beauty e-commerce sites are evaporating quickly — and are the latest to close shop — Reflect is moving forward with its plans.
But that’s not to say it hasn’t experience some growing pains.
“We have a lot of consumers who are happy with it. But we had feedback on areas we could improve,” said Kent.
Reflect executives have learned the site poses too many questions and takes too many steps before women reach the point of actually making product selections. So come November, will be relaunched with a more streamlined system and added shopping benefits.
“We still want to profile their needs,” stressed Ginger Kent, chief executive officer of Reflect. “But now from the first page, you can start making product.” In the original format, visitors were walked through several screens that elicited psychographic data before being presented with product options. Now during the product creation process, shoppers will see aspects of the product as it is “being made.” Package selections such as pump versus flip-top bottles are now options, and a choice of graphics will appear.
Also in response to consumer comments, the site will now offer a “browsing” section, said Kent. The new area will provide information on the types of products offered and even package content, “like net weight,” she added. “It gives you an overview of our products and then if you want to create, you can click and go to the creation area.”
There also will appear a new navigation bar across the top of the screen giving visitors more flexibility to move within the site. And now a shopping bag showing a running total will remain on screen throughout the shopping process. The site’s trademark graphics will remain the same.
The changes said Kent, essentially “gives the [shoppers] more flexibility and control over what they want to do on the site.”
Reflect, whose majority owner is Procter & Gamble, with minority stakes held by Institutional Venture Partners and Redpoint Ventures, began with a $50 million investment. In September, the partners infused the site with another $30 million.
Saying the site is privately held, Kent declined to give sales figures or say when the site would be profitable. “Month-to-month sales are increasing strongly and we are hitting our target,” she commented. “Because we are the manufacturer, we don’t have a middleman and we have high gross margins. We have a very robust business model.”
Despite the uniqueness of Reflect’s business model, it still competes for beauty business with other online beauty sites as well as traditional beauty retailers, noted Heather Dougherty, an analyst for Jupiter Communications, which tracks Internet activity. “They are going after the same wallet share, even though their product is wildly different.”
Dougherty thinks the site faces challenges that any other new brand would confront. In Reflect’s case, with its higher-priced items — a lipstick is $12, a fragrance is $40 — competitor brands would include manufacturers such as Estee Lauder, which controls 45 percent of the prestige market and retailers like Sephora with a trendy, edgy positioning.
To its credit, Dougherty says Reflect has already unfurled interesting marketing strategies including sending orchids to customers. It has also run banner campaigns on other women’s general interest Web sites offering free lipstick samples.
“Getting consumers to try product is critical for them or for any brand,” said Dougherty.
Kent said Reflect will continue to employ a variety of media to promote the site — print, direct mail and tie-in events with sites such as She remarked that a current print campaign to promote its fragrances, plays off on the standard scent strip. “When you open it up there is nothing there — because you have to create it,” she said.
Kent declined to discuss site traffic. But according to Jupiter, Reflect had 310,000 “unique visitors” in September, 398,000 in August, 376,000 in July and 390,000 in June. Competitor attracted fewer than 200,000 in September. Meanwhile, defunct saw 1.1 million visitors as recently as June. But apparently numbers can downshift quickly. By July Eve’s visitors dropped to 635,000 and in June fell to 459,000.
Peter Flatow, president of CoKnowledge, a marketing consultant, suggested that can’t be compared to most other e-commerce sites.
“Really, the whole Reflect initiative, like everything Procter does, is a learning experience. They are approaching Reflect and a whole e-commerce strategy like a new product.”
Furthermore, there are no benchmarks to test Internet success against, Flatow. “It’s not like going to Fort Wayne, Indiana to test a new detergent.”

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