Another thing that’s hard to sell online

In a previous post, I talked about how certain businesses can have a harder time making use of online resources than others – the case of online food delivery in the Philippines. In this post, we’re going to talk about another type of business that’s even harder to sell online, in my opinion.

Make-up. This is probably the hardest thing to sell online, if only because people would want to try to colors on their skin first before purchasing any. But Ellana Mineral Cosmetics makes it work, and the secret is in the way they’ve structured their communication channels with their patrons.

A Little Background on Ellana

No, Ellana’s not the name of the owner of the business. It’s actually Coney Avellana, engineering graduate, makeup hobbyist, and entrepreneur extraordinaire. Like many [Filipino] women, she’s had trouble with side effects from using ordinary make up – rashes, allergic reactions, and acne among others. She was able to find solace with American brand mineral cosmetics, but found them unnecessarily expensive. Due to this, she tried to bring down costs by producing mineral makeup locally – and thus, Ellana Mineral Cosmetics was born.

Together with Theresa Carbonell and Jun Avellana, Coney has made quite a reputation for Ellana for the past six years. Known widely for affordable prices, Ellana’s advantage over other cosmetics rivals does not stop there. A large part of its success lies with the way its communication channels are set up – not only is there a physical store for those who would want to conduct face-to-face transactions, there is also the online store counterpart for those who would rather communicate via the internet.

How Ellana Makes It Work Online

The hard part in selling makeup online is due to the nature of the product. For consumers to know which shades fit them best, they would have to try the product on their skin before purchasing – which is impossible to do if they’re purchasing online. However, Ellana Minerals has found three ways around this problem – providing online guides, free consultation, and free product samples.

Ellana Minerals has several online guides to know which shades will fit a person best for those who would rather not conduct direct communication with the Ellana personnel. Their guides employ simple and easy-to-understand language, which is backed up by detailed images. All a consumer has to do is follow the guides and choose the appropriate shades as they describe.

For those who would want the opinion of an expert, free consultation with Coney is available. Her contact details are all over the Ellana site, and she welcomes all kinds queries and comments about the Ellana products. Taxing though it may be, Coney tries to accommodate all the mail she receives from the Ellana patrons. The use of emailing makes this possible, since she can respond at her convenience, without the hassles and pressures of face-to-face communication.

Lastly, they provide free samples for first timers who would want to purchase Ellana products. Combining this with either one of the previous methods [or even both of them], Ellana has surely bridged the gap between direct and online selling of makeup. For consumers, the advantage  of purchasing online is that they won’t have to leave the comforts of their homes and won’t have to line up to be entertained by the Ellana staff. Ellana sellers, too, now have the advantage of processing more orders faster than they would if done face-to-face.

Of course, nothing beats face-to-face transactions, specially if the nature of the product is as personal as makeup. But the proliferation of Ellana Minerals and other businesses like it proves that alternative methods, specifically online methods, are possible to be used even on businesses with such a personal nature. The question is no longer about the limitations of using online selling, but of how online tools can be used to work a way around those limitations. With Ellana, it was to develop a deeper relationship with the consumers by conducting dialogues with them.

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    • sarahforward
    • September 23rd, 2010

    I so love make-ups! I am adding this to the list of things I must must must try. Mineral make-up are like the new thing now. No more matte, boring, dry colors, ugh! Are there really free samples for first time users? That’s cool! Oh and did you know that Topshop has their on-line trial for make-up, you can upload your picture so you can try their make-up even without going to the store! Amazing right? You should try that too 🙂 I am going to fill-up the form so I can get free samples.

    Super like this entry!

      • sarahforward
      • September 23rd, 2010

      By the way, how do I fill-up the form? hihihihi.

    • Yeah, their products are really amazing. I’ve been trying out their blush since last month, and I’ve got to say, no complaints here! No side effects, no itchiness or any irritation, although the container could do some work for portability issues. :3

      You can go here to sign up for free samples. :3 I suggest going to their guides first to look up your skin type and such… ;D Go go Sarah! ❤

        • sarahforward
        • September 29th, 2010

        Super thanks! :))

  1. Wow!I will definitely check out their website. This is the first time I’ve heard of a makeup business that gives free product samples and makeup tips! And what’s more amazing is that the owner is a Filipino. I think a lot of online shops could learn a thing or two from Ellana, since computer mediated transactions(case n point, online shopping) sometimes generate a handful of complaints. For example, I’ve heard people complain of how a dress looks great in the shop’s website and not so beautiful in reality. For online shopping to really be more than just a trend, the online shops should come up with ways to address problems like that of what I’ve mentioned, right?

    • Exactly one of the big problems that trouble Ellana still. Specially color matching… that’s hard to do even when you can see and test the actual product personally. But with the right mindset and with proper goal setting, I think even selling make up and clothes can be made possible – and more than that, successful – through online means. We just need really honest sellers who will try to engage their customers in the process of online buying as much they would have in the traditional means, maybe even more.

      And of course, it would help if they also get adequate materials for preparing their online stores, like good quality pictures, descriptions, packaging, etc. But I believe we will be transacting through online means more often in the future, and it pays that we already know these things once that time comes. ❤

  2. I think you’re right, Erose. Make-up is hard to sell online unless it’s a pretty famous brand. For a newbie, I think Ellana is doing well with ther online promotions. The thing about free samples really got me interested. Personally, I really don’t use make-up unless it’s really, really needed. But I guess I have to invest now to prepare for our entry to the corporate world. I think I’ll give Ellana a try. Thanks, Erose! 🙂

    • XD Glad you liked the entry, Diane! I think Ellana’s got such great product and service, considering that they’re a local brand, and relatively a start-up at that. I just hope Ellana inspires other local brands to take that leap into digital / online selling, since a large part of their target market can be found there. :3

    • XD Glad you liked the entry, Diane! I think Ellana’s got such great product and service, considering that they’re a local brand, and relatively a start-up at that. I just hope Ellana inspires other local brands to take that leap into digital / online selling, since a large part of their target market can be found there. :3

  3. I was quickly browsing this blog and I saw free samples. I scrolled back up and read. I remembered in PA 126 with Sir Chong when he discussed the words that need to be used in ads to capture attention – I think you’ve applied it well *pun intended* I love make-up. Mineral make-up in particular. When I read this SMR, it made me want to contact the owner. That one on one consultation is awesome and I believe it will make her brand more popular (if the make-up is actually good). When people will schedule a consultation for free, word of mouth will go around how good the product is. I am looking forward to see her business boom.

    • Yes, Ellana’s got such great products, but not only that – it’s also got great customer service. XD I’m also waiting for Ellana to get bigger, and I believe it’s not going to be long now. ;3

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