Ever since Phoenix-based cosmetics company philosophy launched its Web site in 1996, a feedback form has invited customers to share product experiences. Without any incentives, customers submit testimonials articulating everything from the products they liked to how philosophy as a brand has touched their lives.
“We received amazing, very touching stories from people,” says Sarah Superfon, the company’s director of interactive marketing and direct response. Stories flowed in at least a couple of times a day, but philosophy’s system was rudimentary. Stories weren’t shared with other visitors, surfacing only in email campaigns or during infomercials. And yet customers sharing stories has always been an integral part of the brand, she says. “It was a more-engaging and interactive way for them to communicate with philosophy.... Once they [did], they became very loyal.”
As the online channel continued to grow, philosophy turned in January 2008 to Bazaarvoice, a provider of social-commerce solutions, for its Rating and Reviews product. Further discussions, however, unveiled a better fit: a product called Stories, which Bazaarvoice had yet to make publicly available. (Stories had its official launch in July 2008.)
Catering to its predominantly female customer base, in mid-April philosophy launched its Stories-powered microsite, yourmomsphilosophy.com—intended to run through Mother’s Day. The campaign, Superfon says, allowed customers to share personal anecdotes and lessons learned from their mothers. Many of the stories don’t even mention philosophy or its products. “A lot of people feel like it’s their brand—and being able to share their story and being able to post their pictures on the Web site makes that feeling even stronger,” Superfon says, adding that, even if only indirectly, the bond was highly beneficial to the company.
At first, expectations weren’t very high. “We were careful not to set goals because we didn’t really know what to expect,” Superfon admits. “We really went into it with a testing mindset.” Marketing included emails to existing customers, co-branded emails to reach new prospects, advertisements on its own site and on Oprah.com, and paid search. The prize for the winning story was a $1,200 shopping spree on philosophy.com.
Within just a couple of weeks, there were more than 1,000 stories and thousands more participated in selecting the best one. Moreover, 39 percent of all traffic on philosophy.com that May originated from a Stories page. Of those visitors who were new to the site, 33 percent spent time on a Stories page. Most striking? Compared to the average visitor, those who came through a Stories page had 81 percent more page views, 20 percent higher average order values, and 19 percent more items per order.
When the campaign ended, philosophy retained yourmomsphilosophy.com but for reading purposes only. After a short hiatus, the company will reopen the site for customers to contribute more stories about their mothers outside of a contest setting. Eventually, philosophy intends to open its Stories page to broader discussion. “Philosophy plays different roles in people’s lives and obviously they come to the brand for different reasons,” Superfon says. “They share for different reasons.” Regardless of where they’re coming from, she says, stories “bring out something really special in people.”
With Bazaarvoice Stories, philosophy.com:
- saw 39 percent of its total site traffic in May come from its Stories page; and
- had 33 percent of all new visitors visit a Stories page.
Compared to the average visitor, customers who accessed yourmomsphilosophy.com:
- generated 81 percent more page views;
- produced 20 percent higher average order value; and
- purchased 19 percent more items per order.
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