Future of Payments

Beauty Boulevard: Beauty – and success – is in the eye of the beholder

Joanne Frearson talks to Beauty Boulevard’s founders about rejection on Dragons Den and how they built a successful online store with a payments system that can meet high demand.

Rachel de Caux and Paula Short may have left Dragon’s Den empty-handed after their pitch for a £65,000 investment in their Glitter Lips product failed, but life has been crazy for the pair ever since appearing on the show.

De Caux and Short co-founded Beauty Boulevard three years ago after being inspired by catwalk trends but finding it difficult to purchase the same types of products in the stores.

“We thought maybe we could produce a product ourselves,” De Caux says. “We produced it for our own hair and beauty salon, really. We were working full-time in the salon so we thought it would be quite a good little hook to get new customers in. We created the product with a really small order to begin with.

“We launched on the December  6 and by December 31 we averaged selling one an hour. Our hairdressing salon is a tiny little place, blink and you would miss it, but we found people were coming in and asking, ‘Are you the people that sell the Glitter Lips things?’”

Buoyed by the interest, the pair decided to launch an online store to cater for the growing demand. But sales were slow at first, De Caux says. “We’re beauticians and hairdressers so building websites and selling products wasn’t our thing.”

The pair initially used PayPal to sell the products online, but  sales rocketed when they were featured on ITV’s This Morning, and they found they needed to upgrade their payment systems.

“We knew it could create a big spike,” De Caux says. “We took advice and looked at people being able to pay using credit and debit cards on our website. We did a bit of research to try to find the best ways of doing it and the best prices.

“We wanted it to be as basic as possible to make it easy for people to buy. We went with Barclaycard who were really good to us – they were the best price and easiest to install and use and get feedback from.

“When we started using card machines for payments for beauty shows they gave us something called Barclaycard Anywhere, which is portable – you can plug it into your phone and it’s quite mobile. They had lots of other additional products that were helpful to the business at the time and still are. We have a proper terminal now, though, through Barclaycard.”

A good payment system is obviously important to Beauty Boulevard as it smooths out the customer experience.

De Caux says: “Every now and then we will get different people to go online and buy something. We said to our friends: ‘We brought this new product out, and we want you to go and basically try to buy it and tell us what the experience was like – what annoyed you – and then we can go and tweak that. Creating a good customer experience is about making everything as easy as possible.”

Beauty Boulevard also has systems in place to cater for things like abandoned shopping carts.  “They may have really wanted to buy the product, but it has gone out of their head and by the time the weekend comes, they think they were meant to order Glitter Lips,” De Caux says. “We use Remarkety, which is an email that after a certain length of time will be pinged to the person to ask if they needed it for the weekend.

“It is trying to make it personal to the customer. If they put a product in their basket on their Mac then go to work and think, I wanted to buy that, if they log in on their phone it should be still in their basket. It is trying to make the buying process as easy as possible for the customer.”

According to De Caux Facebook has been a popular way for customers to buy the product, and 98 per cent of their sales are done through mobile rather than on a PC. What Beauty Boulevard does is sponsor a post or a video and put a link at the bottom so customers can buy the product.

She says: “We are in a mobile era – everyone is attached to their phone and social media is massive. With Facebook we found people would see the video – if they were on the bus, say – then press the Buy Here button, which takes them to the website where they can enter their details.

“We also do an advert on Facebook which we change depending on what is going on. If Strictly Come Dancing has just started, we’ll put that in front of the audience and get them on board. You can pick and choose who your audience is and you can tweak it if it does not work.”

The pair view Twitter as an untapped resource. De Caux says: “There is potential there. We are looking into Twitter. They have kind of upped the game, with regards to Twitter advertising. They do a Twitter card, a little advert for your brand – there is more to come from that.”

Since the two appeared on Dragon’s Den things have certainly been busy. De Caux says: “The day after it was aired we got a phone call from somebody who offered us all of the money. It has opened up a lot of doors for us – we have had a lot of big brands approach us wanting to collaborate. We have got about three or four that we never have dreamt would have contacted us.

“There are a lot of things in the pipeline that are happening – obviously glitter is big for us all year around, but the festive season is on the way and Christmas is just absolutely crazy. We were selling in Superdrug before Dragon’s Den, but we’re now looking to roll it out with a lot more stores, with a bigger brand presence.

“We have had people who had wanted to collaborate and create products with our name and their name on it. We are looking to work with other brands in that way. It’s a top secret project though, so I can’t tell you who and what.”

Although Beauty Boulevard didn’t get the investment on Dragon’s Den, Glitter Lips has been catching on all around the UK since – no doubt helped by a desire to put payments and the customer experience at the centre of what they offer.

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