As beauty experts ranging from Sephora to Allure try to entice customers with new apps and widgets, the ever-competitive beauty market is feeling even more crowded online. Two user-generated sites in particular are getting recent attention: Makeup Alley, a veteran 12-year-old product review site, and Bloom.com, a recently launched e-commerce version.
While Sephora etc. win over readers by emphasizing expertise, the latter do the exact opposite: they tout the power of everywoman reviews that gain friend-like authority in recommendations and warnings.
As most of us know, a friend’s recommendation is one of the most important influencers in shopping decisions. Customer reviews are effective for the same reasons: we trust real women (who have no ulterior motive, like a special quid pro quo relationship with certain beauty brands) to tell us about their experiences.
Traditional beauty editors have reason to worry about the everywoman competition. As the New York Times notes, Makeup Alley now has 1.1 million members — roughly equivalent to the circulation of Allure. In addition, the site’s message boards get 45,000 posts daily with 2.1 million unique visitors in June.
Besides honest reviews, the site favors committed commenters: you can’t open a new review thread without having written over 20 reviews. Members can also disclose skin tone, type, age etc, so the reviews are more tailored to specific women. The feeling of community is so strong that there’s a section where you can swap old makeup products that didn’t work out.
But Makeup Alley is notably not an e-commerce site — the site makes its money from discreet advertising. Which is where Bloom.com steps in. Launching this August, the self-proclaimed “social beauty store” takes the peer-reviewed buying power and adds a shopping component.
Users first fill out a profile about their skin type and age, and then find products based on their beauty matches and vetted by 20,000 women who participated in focus groups or who are currently members. User reviews aren’t on the site yet, but will be after the official launch. Bloom.com’s most impressive features are the enticing perks: every purchase comes with a customized gift box, 10% back in BloomDollars, and refunds for up to a year after purchase.
Are you planning to join either site? Already a member? Share your favorite beauty sites in the comments.