Online hair care ... and then some Featured

9:49am EDT July 22, 2002

Philip Pelusi, a well-known local hair salon chain, saw the need to establish a presence on the Internet in early 1998.

Philip Pelusi has 10 salons throughout the Pittsburgh area, including an Advanced Skills Training Center with some locations expanding to nearly double and triple their original size. The company viewed the Internet as a new channel with untapped potential for expanding its markets, cultivating new and existing relationships and selling its hair care products online.

As in many companies, the realization that the Internet could be a fundamental part of its business was there — it just needed a little help getting there.

That’s when we at Elliance got involved. One of the first things we asked salon chain owner Philip Pelusi was, “What do you want your site to accomplish?” Until this was clearly answered and the expected results determined, the process wouldn’t move toward the development and implementation stages.

After some discussion, we determined that the main goal of the Web site would be to create a national market for its hair care products rather than to simply promote the salon chain itself. We decided to leverage the existing name recognition and local brand awareness with Internet marketing techniques designed to expand the company’s market share.

During the initial site development, Philip Pelusi wasn’t quite ready to invest in a completely automated e-commerce site, but he did want to test the notion of selling the company’s products online. So we proposed a two-phase development process that would let Philip Pelusi test-market the foundation for a future e-commerce site.

A Hair Care Analysis module allowed users to select their hair type and identifiable problems. After a visitor selected the criteria, the system would recommend an appropriate hair care line. Users then could place orders online and submit credit card numbers securely via the Internet, although no real-time transactions occurred online. Philip Pelusi would then receive the order and manually process the transactions at the salons.

As Pelusi began to see increased site traffic, sales — and the emergence of national and international markets — the company gained enough confidence in the site to streamline and fully automate the business process via the Internet.

Here’s what we created for the salon chain:

1. An Automated E-mail Broadcast Module that captures users’ e-mail addresses through orders, inquiries, feedback, etc., and stores them in a customized database to build repeat business and relationship marketing efforts. This intelligent system automatically notifies interested parties of upcoming sales, new products and events.

2. An Online Product Catalog that allows users to search hair care product information and view pricing and products.

3. A Fully Automated E-commerce Engine to permit secure, online credit card transactions with a shopping cart module. This self-serving system expands the company’s retail outlets to the Web with negligible overhead.

A customized, distributed administration grants access for key personnel to add, modify or delete products, information and database contacts from their desktops. This allows the customer to cost-effectively manage its Web solutions itself and empowers multiple site managers from various departments within an organization.

To jump-start the site traffic, we suggested promoting the URL on existing sales and marketing collateral such as brochures, ads, billboards, product packaging, etc. Web site traffic was increased by deploying a comprehensive search engine ranking program that positively influenced the site’s position on Yahoo, Infoseek and other key search engines. Within a year, traffic increased from 453 to 4,056 visitors a month.

Although it’s still too early to provide either quantitative and qualitative results, executives at the company seem pleased with the results so far.

“Quantities [of orders] have gone up,” says Michele Pelusi, marketing director. “We have seen more multiple sales for the same product within an order with the addition of the shopping cart module. We also have obtained new clients from the neighboring states of Ohio and West Virginia, as well as international orders and inquiries from as far away as Jordan and Egypt.”

Moreover, Michele Pelusi says, the company has reached the break-even point on its total investment after only 90 days. When it comes to investment in such an Internet site, that, of course, speaks for itself.

How to reach: Philip Pelusi, www.philippelusi.com; Elliance, (412) 321-2992 or info@elliance.com

Abu Noaman is president of Elliance, a full-service e-commerce, database integration and Web development firm based on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.