Grooming Products Site Says Convenience is Key

By James Maguire | Posted August 01, 2005

Clearly, ShavingCream.com has identified its target customer. Site founder Mark Williams points out that the market for men's grooming products is booming, as more men become style conscious. It's the most image-focused of these men, usually younger, to whom Williams hopes to sell.

"We think our customer ranges from a young metro sexual to a wanna-be metrosexual 50-year-old," he says, adding that he also hopes to draw their female counterparts to the site.

But identifying his niche customer is the smallest part of his battle. He freely notes, "People usually get these things [shaving products] at the grocery store or drugstore." Making things harder still, many department stores now sell online.

So convincing busy customers to visit his site for a single product they normally get elsewhere poses a challenge. "It's a tough sell — it's a competitive environment," he concedes.

How does he do it?

Easy and Fast
Ultimately, his site's allure is based on convenience, Williams says. "I anticipated selling to someone out in Missouri, but I didn't necessarily think I was going to be selling to someone on 43rd street in New York City -- and we do." Busy shoppers shop online, no matter how handy a retail store might be.

Part of this convenience is the site's wide selection. Shaving Cream carries 20 brands, from standards like Crabtree & Evelyn to the venerable English cream Truefitt & Hill. If shaving cream is what a shopper wants, he or she would need to visit several department stores to find a comparable array.

To expedite service, "We ship everyday — we ship the same day we get the orders," Williams says. The site uses FedEx ground service exclusively (except for P.O. box orders) and charges a flat $7 for orders. "So you order and you get it fast from us."

Additionally, "We answer the phone, and try to make ourselves available."

Fashion vs. Function
Shaving Cream has had to make some concessions in site design, moving away from a purely style-based layout to improve its navigation. Currently, the site offers customers a navigation scheme based on choices like "Shop New York," "Shop London," "Shop Paris," and so on.

While this lends a high-fashion feel, "it's not quite as navigatable" as Williams would like it. As he works to redesign the site, he'll instead offer navigation based on category and brand — less haute couture, but more functional. Some customers found the city-based navigation confusing. The new design for the Silicon Valley-based site will debut this summer.

To market the site, Williams relies partially on the powerhouse efforts of the brand names he sells. "As long as their ads are showing up in magazines, that benefits us — that legitimizes us."


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ShavingCream.com battles the big boys with broad product offerings and quick service.

Williams knows that these brands' high profile causes shoppers to enter related terms in search engines. So most of his $25,000 annual marketing budget is spent on search term buys, "and that's what has generated the bulk of our business."

The toughest part of his business, Williams says, is "managing your return on investment for your advertising buy."

The site has built a customer base: About 30 percent of Shaving Cream's business is from repeat customers, and, Williams guesses, more than 50 percent of the revenue is from these repeat shoppers.

He has confidence he can compete in a crowded market. "It's a tough sell in one sense, but in another sense, the Internet opens up everyone's door."

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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