Urban Decay Eyes new Mobile Experiences

The cosmetics company rolls out a mobile interface that brings the in-store experience online.

The rise of e-commerce has transformed the way people shop, making it easier to select merchandise and have it shipped to your home, sometimes within hours. But when it comes to cosmetics, shoppers still want a "high-touch" experience that allows them to explore new products before making a decision.

Cosmetics specialist Urban Decay is striving to meet the expectations of its customers, many of whom interact with the company through mobile devices. About 60 percent of Urban Decay's online traffic is mobile-based. In response, the company is exploring new ways to engage shoppers, explains Katherine LaFranchise, assistant vice president of digital at Urban Decay.

"Our goal is to create a destination that's highly visual where customers can view products and looks and even find products that they might not have known they were looking for," LaFranchise says. "And we want our customers to have an engaging experience that's similar to how they discover products on Pinterest and Instagram since we know our customers are often there too."

Urban Decay teamed up with Edgecase to design a mobile web experience for shoppers using the vendor's Visual Shopping platform. The company focused on the mobile web before building a native app because "we wanted to deliver the experience to our customers quickly and within two months we were up and running, which was great," LaFranchise explains.

Compared to a desktop website with tiny images, Urban Decay's new mobile interface offers a vertical design with large images that users can tap and scroll through. It includes filters for products, skin tone, finish (matte, shimmer, or glitter), ingredients (paraben free or vegan), and more. Users can also choose to see similar products, read reviews, and swipe through items in a way that mimics the motions used on Pinterest and Tinder. And as shoppers continue to use the site, the platform's algorithm takes note of a user's preferences based on click-through-rate, time spent on pages, etc., and begins to surface recommended items.

Urban Decay launched the new interface in January for its "Eyes" section and within a few weeks began to see results such as increased product engagement and site stickiness. Compared to Urban Decay's original Eyes page, for example, product page views were five times higher when shoppers interacted with the new interface and there was a 10 percent increase in products that users were sharing through email and social media. The company also saw a 150 percent conversion rate increase when shoppers interacted with the enhanced site.

Urban Decay's next move is to roll out its new mobile interface across the company's other product areas, LaFranchise says. The company is also developing a native app. LaFranchise declined to discuss whether the native app will match the company's mobile web experience but noted that it'll include additional functionalities that will allow the company to further engage customers.

The bottom line is that mobile interfaces resonate with customers because "the experience matches the ways customers increasingly shop online today [swiping and scrolling through items]," LaFranchise notes. "And we want to provide innovative experiences because that's what our customers expect from us."