Retail websites not only exist to market and sell products. Savvy organizations are also using their online properties to educate their customers and prospects while creating communities of users who share information and engage with each other.

In turn, customers are likely to visit these informational and social websites not only when they are looking for a product they want to purchase, but to interact regularly with other customers and get information.

Professional hair styling brand ghd has two types of customers—professional hair stylists who use the company's products themselves and also sell them to their salon clients, and discerning consumers who buy ghd products for their own personal use. Therefore, everything the brand offers needs to appeal to these two different audiences, an objective Stuart Spiegel, the company's CMO, was very aware of when he joined the Leeds-based brand in 2010.


Originally ghd had two websites—a retail property targeting end customers and another geared towards professional hair stylists featuring videos and other educational materials. Spiegel wanted to find new ways to engage both ghd audiences online. After a thorough analysis, the marketing team decided it should leverage Adobe tools to create a one-stop-shop site to engage both customers and the professional hair stylist community. "What's unique about the new website is that we're blending the B2B and B2C worlds, professionals, and consumers in the same place," Spiegel says.



"The new site was designed with the intention of creating a community where stylists could celebrate their craft, share ideas, and also have their talent noticed," Spiegel explains. Rather than focus on products, the website is "all about hair." In addition to selling its products, the company encourages stylists to use the e-commerce website as a platform to build their own profile and share both pictures and videos, including how-to tutorials, with their peers. "Professionals can learn from each other which develops a community feeling," Spiegel says.

Further, consumers can search the stylists' posts for inspiration and ideas, such as a new hairstyle or some expert tricks. It also enables consumers to find a new stylist from the community. The initiative has resulted in a threefold victory: Stylists can share their expertise, learn from their peers, and get noticed; consumers can learn from experts and have access to a database of professionals; and ghd is getting more traffic to its site. "It's putting us in a place where we can engage with all our customers in an authentic way and speak with customers," Spiegel says.

To complement the new community aspect of the website, ghd is tapping into social media to promote stylists. Site content can be easily shared on social channels, giving it greater visibility and creating an incentive for the stylist community to post further content. "We've created an ecosystem for engagement," Spiegel says.


Lessons Learned

Create a community: Rather than use the Web only to sell, savvy organizations are creating communities for their customers to engage with each other.

Give added value: Providing customers with interesting material will bring them back to a company's website even when they're not looking to purchase an item.

Leverage social media: Allowing customers to share content on their social channels ensures added visibility.