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Skincare Startup's Lesson for Online Brands: Looks Matter

This story appears in the March 2012 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When it comes to making a product stand out on a crowded shelf at Target, great packaging is worth more than a thousand words of advertising copy. Online, it turns out, eye-catching package design is worth even more. Take it from Adrian Bryce Diorio, founder of Bryce, an online organic skincare brand that incorporates fresh fruit and vegetable purées into facial cleansers, toners and moisturizers.

Sales were slower than expected, so Diorio surveyed friends and customers, who told him the problem was in the packaging. The product page on, he realized, was weak, with photos and descriptions of three facial scrubs in cobalt blue containers and clear, white-inked labels.

"People couldn't tell what was inside this $28 bottle," Diorio says. "Even though I liked the look, it wasn't speaking loudly enough to customers online. How would anyone know that our product wasn't the typical boring white lotion when you couldn't see it?"

The Fix

To make his lotions and cleansers pop off the page, Diorio switched to clear containers that showed off exactly how colorful and original Bryce products are, made with "seeds, pulps, everything." He also incorporated each concoction's signature ingredient into the photography, such as a ripe pomegranate next to a jar of Mediterranean Pomegranate Exfoliating Polishing Scrub, or maple leaves beside the Vermont Maple Facial Treatment Masque, in an effort, he says, to "scream that it was fresh, fresh, fresh!"

Diorio also began applying basic principles of retail merchandising to his site, regularly swapping and reorganizing colors, fonts and content to keep customers' interest when introducing new or seasonal products and promotions.

Bryce, an online organic skincare brandThe Results

The number of people who spent time exploring multiple products and pages on the site went through the roof. "It went from two out of 100 to something crazy, like 50 out of every 100," Diorio says.

Six months later, sales were up 150 percent, giving Diorio the confidence to plan a 1,500-square-foot retail outlet and spa, due to open this year on Boston's chic Newbury Street. He's also debuting a line of new products and expects Bryce's sales to double in 2012.

Meanwhile, Diorio continues to take customer recommendations to heart. "We've had people tell us they'd like us to use glass, and we're looking into doing that," he says.

A Second Opinion

The Bryce website does a good job with "movement," according to PJ Farrell, vice president of business development for dzine it, a New York-based "visual communication firm." Farrell claims most people stay on a web page for less than 30 seconds, but the longer they stay, the more likely they are to buy.

To overcome these short attention spans, businesses need to have home-pages that encourage people to keep clicking. In Bryce's case, there's a colorful image of fruit surrounded by glowing testimonials and a message to "click above to enter."

Once people get beyond that first page, it's important for companies to "make customers feel like someone is speaking to them," Farrell says. Keep lengthy product explanations to a minimum, and employ photos, music, video or social media options instead.

"These days, assume most customers' first impression comes from your online presence," Farrell concludes. Which is just a more tactful way of saying what we all learned the hard way in high school: Looks definitely matter.

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