NEW YORK: L'Oréal, the cosmetics and beauty giant, is developing its digital marketing capabilities in the US, reflecting the new habits of consumers.

Rachel Weiss, L'Oréal's assistant vice president, digital strategy and interactive marketing, argued new media channels now have an important role on the path to purchase.

Definitions of "social commerce" often focus only on acquisitions, but speaking in an interview with events group Marcus Evans, but Weiss took a wider view.

"What social commerce implies is that it's not so much about a direct sale via a social medium; it's about how the social stratosphere is influencing someone's purchasing decision," she said.

"This isn't about the search for a product, but it's more about seeing."

For example, a shopper could see a picture of a friend on Facebook wearing an item of apparel they like, ask where to buy it, and then do so.

"We're seeing this influence play out among our customers through their personal relationships," said Weiss. "As a brand you must ensure you are part of that social conversation to influence that decision."

Weiss, who handles L'Oréal's professional brands like Redken, Kerastase and Matrix, also stated the increasing integration of mobile, location-based and social media tools offers substantial possibilities.

Weiss said: "It helps in large-scale reach for potential customers. It also creates loyalty. The challenges are when it comes to location-aware and mobile customers.

"The intersection of all these represents the future of our business."

Foursquare and Facebook Places are among the services which seem to indicate the industry's probable trajectory going forward.

"For L'Oreal, there's a huge opportunity within that space to be a better partner in order to create a large-scale reach," Weiss said.

"The technology exists, but we still need to bring our minds together to create meaningful programs that are location-aware for our retail stores, beauty counters and salons."

One area requiring further development is proving the return on investment from such activity.

"Everyone's still talking about getting fans on a page on Facebook but what do you do with those fans?" she said.

"It's hard to have a holistic marketing approach if you don't understand the fundamental basics of one of your channels."

Rather, it is essential to discover how "digital listening" can be used in ways that will ultimately yield a positive impact on sales.

"There must be a fundamental understanding of what the digital shelf looks like and what kind of information people are searching for," said Weiss.

"If there is a core understanding of what people want to know you can start to create content to promote that traffic."

Equally, it is vital staff receive in-depth training, and hire external expertise as necessary, to acquire and effectively utilise relevant insights.

"Your people internally must be resourced and understand the intricacies of the ever-changing social stratosphere," Weiss said.

"If a company has a much more customer-centric approach that will impact its bottom line."

Data sourced from PR Log; additional content by Warc staff