Disrupting the Traditional Beauty Industry
In 2014, Emily Weiss founded Glossier, a direct-to-consumer beauty company, as an extension of her successful beauty blog, Into the Gloss (ITG), which she founded four years prior. Through the blog, Weiss identified a gap in the beauty industry. She believed there was a need for a brand that recognized consumer preferences rather than traditional beauty brands that hired experts to tell consumers what they need or don’t need .
At launch, Glossier adopted the open innovation approach of crowdsourcing innovation and soliciting real-time feedback from its millennial cult-following through its blog (1.5+ million unique views per month ) and social media presence (1.5+ million Instagram followers). Due to its customer-centric approach, Glossier became the “first socially driven brand” that has successfully disrupted the beauty industry .
Crowdsourcing is the magic formula
Consumers, especially female millennials, discover beauty products through friends . Based on this recent trend, Weiss created Glossier with three things in mind:
- Frame customers as experts . When developing new products, Glossier reaches out to its community for feedback on colors, textures, fragrances, shades, and price points early in the process, before launching on its e-commerce site and select stores . From soliciting opinions from its blog and social media beauty influencers and followers, Glossier positions and empowers each consumer as the expert. Further, this is far reaching and comprehensive – the company does not discriminate as it solicits live feedback from everyone, irrespective of social status, background, or geography. For example, after posting a question on Instagram regarding a red lipstick, within 20 minutes, they easily rack up thousands of responses about shade preferences . These responses range from a teenage girl with only 10 Instagram followers to Makeup by Mario, Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist with 10 million followers .
- Create buzz . Keeping ongoing dialogue, closely monitoring, and continually improving this customer-centric feedback loop with its audience enable Glossier to ultimately create a consumer-led product that young women actually want to purchase . This then encourages these customers to share with other customers, resulting in a rippling “buzz” effect.
- Position Glossier as an approachable friend and peer . Glossier created an affiliate marketing program of “reps” to sell products to friends and family. Reps are given a discount code, which are then shared with their networks of friends and family to receive special credit and commissions for each sale. With an added trust element to discovering products from friends, ideas are more easily shared within each network. These concepts are then escalated through the reps and consumers to Glossier’s product development team, further motivating innovation and improvements .
As an example of one such successful crowdsourced beauty product is the Glossier Milky Jelly face cleanser. In 2015, Emily posted a blog titled, “What’s Your Dream Face Wash?” and leveraged the 400 comments generated from the post to create its Milky Jelly face cleanser , which is still its best-seller four years later.
More recently, the company looks to connect the dots of movement between Glossier.com and IntotheGloss.com through customer data cross-domain analytics tools that allow the company to track people visiting both platforms . This has helped them gain a better understanding of consumer buying patterns and cater to their preferences and needs with new product launches, further driving loyalty to the brand.
There are proven synergies with IntotheGloss.com and Glossier.com. The below traffic histories prove that traffic from the former converts into the latter. According to CTO Bryan Mahoney, ITG readers are 40% more likely to purchase products from Glossier’s e-commerce website than other consumers .
In order to successfully scale its business, it is imperative that Glossier stay true to its ability to listen to and speak directly with its customers. However, there are limitations where the company stands today. For example, most of its data analysts still parse through comments left by consumers on ITG, website, and social media accounts . Further, it depends on third-party cookies, which does not allow full control of what is shown to customers .
Below are some recommendations for Glossier:
- Invest in technology upgrades to automate the processing of qualitative data and feedback from customers that have been the core to success with developing innovative products 
- Adopt a machine-learning “Stitch Fix” model where the company better identifies patterns and provides a personalized experience for each customer who visits the site 
Though these proposed operational and technological improvements can help Glossier scale, there are important questions to consider. What is the appropriate level of machine learning to incorporate but still allow Glossier to remain true to its brand? Will machine learning detract from Glossier’s value proposition of personalized interactions with its consumers? How will consumers react to these changes?
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