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How to Succeed in Beauty in the Digital Age

Beauty leaders convened to talk strategy at WWD's Digital Beauty Forum.

It’s all in engagement.

That’s the message that came through during a day of presentations made by 11 leaders of the digital movement in the beauty industry at the WWD Digital Beauty Forum at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York on Tuesday. A number of speakers emphasized the importance of social engagement, particularly live videos.

“Virality is our biggest and best marketing tool,” said Huda Kattan, social media star and founder of Huda Beauty. She also noted the importance of personalization in products.

A brand born on social media, Makeup Geek, has exploded — going from $500,000 in sales in 2012 to $22 million for 2016, said Marlena Stell, chief executive officer of Makeup Geek. She credits the growth to social media, and still makes appearances on the company’s YouTube channel. She advised brands to consider live-streaming content, included Facebook Live and YouTube Live, adding people remain engaged for longer videos that provide a behind-the-scenes look.

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Mehdi Mehdi, vice president of digital for NYX, said the brand targeted entry-level makeup artists looking to fill their kits. It wound up building a community, which NYX has highlighted through various competitions and in-store digital features that give shoppers ideas for how to use products.

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Video content is a necessity when it comes to content creation for brands, according to Theresa Moore, vice president platform partnerships at Pixability. “There are a lot of brands that are culprits of creating 30-second TV spots and throwing it out on digital,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot less of that now, brands are starting to understand that that’s not the best way to do it.”

Research into consumer social consumption habits is paramount to the process, including keeping up with ongoing video trends, like “Get Unready With Me” — a series of videos where influencers essentially get ready for bed.

Cozy Friedman, ceo and principal at SoCozy, also stressed the need of going viral — her brand skyrocketed following the #realmenbraid campaign — which led to her product line.

Looking ahead, Parham Aarabi, founder and ceo of Modiface, expects the future holds a combination of augmented reality plus artificial intelligence, which would result in more personalized product recommendations. “Not only do you see what the makeup is, you can understand the person who’s wearing it,” Aarabi said.

Ginny Chien, executive director of global, digital and consumer marketing at Smashbox Cosmetics, detailed the importance of influencer relationships, saying “either you do it or you kind of sink in this age.”

She likened choosing influencers to dating, noting that they need to line up with the ethos of the brand — for Smashbox, it means working with people who are creative, confident and fun, she said. The brand recently partnered with Shay Mitchell, an actress who has a large social following.

Natalie Mackey, cofounder and ceo of Glow Concept, noted the brand’s short-term focus, which spans influencer relationships to their 45-day production cycle.

Alessio Rossi, global chief digital officer at Shiseido, advised bringing digital creative in-house, highlighting the brand’s “High School Girl” commercial.

Jess Hatzis, cofounder and creative director at Frank Body, which has a sassy social media presence, also used social media to generate buzz and sales. Their early tactics included sending flyers out with products encouraging customers to tag them in social media posts, she said.

“It looked like dirt,” Hatzis said. “It was a very humble looking product…so we needed a brand that people wanted to buy into.”