LAS VEGAS — The secret sauce in Glossier’s winning formula is not really a secret.
The runaway cosmetics hit was founded on the premise that women share knowledge with each other — experiences they love, items they’re excited about. And, apparently, that includes their favorite makeup. Eighty percent of Glossier’s customers learn about the brand through peer-to-peer recommendations, said founder and chief executive officer Emily Weiss.
In other words, the Millennial favorite, which launched on Instagram, seemed destined to be a social media sensation. Over the course of just a few years, it has delivered in spades. Weiss managed to quickly build a devoted and massive fan following — which includes celebrities like Kim Kardashian — and that breakout success compelled Shoptalk organizers to invite her onstage to talk about brand building in the digital age.
Less of a tutorial than an effort, perhaps, to teach by example, the session shed light on the company’s customer-centric roots.
“Glossier was born three-and-a-half years ago because beauty brands were not listening,” said the 32-year-old beauty mogul. “I know this because I interviewed hundreds and hundreds of women for my blog ‘Into The Gloss,’ started in 2010 about beauty routines and their favorite products. And regardless of these women’s level of expertise, they didn’t feel qualified to talk about the products they were using — the products that they’ve been using for years. Why is this?”
The former fashion assistant has obviously pondered the question quite a bit — naturally, since the scenario basically birthed her business. Her answer: It was essentially a power grab.
“The beauty industry, which is a $433 billion industry, wanted to keep the power in the hands of the brands,” she said. “They resisted social media. Their marketing/advertising engines ran the fuel of making their customers feel like constant beginners, like they weren’t the ultimate experts of what works for them.”
The presentation almost sounded like a stump speech. If there was such a role as president of the beauty sector, Weiss would have made a compelling indie candidate, as a staunch supporter of female beauty empowerment.
“It doesn’t matter anymore what a brand says about its products,” the ceo explained. “It matters what the customers say about the products.” And Glossier is obsessed with its customers, she added. That sentiment would sound rather rote coming from any other company. But considering the brand’s resonance with a younger generation that values authenticity, the detail comes across as a significant brand differentiator.
That matters in the competitive world of beauty, especially as the sector heats up. The industry is “expected to be worth $750 billion by 2024, and almost $1 trillion by 2030,” Weiss said. Now, she’s preparing for the future in the best way she knows how — by listening to her customers, and investing in the effort. Glossier recently raised a $52 million Series D round of funding, and the company plans to “build the best place for our customers to visit, learn, engage and shop in the world, online or off.”
“You have to truly listen to them,” she said. “You have to treat them with the respect that they deserve. With no scarcity of choice, you have to keep giving them a reason to keep choosing you.”