At Glossy’s second annual Beauty and Wellness Summit last week, hundreds of brands, retailers and investors met in Palm Springs, California to discuss the changing retail, influencer and marketing landscapes.

Dominating the conversations were discussions around an oversaturation of brands and products, how to maximize retailer partnerships and if influencer collaborations are too good to be true. Here’s what we learned:

A proliferation of choice isn’t a good thing
The rate at which beauty and wellness brands and corresponding products are coming to market is faster than ever. But while the barriers to enter the market may be lower than ever, how brands can scale should be considered.

Cindy Deily, Sephora vice president of skin-care merchandising, underscored why more, more, more is not sound for the best customer experience. “We’ve been very selective. We’ve said no to amazing brands in the wellness space and in the CBD space because I believe that when a new space is unfolding, more choice isn’t necessarily a good thing for the consumer,” she said.

“We’re trying to be very thoughtful and strategic about how we build both of those spaces out, so that we start from a place of educating our client and walking a bit before we run because we think there is some risk there,” she continued. “What’s happening outside of our universe, of course, is that there’s an explosion of CBD brands and there’s an explosion of wellness brands. The consumer is going to be overwhelmed to a certain extent no matter what we or any other individual retailer does.”

Annie Lawless, founder and CEO of Lawless Beauty, agreed. She even indicated that more product could be contributing to the current slowdown in the makeup segment.

“I can’t have 500 launches a year. That’s just not realistic. I only want to launch products that I love and I don’t want to be trend-driven,” she said. “I think we were into it for a while, consuming, consuming, consuming and now I think she’s like, ‘I can’t take any more. I have enough makeup. I’m taking a break.’ Every launch that comes out needs to be thoughtful, meaningful and authentic to the brand and have a point of difference. The answer to the fatigue is don’t give her stuff she doesn’t want or need because she’s getting tired; give her stuff that makes her excited and wakes her back up and gets her into your brand.”

BOTTOM LINE: It’s tempting for brands to jump into whatever product or category is trending at the moment; however, a bevy of launches without strategic thinking is going to yield confused and exhausted customers.

The paradox of data
With so many digital tools at a brand’s fingertips, negotiating analytics and then incorporating them into a brand’s strategy can be tricky.

Melanie Bender, general manager of Versed, set the tone for this conversation when she said the following: “I don’t need to tell anyone here about the relevance of data or that 90% has been created in the last two years alone. We’re obsessed with data. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for a few things and it’s really good at understanding the past and the present, but it can be really bad at predicting the future. I am here to try to get more people using my clean products, more people using the right products for their skin. So, I’m not really looking at data to predict the future, I’m looking to shape the outcome and shape that future.”

At Versed, Bender and her team break down analytical data into three components: passive listening, active quantitative and active qualitative. Versed averages 46,000 interactions per week with its customers and 90% of those consumers want to have a say in co-creation. When coming up with new product ideas for Versed fans, the brand starts with the first step of passive listening before moving to the next stage of the iterative process.

BOTTOM LINE: Though brands can feel beholden to data to inform their next steps, using it carefully is key — especially when consumers expect companies to listen to their wants and needs and to react quickly.

Fine-tuning a community strategy is more important than ever
Throughout our three-day summit, brand founders, marketers and C-suite executives wrestled with the cost of working with influencers, and the return on their investment — or the lack thereof.

Katey Hassan, Tula Skincare vice president of brand marketing, emphasized the importance of letting influencers guide content for their own audiences. “We work with on any given month, over three hundred different creators. We have a full network of over 500 creators and we consider them to be strategic partners of the brand. Most of them are on six-month contracts with us and we let them know products that we’re launching way in advance, talk through marketing, messaging, talk through upcoming events,” she said.

The way Tula works with its influencers is very different from larger companies in the space. “I started my career working at a very big cosmetics brand and there we would work on TV commercials; we would craft down to the second every single word that was in the commercial, every single image that matched every single word and it was very tightly monitored and controlled,” she said. :There were focus groups that watched the commercial, and we watched their reactions and their recall. This is the exact opposite of this.”

Hassan reported that Tula is on track to see 150% year-over-year growth. Influencers via their affiliate codes are counting for 40% of that business.

Nicole Faulkner, Morphe director of global artistry, agreed that relinquishing control was part of creating a more authentic conversation on social and resulted in a better long-term strategy for beauty brands. “We let our followers and our Morphe babes express themselves and whatever trend is happening and uplift that,” she said.

Kristin Ess, Kristin Ess Hair Care founder looks to smaller influencers as a way to both generate newness in her community and build budding relationships. “A lot of the conversations are happening on accounts with 10,000 followers or less,” she said. “If I were a giant brand, I would be looking at those people to start with, because there’s just more meaningful conversations going on there.”

BOTTOM LINE: Creating a collaborative and conversational marketing approach will bring authentic influencers to your brand. Without brand love, paying for play is not beneficial for any party.

“The more places we are selling our product at, the less probability of people coming back to our own site.”

“Quite frankly, I have no idea what my team is doing with their influencer outreach and community management. All of the money we are spending seems unreal.”

“Education seminaries where I’m not a part of as the founder are doing less in sales.”

“There is such a fine line where it feels scripted versus when an influencer knows about the brand or they know something about your product. We worked with someone on a video and it looked like they read our Sephora product page.”

“What we’ve found is that candidates coming from large conglomerates don’t have the startup mindset anymore. They can come in and be on fire with strategy.”

Speaker highlights
“There’s a difference right now what in what motivates a Western consumer and what motivates a Chinese consumer. But in two years, it’ll be one global consumer, and they will look for clean, and they will look for sustainable, and they will look for brand value and brand storytelling.” — Kristy Watson, Erno Laszlo CMO

“For many years, we have had a view that Amazon is not your friend and we have tried to stay away from them in every single way possible, but I have to say having worked with Amazon through [Haus Laboratories] has really changed our view that Amazon can be your friend. The reason we wanted to go with Amazon is because we really wanted to flip the rulebook on its head and do a beauty launch a little bit differently. It was so important to [Lady] Gaga that we launch so that we could ship globally from day one. And we knew we just couldn’t do that from like a direct to consumer perspective.” — Nicole Quinn, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners

“I know there are lots of conversations over the past 10 years when everyone’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, retail is dying.’ And I’m just like, ‘Cool. I want as many people to think it’s dying so I can play.’ I think the omnichannel approach is so strong because online, you can control your brand, your messaging, you can create unique offerings and keep people engaged. But with brick-and-mortar, you sit next to classic brands and get those eyeballs on the shelf. To me, it is so powerful.” — Shaun Neff, Beach House Group founder

Challenge board confessions
“How to add Amazon into the retailer mix and protect our brand identity?”
“How do we attribute brick and mortar foot traffic??”
“Are digital ads too good to be true?”
“How do I make sponsored content feel authentic?”
“How to report on ROI with influencer collaborations?”
“What is the best way to utilize TikTok?”
“What are creative ways to market CBD when social ads are blocked?”