Zahir Dossa, co-founder and CEO of Function of Beauty, joined Glossy+ members for a Slack chat yesterday. Founded in 2015, Function of Beauty is a digitally native, customizable personal-care company that individually formulates its shampoos and conditioners based on customers’ hair goals and preferences.
Dossa discussed the importance of personalization in beauty, the rise of “copycat” brands and the social strategy of his hair-care company. The full conversation is available exclusively to Glossy+ members, but lightly edited excerpts appear below. Click here to join Glossy+.
What are your thoughts on the difference between AI and filtering? A lot of consumer companies say they offer AI-based personalization or customization, when all they really do is just filter based on a simple lifestyle questionnaire or a simple algorithm.
The key difference to us is, rather than going down a funnel, we have feedback across the algorithm so that we are constantly learning and improving with every customer. We are even able to weight the algorithm’s decisions based on learnings from consumer feedback. For example, we look at the efficacy of a set of ingredients for solving a hair goal based on the combination of other hair goals. I think the key difference is a constantly iterative and learning algorithm.
How do you differentiate as competitors in the space increasingly pop up?
We’ve seen a ton of copycats or imitators since starting. Some companies are replicating our hair quiz, while others are trying to also replicate personalized formulations. I’m a huge fan of personalization and think it is a must. However, it is insanely complicated. It took us four years to nail, and we have a ton of engineers at our own proprietary production facility (which has over 100 employees in it). I’m worried that copycats aren’t able to achieve the technology piece of the equation and will turn people off from personalized formulations if they go to a competitor first.
How has customer data informed new launches?
We’ve started doing awesome polls across our customers so that they make all the decisions for us. From fragrances to new offerings, we let the customers decide between the top X choices we grapple with. [Our new fragrance] Naughty or (sp)ice, for instance, was a name that was voted on by customers, and the fragrance was tested by customers and launched due to customers.
What’s your Instagram strategy? Do you work with influencers?
Most of [our Instagram] pictures end up coming from user-generated content (UGC). We don’t work with “influencers” that much — we’ve found that our customers end up being the greatest touch points for the brand, but we do want to make sure we get our product in front of as many eyes as possible. When people started taking pictures of their shampoo bottles and posting it on IG, that was when I knew we had made something great. I think the core brand resonated most with them. We, therefore, put their names on bottles, packages, everything.