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Just five short years ago, Henry Davis was a venture investor in search of his next e-commerce project. At the time, Amazon was beginning its takeover, DTC brands were on the rise and overhauling the supply chain was the newest trend in retail. But Davis was focused on another forward-thinking idea.

“I was curious who was going to take the digital channel and use that as the value proposition,” said Davis. “Because I can engage with people online, at scale, how can I create a better all-around branded experience?”

Then he met Emily Weiss, the creator of the successful beauty-focused platform Into The Gloss, who was ready to take her digital platform into the retail world. Davis and Weiss joined forces, and just a few months later, Glossier was born. Now, as Glossier’s COO and president, Davis has helped the brand become one of the most recognizable millennial-focused beauty brands on the market.

For this week’s episode of the Glossy Podcast, Davis joined Glossy at Advertising Week for a live conversation. Below are excepts from the talk, edited for clarity.

Empowering the customer
“I think the fundamental premise behind our brand is that the customers own it as much as we do, and our audience and stakeholders really drive what we do. So we’ve built an entire culture around wanting to know, and understand, and engage with the people who ultimately buy our products and help us decide what to make and how to make it.”

Filtering through feedback
“The thing you can always ask people is what they don’t have: ‘What do you feel would make your life better that you don’t have?’ The answer doesn’t have to be directly correlated — it doesn’t have to be the answer that you go and make. We’re not a crowdsourced brand. We’re a company that internalizes what people are telling us, and we turn that into solutions, products and content that engage those people.”

The double-edged sword of social media
“Social media allowed people to cut the retailer out. If you’re a beauty brand, the best way to reach the nation was Sephora or Macy’s, or someone [else] that would help get your product in front of a lot of people. Social media meant you didn’t need the retailer to do that anymore; you could reach a huge number of people very quickly on your own. So people have actually leveraged social media for reach, but as things have evolved, and as direct-to-consumer is moving more in the direction we believe it should — which is about customer engagement — the limitations of those platforms are becoming more evident. Yes, they have a huge amount of reach, but they’re monolithic platforms that are designed to engage the customer in a certain behavior that isn’t always the right kind of behavior for the conversation you want to have.”

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