When pharmaceutical company Allergan, the maker of Botox and Juvederm, decided to launch its first editorial content site, TheSpotlyte.com, in mid-September, the goal was to create a halo effect for readers interested in learning more about cosmetic beauty procedures and the medical-aesthetics industry at large.

For Spotlyte, its editorial content and easy digital access to licensed service providers are thought to be the next phase of the market, said Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, formerly of Gilt Groupe and Glamsquad, and now the svp of consumer strategy and innovation at Allergan. “There is still a stigma around these treatments and procedures, and we want to mainstream the conversation,” she said. “Spotlyte is all about information flow and access. Allergan is a market leader in non-cosmetic procedures, and it is our responsibility to educate customers about benefits and risks, and provide engaging content around these topics.”

It is Wilkis Wilson’s hope that Allergan’s editorial content efforts will help the medical-aesthetics market double in size over the next five years. This is over industry expectations: According to research firm Markets and Markets, the medical-aesthetics market is estimated to be worth more than $17 billion by 2023, from just over $10 billion in 2018 — that’s a compound annual growth rate of around 11 percent.

While Spotlyte, which produces around five stories a day, is indeed owned by Allergan, the site is brand agnostic and there’s no mention of Allergan products anywhere. The company would not share monthly unique visitors, but since Spotlyte’s mid-September launch, the site has experienced traffic growth at a rate of up to 20 percent week over week in six weeks. Top content performers have ranged within the beauty spectrum and are not solely medical-aesthetic in nature: A question-and-answer piece on wrinkle reducers was a top performer in September (Spotlyte would not share exact views), as were stories on men’s facial sunscreen and a profile of Wander Beauty co-founder Divya Gugnani.

That Spotlyte is integrating standard beauty product- and review-based editorial stories with more in-depth medical-aesthetics treatment reporting is in line with how the two areas are commingling. For instance, traditional cosmetic procedures like breast augmentation and tummy tucks are down in favor of non-invasive procedures, like the use of Botox (the reduction of facial wrinkles) and Juvaderm (filler enhancements). According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2017, there were more than 17.5 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic treatments performed in the U.S. alone, but the majority of growth came from non-surgical treatments, which outpaced traditional surgeries eight to one.

In addition to the stories, Spotlyte has enabled a chat functionality on the site for readers to ask custom questions to the brand’s team of aesthetic specialists. According to the company, the most researched topics of discussion among readers are finding a recommendation for a local licensed service provider (which Spotlyte enables — its database currently has over 13,000 listings, including plastic surgeons and dermatologists) and lip-procedure queries. Spotlyte reported that its chat team has resolved 89 percent of the questions asked since launch. The chat functionality has also helped Spotlyte’s editors tailor their content, according to the company.

The digital educational content-meets-provider opportunity Spotlyte has banked on is also becoming more important for community-based review website RealSelf.com, which launched in 2006 and is expanding via a $40 million funding boost from Elephant Venture Capital in April – its most recent investment was the company’s first round of financing since it raised $2 million in 2008.

In early 2019, RealSelf, which reported it had 94 million visitors to its site from 100 different countries last year (up 270 percent from 2013), will debut its editorial ambitions with a new in-house team under its marketing department. This is thanks to its new investment, and RealSelf founder and CEO Tom Seery said it was motivated by social listening. “Shopping for aesthetics is a lot like shopping for a mattress — all you care about is a good night’s rest, or in this case, you just want to look your best. You don’t really care about the 450 brands RealSelf may feature,” he said. “Our value will be that we can synthesize all of the information we have down, and make it clear what a procedure is and why it may be right for our reader.”

Currently, RealSelf has more than 250 employees at its Seattle headquarters and is in a hiring spree. Spotlyte, meanwhile has 25 plus employees across editorial, product, engineering and consumer experience, in addition to its network of freelance editorial contributors.

RealSelf reviews a host of cosmetic procedures but also reviews non-invasive treatments like the use of fillers and facial lasers, like Spotlyte. This category specifically is trending upward for RealSelf (non-surgical searches now account for 51 percent of queries). Interest in Botox is increasing the fastest among RealSelf’s 18- to 24-year-old user, said Seery. That demographic is currently about 17 percent of the company’s audience.

In advance of its editorial arm, RealSelf began testing a concierge service similar to Spotlyte’s chat in 2018, which will roll out officially next year. The tool, which Seery said will take a customer five minutes to use, will help consumers book personalized appointments within the company’s database of 20,000 practices and educate clients.

“Today, we have all been Uber-ized and Amazon-ed, and most doctors’ offices clock out at 5:00 p.m., so we will now be able to intervene for these practices and respond to thousands of inquiries,” he said. Early indicators are positive: 91 percent of RealSelf users using the service have said they are satisfied with results, the company reported. Seery expects north of 50 percent of the site’s inquiries to soon be handled by the new concierge service.

Though Spotlyte and RealSelf seem to be going head to head with their editorial content plans, both Wilkis Wilson and Seery don’t seem to be a in race to the finish just yet. As Wilkis Wilson said, “It doesn’t necessarily matter who gets there first, as long as all of us can benefit.”

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