On day one of the Glossy Beauty and Wellness Summit, taking place this week in Santa Barbara, beauty executives met for a town hall-style discussion on the biggest challenges they’re facing. All talk turned to three topics: TikTok Shop, beneficial brand partnerships and evolving retailer relationships. Below are the highlights from the session, lightly edited for clarity.
Taking advantage of TikTok Shop
Danessa Myricks Beauty recently launched on TikTok Shop and experienced immediate sales traction. The brand is supporting the debut through paid ads and organic posts. The brand, which has over 200,000 TikTok followers, benefits from this large audience and its TikTok viral Blurring Balm Powder.
Meanwhile, a common issue cited by other brands interested in leveraging TikTok Shop was the long wait times to launch a Shop — several said they’re awaiting approval from the platform. Meanwhile, other brand execs said they’d found that TikTok’s algorithm was inaccurately categorizing their brands and products, which impacted performance. Finally, others called out the issue that TikTok is unable to tag all affiliate partner content with shoppable links.
One method for successfully navigating TikTok Shop is to contract it out to vendor partners, according to an executive from Skindinavia, which makes primer and makeup finishing sprays. The brand works with an L.A.-based company that has experience with TikTok in the Chinese market. As such, Skindinavia is able to see the data and analytics that the company has acquired over its years of experience to manage creator partnerships for TikTok Shop.
Cultural relevance vs. cultural equity, via partnerships
Partnerships and collaborations can be a source of strength, revenue or cultural equity. But as the duration and long-term impact of partnerships can vary, it can be nearly impossible to predetermine their value.
One successful retail-style partnership mentioned in the discussion was The Conscious Beauty Collective, made up of indie brands including Adoratherapy, Auve Beauty, Beautyologie and Empress Naturals. Approximately 30 brands are featured within pop-up-style retail stores. So far, they’ve taken place in San Francisco, Boston and Rancho Cucamonga, California. One is currently running in Palm Springs, until April 2024. Lynn Power, founder of Masami Hair Care and CBC, created the roaming indie retailer after realizing that small brands like hers could join forces and act stronger together. In addition to being an avenue for retail sales and cross-promotions across social, it’s also a way to meet other founders to network and share resources.
“CBC has been life-changing. I’m [a] tiny [brand]; I don’t have investors, I’m self-funded. By [working together], we can start to make a dent and compete with bigger brands,” she said. “If you aren’t leveraging partnerships, you’re missing the boat.”
Meanwhile, partnerships and collaborations outside of beauty can also be valuable because a brand can reach another audience and convert them into customers. Plenty of brands, like E.l.f Cosmetics and Summer Fridays, have been particularly effective at leveraging non-beauty partnerships. There is also something to be said about finding cultural relevance through partnerships, or building cultural relevance. In essence, cultural relevance is about keeping up with the pace of culture through partnerships, while building cultural equity is about leading the conversation. A NYX Cosmetics attendee stressed that cultural relevance only gets a brand so far, while an Urban Decay attendee stated that collaborations and partnerships are “absolutely crucial” to having a strong presence within your own community.
Overheard: Brands weighed in on finding success via retail shelves
What executives said about the state of their retail relationships, in their own words.
“We’re omnichannel, and we sell at Amazon. We don’t care where the person buys us as long as they’re buying us. … We’ve been at Whole Foods for about a year now, and we’ve seen our Amazon sales increase and our website sales increase. Our website sales actually increase when we’re on promo at Whole Foods — like if we’re on an end cap [being promoted]. … We did see a decrease in subscriptions when we went into Whole Foods because our buyers started buying us in stores. But overall for the brand, and as it’s evened out over the year, it’s been an overall lift across all the different channels.”
“Traditional retail these days holds you to a certain sampling accountability and [investments in] paid media pointed toward them.”
“We’re negotiating an exclusive [with a retailer] right now. They’re saying they’ll commit marketing dollars if we give them the exclusive, but I don’t believe them. They’re not known for helping emerging brands.”
“Four different retailers want to sell us exclusively, and they’re promising a lot. But if I say yes to one, then I lose the other three.”
“Whole Foods won’t market for you. Don’t expect to go into Whole Foods and see them selling it for you. I’m so glad we waited three years to go into retail distribution, for a ton of different reasons. For one, we established demand for our products before we got onto the shelf. You don’t establish demand for a product by being in a store. … But then there are certain things you can do through the stores. With Whole Foods, we can use the fact that we’re in Whole Foods in some of our online advertising — and it’s a trust symbol. It’s social proof, and it helps our campaigns to work better because of that validation. When you have the ability to sell both DTC and at retail, there’s so much opportunity for overlap. Everything builds upon each other.”
“Nordstrom thinks they’re better than Target, but that’s not true, unfortunately for them. It’s the same shopper. Selling at Target is not going to tarnish your brand. Selling Goop at Target is only printing money for Gwyneth Paltrow.”
“Retail buyers are caring less about profitability per square foot and more about gaining net new shoppers.”
“When you send all your traffic to a retailer because you want to stay there and be successful, your own direct-to-consumer sales are going to suffer.”
“You’re going to end up on Amazon, regardless.”
“To get the attention of a buyer, you want to have a product that’s not like anyone else’s or have a product with a point of view, and a product that customers want. If you can show them you have the customers and that you’re different than anything else on their shelf, they’re going to want you.”
With additional reporting by Jill Manoff.