As the beauty conference space becomes more crowded, subscription service Ipsy is revamping its event strategy.
Rather than relying on its original, large-scale Gen Beauty events that drew between 5,000 and 7,000 people, and were largely held in major metro cities (in 2018, they included Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco), Ipsy will be hosting smaller activations in 2019 in new locations. More intimate in nature, Ipsy’s new event structure will up its cadence from three events a year to at least seven and will introduce new cities more centrally located, like Austin, Chicago and Miami.
“Events have been a big part of the Ipsy experience since 2013, because we think of ourselves as a community brand, but we wanted to innovate and rethink what is relevant for today,” said Jennifer Goldfarb, Ipsy’s co-founder and executive chairwoman, who said the new cities were part of serving a more diverse customer.
Ipsy’s new strategy comes on the heels of QVC recently announcing its own large-format beauty festival dubbed Beauty Bash, set to be held in Philadelphia in June, and is expected to draw 6,500 attendees. Also, BeautyCon introduced its rotating Pop series in November 2018, which fuels its first online retail store. Sephora, too, recently made its own foray into the beauty event fray with Sephoria in October 2018.
For Ipsy, which was rumored to be exploring an IPO or a sale of $2 billion, the events themselves will be broken down by three new formats: Destination: Ipsy, a mobile experience series; Ipsy Live, a refresh of the Gen Beauty event; and Creator Day, a one-day event for up-and-coming creators to meet, collaborate and be educated by Ipsy’s team. Ipsy would not detail the percentage of business that events do for the company versus its subscription box model or its e-commerce site Shopper.
Aside from the the smaller-scale reformatting, Ipsy’s biggest change to its events is that it is bringing its subscription Glam Bags (makeup bags that include five beauty products tailored to one’s Ipsy profile) to its events. Ipsy’s subscribers pay $10 a month for its signature Glam Bag or $110 for an annual membership.
At Ipsy’s Austin experiment at SXSW earlier this month, attendees could choose product from 30 brands, like skin-care companies Youth To The People and First Aid Beauty, as well as hair-care brand Verb. The point was to remind attendees participating in the activation of the company’s subscription service. Three thousand attendees were present across the three-day activation, said Ipsy’s director of events, Neika Colbourne. Destination: Ipsy was open to Ipsy’s 3 million-plus members, as well as non-members for free. According to Colbourne, 100 percent of attendees at its SXSW event engaged with the real-life Glam Bag experience.
“What we are trying to do here is mirror and complement what is working for us online, and that is our monthly personalization cycle,” explained Goldfarb. “We’re re-imagining what getting product looks like at events and what attendees actually want.”
Colbourne added the experience allowed attendees to feel more personally seen at the event. “We’re moving away from the trade-show idea and offering deeper experiences,” she said.
In addition to the Glam Bag activation, Goldfarb said that at SXSW, participants had the chance to speak to brand founders and engage in beauty experiences, like a braid bar by Eva NYC. This will also be played forward beyond Destination: Ipsy at the three-day Ipsy Live experience in New York in October. Colbourne expects to see 1,500 to 1,700 participants daily, and tickets will be sold by day, for eight-hour time slots versus the whole three-day time period like in the past. Ticket prices have not yet been determined.
Though 45 to 50 brands will be present at Ipsy Live, (companies featured in Ipsy’s Glam Bags have the opportunity to activate at the event), each participant will also incorporate services or tutorials in their activation to make the experience more interactive, said Colbourne. “We don’t want everything to feel like a photo-op, and we want people to have the opportunity to spend more time each day and engage,” she said.
“Having a beauty event just because everyone else is is not a strategy,” said Goldfarb. “We think intimacy will win over scale.”
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