In a saturated market rife with change, how can brands make meaningful and valuable connections with their customers?
The beauty and wellness industries have experienced an unprecedented level of turmoil in recent years. At the same time, they’ve seen brand and product launches daily, as well as trends that strike like lightning and fade from relevance just as fast. As a result, companies are reevaluating their marketing approach and prioritizing being proactive instead of reactive.
And this is just one layer of the industries’ transformation. What’s underneath is an emerging generation of consumers concerned with social equity, technology, and sustainability amid economic volatility. And the line between health, wellness and beauty becomes more tenuous as Gen Z overtakes consumer culture.
On November 14-16, Glossy’s Beauty x Wellness Summit gathered industry leaders to share their strategies for keeping customers interested in a dynamic marketing landscape. Speakers discussed how to create customer loyalty, save money, target the right audience and adapt to new retail space uses, among other timely topics. More specifically, they touched on three key points, when it comes to keeping up with evolving consumer expectations:
- Leveraging SMS marketing to curate personalized customer experiences.
- Optimizing influencer marketing programs with the latest industry insights.
- Creating value for the brand and the customer with an online returns process.
Here’s what these industry leaders had to say.
Leveraging SMS marketing for personalized experiences
Beauty company The Lip Bar creates vegan lipstick for every shopper, regardless of complexion. The company’s avp of marketing, Alexia Amerson Joyner, shared how The Lip Bar’s SMS-first approach has enabled it to make personalized recommendations through one-on-one conversations with customers. Eighteen months after The Lip Bar launched its SMS marketing strategy, its texts were generating 40% of its e-commerce revenue.
Here’s how The Lip Bar customizes content for each customer:
- The customer visits The Lip Bar’s website, where they encounter a signup pop-up.
- Before the company pushes messaging on the customer, it asks them to share a bit about themselves via a quiz. The quiz includes questions about skin tone, makeup routine and complexion.
- The Lip Bar uses that information to tailor the messaging to that customer across all channels, including SMS. These messages reflect the customer’s skin tone and a routine that fits the customer’s beauty experience.
Q&A with Alexia Amerson Joyner, AVP of marketing at The Lip Bar
Why did The Lip Bar decide to launch SMS? And has the channel become more critical in the changing market environment?
“Our team went into it without any expectations and just tried to find what was next for our brand. [SMS] allows us to have an intimate relationship with our consumers. Her inbox is probably one of the most sacred places. She’s having conversations with her family. She’s having conversations with her friends. She’s telling people she’s working a few minutes late. So for her to invite us into such a sacred part of her life … means a lot to us, and we don’t take it lightly. It allows us to also bridge that omnichannel experience for our consumers.”
How have you leveraged SMS segmentation and personalization tools, and how has this evolved?
“When we first got started with SMS, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We were pushing communication to our full list, and we were seeing some great gains with that. But we started to ask ourselves, ‘What’s next? How can we curate this experience?’ If we’re saying that we’re building an inclusive brand and have personalized makeup options for every complexion, sending communication to the full list is backward.
So we’ve been able to look at the analytics showing how our consumers respond and sign up for [SMS], how they’re going to our site, and what their purchase behavior is. And from there, we can send out different messaging and imagery that fits her journey.”
The Lip Bar has a loyal social following and a distinct brand voice that’s evident on your website. How have you transferred that to SMS?
“Our consumers are booked and busy. She’s dynamic. She’s a mom. She’s a travel nurse. She’s on the go. She’s a boss lady. She doesn’t have time for a 20- to 30-minute makeup routine. So our team started developing an internal language. We talk to our consumers in a way that feels like we’re their friend. We don’t like to come off as being prescribed. We don’t want to come off as every other brand. It’s just about resonating with that consumer and the way she’s talking to her friends.”
Establishing authentic engagement with influencer marketing
The rise of influencers has fundamentally shifted how consumers make choices. That’s especially true of TikTok influencers and the beauty community. Younger generations are looking for authentic brand experiences from faces they trust. Considering Gen Z’s diversity, brands leverage Gen-Z influencers and their niche audiences to promote inclusive, unique and even educational content.
For its part, Sephora has the Sephora Squad, a year-long program centered on a curated group of influencers that launched in 2019. Below, Brent Mitchell, Sephora’s vp of marketing, social and influencer relations breaks down how the Squad works to drive the concept of accessible beauty.
Q&A with Mitchell and Olympic sprinter and Sephora Squad member Kendall Ellis
Tell us about this year’s Sephora Squad.
Mitchell: “We’ve done a lot of work to move beyond just [working with] the traditional beauty influencer or someone who started as a makeup artist. We’re tapping into all kinds of beauty influencers. Professionals, such as estheticians, are part of the Squad now. We also have gamers on Twitch, and we even have our first Olympic gold medalists in the Squad.”
Kendall, why did you decide to join the Sephora Squad?
Ellis: “I was looking for ways to branch out beyond athletics. Beauty-and-wellness is a great intersection that plays a big role in sports, as well. … When I go to competitions, I see women with their nails done, their hair beautifully done, their skin care and their makeup. It’s not just going out to a competition and competing. You see them looking great while doing so. So I thought, ‘There’s an opportunity for me to present new products and present new techniques to a community that is already using them.’ And because my niche is primarily athletics and sports, Sephora is reaching a new group of people [via my] platform.”
Brent, talk about the importance of reaching new audiences.
Mitchell: “Our primary goal right now is to ensure anyone who walks into our store or comes to our website feels that Sephora is a brand for someone like them. So we must ensure we are doing things that make this true. It’s just good business. At the end of the day, all of us are trying to reach Gen Z authentically. They’re more diverse, just by nature. They’re coming in with much more diverse mindsets.”
How does the Squad fit into Sephora’s overall influencer marketing strategy?
Mitchell: “It’s not this separate thing where we’re trying to reach the cool kids with an influencer program. We make sure it’s complementary. In terms of our influencer marketing, the Squad is the vast majority of it. We do have other seasonal or campaign-specific initiatives, but over 90% of our influencer activations are through the Squad.
We value those long-term relationships. There is so much education that goes into the Squad program. The members themselves are so great at developing that authentic relationship with their followers. And their followers tend to skew a little younger and more BIPOC.
And this is something where we always looked beyond the immediate sale. It was never intended as an affiliate program. But even more so today than ever, we recognize it as a top-of-funnel education opportunity for people to learn more about Sephora products before they go into the store or to the website.”
Industry insights for optimizing influencer marketing
Influencer marketing has become an indispensable source of e-commerce sales, but many brands need help creating balanced campaigns that convert. MagicLinks vp of strategic partnerships Jennifer Piña talked about getting access to the key insights brands need to launch and sustain a successful influencer marketing program.
MagicLinks took a deep dive into key industry trends and insights gathered from over 1,000 beauty brands and 25,000 influencers. The result was a brand guide to launching, scaling and optimizing an influencer marketing program. Some of the key findings are below.
- Don’t forget about micro-influencers. The total revenue driven by this group of influencers has been on a steady incline over the past five years.
- It’s time to look into different methods of paying influencers. Consider affiliate links. Pre-Covid, mega-influencers looked to sponsorship dollars to drive their businesses. Post-Covid, they’ve used affiliate links or performance mechanisms to drive their businesses.
- Working with a diverse group of influencers will benefit a brand. Influencer marketing trends can change at any moment.
- Consider specific metrics when paying influencers. Is it a large lump sum, or is it performance-based? Develop key performance indicators with influencers and ensure they adhere to them.
Creating value with online returns processes
The post-purchase customer experience can turn customers into loyal followers or torch a brand’s retention rate. An important part of that experience is returns, now a hugely important aspect of the overall shopping experience. Today, returns are more frequent and expensive than ever, which poses both a challenge and an opportunity for companies.
As consumer behavior around online shopping and returns continues to shift, more brands are learning how online returns can drive consumer loyalty, save money and boost sustainability. Happy Returns senior director of growth Andrew Pease discussed how to create value through the online returns process. He started by lamenting the current state of returns.
“It’s completely broken. Most shoppers are sitting there with giant boxes, waiting at the post office. They don’t have a printer. They will work to get to Kinko’s or wherever to get things done. They are waiting in lines. They’re not happy. The merchants then get the after effect: a massive deluge of poorly wrapped, individually boxed items, sometimes not knowing what’s in that box, at peak times like during the holidays.”
And let’s not forget the impact on the environment. The sheer amount of waste these individually wrapped packages produce is astonishing. That’s not to mention the CO2 output from the required transportation. The environmental cost of returns equated to $761 billion in 2021.
So how can brands flip the script to make the returns process better for shoppers, merchants and the planet? For shoppers, that means providing a frictionless experience. For merchants, it means ensuring lower costs and higher efficiency. For the planet, it means doing away with excess cardboard and emissions from transportation. Happy Returns is among companies offering solutions including drop-off locations and aggregated shipping.
Prioritizing education and personalization
Lack of accessibility and personalization can be major roadblocks for brands, in their aim to connect with consumers. Younger generations are increasingly overwhelmed by a wealth of choices, especially in the skin-care category. With new products and brands coming out every day, younger generations need something to connect with that breaks through the clutter.
According to Allison Roethke, head of consumer engagement at Neutrogena, the key is providing education. She shared that many consumers aren’t satisfied or don’t feel they have the information they need to make an informed purchase decision. McKinsey data indicates that more than 59% of BIPOC Americans feel beauty and wellness content is geared toward white skin, and 57% feel they don’t have access to the content they need to determine what products work for their skin tone.
Bailey Busch, director of client experience at Cordial, stressed the importance of taking a personalized approach to messaging. He shared that 81% of consumers agree that they’re more likely to buy from stores and brands that communicate in personal and relevant ways.
Top takeaways from these speakers
Rethink how you educate consumers.
Make brand information inclusive and accessible. Brands can do this by leveraging the power of community by listening to their consumers and connecting them with the resources they need to make healthy choices for their skin.
Focus on cohesive messaging across communications.
As brands today send customers emails, push notifications and SMS, ensuring they work together to personalize the customer experience is important. For example, contacting a consumer about a welcome coupon on multiple platforms creates confusion. Keeping data and messaging in one place to track communication will prove beneficial.
Strategize around marketing channels’ strengths.
SMS messages can serve as effective customer reminders. It’s more urgent and personal than an email.
Where is the industry headed?
Above all, it’s time to create a proactive rather than reactive marketing strategy.
Glossy Beauty & Wellness Summit speakers shared insights on customizing the customer experience, taking advantage of emerging methods of communication, including SMS, and creating effective influencer marketing programs.
They also discussed the challenge of connecting to an increasingly dynamic and diverse community. The consumer demographic has shifted heavily in favor of a young generation with strong values and high expectations around brand transparency. And the need for personalized communication, whether through messaging, education or select channels, is at a high.