How indie brands are using pre-orders and waitlists for market research

This year, pre-orders and waitlists are having a moment, with an influx of attention-grabbing headlines declaring that thousands of people have signed up to purchase a product, whether it be cars, a fashion style or a beauty product.

And while pre-orders and waitlists have earned scrutiny for being a gimmicky viral marketing strategy to stoke interest, they provide other opportunities that exist for indie beauty brands. Skin-care brand Oille has used pre-orders as a means to hone its customer communication strategy, and tweezer brand LaTweeze has used them to inform its digital advertising. Meanwhile, wax brand Waksé has used them to uncover its opportunities for wholesale.

“From a brands perspective, understanding what motivates a buyer to make a purchase varies from product to product,” said Kirsten King, founder of 1-year-old Oille. “Pre-order is a helpful tool toward gathering valuable information and understanding what motivates them. From a consumers’ perspective, pre-orders allow ample time to fully understand the product’s benefits before investing in [a] product.”

Oille, which is sold through its own e-commerce site as well as a handful of independent beauty shops across the U.S., first offered pre-ordering in June for its new cleansing balm for three weeks. The brand messaged customers about the product, focusing on the texture and performance, through email. Although King declined to specify the number of customers targeted or the email click-through rate, she said the response was lackluster even after two email attempts. Because of this, the brand sent another pre-order email around the education of the product’s essential oil ingredients, turmeric and lemon balm, which performed better, said King. Customers were more interested as they were previously less informed about those ingredients.

“Pre-orders are a valuable asset to gathering information. By gauging a consumer’s response to segmented brand messages, we are able to track which focus resonated with the consumer,” she said.

For LaTweeze, a 15-year-old brand behind a pair of ombre tweezers that generated a 150,000-person waitlist in August, pre-orders have been useful not only as a viral marketing and sales tactic but also in finding where new pockets of customers are coming from. The brand has used this information to improve its ad targeting on Facebook and Instagram prior to launches. For Waksé, the brand’s wax launch was announced on Instagram and on its homepage this spring, informing people that the product would ship in October. It ultimately garnered over 8,000 pre-orders and is on track to surpass $1 million in revenue during its first year on the market, according to Andrew Glass, global brand manager for LaTweeze and co-founder of Waksé.

“[Pre-orders] have helped us be more proactive, and now we plan longer pre-launches,” said Glass. By offering pre-orders without stocking extensive inventory, he was able to not only see the consumer appetite for the brand but also discover that the professional market was a lucrative opportunity.

After seeing orders from aestheticians and spas, in addition to written customer queries asking about wholesale, Waksé has developed a section of its website for professionals-only where members can purchase a five-pound jar of wax product. So far, there are 400 professionals who have signed up on the website, allowing Waksé to collect their information and reach them more directly in the future,” Glass said. The brand is now pursuing how to build up this side of the business and has hired an account manager to handle this.

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