InStyle has been announcing its annual “Best Beauty Buys” list since 1995, but its potential has increased for the publication in recent years as both beauty and e-commerce have boomed.
Similar to Allure’s famous “Best of Beauty” awards, the annual list (debuting on Thursday as part of its May 2018 issue) spotlights the top beauty products in 16 different categories that have been voted on by roughly 100 industry experts: dermatologists, hair stylists, makeup artists and manicurists. This year’s voters — who write-in all of their selects on a mailed-out survey — included makeup artist Brett Freedman, dermatologist Joshua Zeichner and the manicurist Trish Lomax.
Today, it’s not just a key tentpole of the brand, but it’s an important moneymaker, too: Sales from the franchise increased by 350 percent between 2016 and 2017, and are expected to eclipse that number this year. InStyle would not give overall sales numbers but noted that it works with a variety of retailers and affiliate networks on a paid performance basis (relying on both cost-per-action and cost-per-click).
InStyle’s May 2018 issue, which features its “Best Beauty Buys” franchise
Recurring categories include Foundation and Cover-Up, Anti-Aging and Hair Stylers, while a new category — Rookie Wins — highlights products that are brand new and, in the words of InStyle beauty director Angelique Serrano, “more dynamic” or, perhaps, more difficult to categorize. Winners in that category, for example, include Fenty Beauty’s Match Stix Shimmer Skinsticks and Living Proof’s PhD In-Shower Styler.
“We’re trying to bring some newness into the franchise,” said Serrano, adding that there are also editor’s picks sprinkled throughout the magazine spread and on InStyle.com, where, as of last year, the franchise now has its own landing page.
The InStyle team has also made an effort to promote it more on social media. This year, four videos have been created for platforms like Instagram and Facebook, alongside two longer videos that will be teased on social and shared in their entirety on the site. The social videos are driven by the sensory marketing tactic ASMR and focus on visual treatments like product swatching and crushing. The longer videos are more service-oriented, like one that showcases an editor shopping for all the “Best Beauty Buys” that are available at the drugstore.
The content push was a strategic move to extend the life of the list, according to Leslie Price, InStyle’s digital director.
The “Rookie Wins” category spread from InStyle’s “Best Beauty Buys” franchise
“The interest in beauty is at an all-time high, and we’ve seen a huge increase in readers shopping the category,” she said, noting that eyelash serums, lipstick and luxury skincare are all very popular right now. “The franchise feels more important and weighty.”
At a time when the future of print media is on shaky ground, and the advertising money it once relied on less certain, this emphasis on beauty-driven e-commerce is well-timed.
Looking forward, InStyle is exploring similar franchises for fashion, although the team is not yet convinced that they would be as successful as beauty.
“I think the trust factor involved in ‘Beauty Buys’ is a huge driver [of success],” said Serrano. “Readers want to be sure a product works and that it’s something several experts have verified.”
Translating that to clothing, which is based less on efficacy, might be a challenge.