The face of the beauty industry is changing almost as quickly as the technology that’s democratized it.
In arguably one of the most saturated consumer markets, it can be hard to stand out and cultivate genuine connections with people. Because that’s what people want: authenticity.
Today, 90 percent of Millennials say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.
So how can beauty brands spark real conversations, form active communities and ultimately create authentic connections and experiences for consumers? Here are 5 ways brands are breaking through and building more than just buzz:
1. Personalize More Than Your Products
Beauty is personal. Like clothing, it’s a way for people to express themselves. Since no two people are the same, we shouldn’t expect their beauty routines or purchasing habits to fall into the same perfectly-defined buckets.
While there are now countless brands that offer customizable beauty products — from custom blend foundations to curated subscription boxes — few have successfully expanded personalization beyond their products to create truly individualized brand experiences.
L’Oréal recently launched its Style My Hair app, leveraging 3D augmented reality (AR) technology to give users a chance to virtually experiment with new hair colors and styles.
Turning people’s phones into an interactive makeover tool, L’Oréal’s app helps users create and capture their ideal look, then uses geolocation data to seamlessly connect them with salons and stylists in their area. Through the app, users can share the custom looks they’ve created with their chosen stylist, providing a highly personalized and rich customer experience that is completely tailored to them.
2. Treat Everyday Customers Like Influencers
Although social media influencers have become a standard part of beauty marketing strategies — helping to grow awareness and spark social engagement — the more followers they have, the less authentic they often appear to skeptical Millennial and Gen Z consumers.
As Bethany Johnson, Director of Digital Content and Commerce for L’Oréal’s Professional Products Division, put it at a recent Glossy beauty forum, “Influencers are really becoming celebrities and the more they become celebrities, the less authentic they are going to be.”
And less authentic, means less influential. In fact, 60 percent of consumers say content from friends or family influence their purchasing decisions, while only 23 percent say content from celebrities and influencers are influential.
Since real customer content is what consumers turn to and trust most, why not give your customers the spotlight they deserve?
Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics has built their brand around a commitment to authenticity and customer loyalty. Notorious for not spending a dime on advertising, Lush focuses on turning their customers into brand advocates — encouraging them to share their Lush experiences. Whether it’s highlighting their product reviews or showcasing user-generated images in creative ways on their site, Lush treats every customer like a brand influencer.
“We really want the person getting engaged with our brand or sharing content about our brand to share how they truly feel, what their real experience was, and to share something that’s really authentic about how they’ve interacted with the brand – as opposed to (Lush) paying for something and then maybe not necessarily getting a truly authentic response,” said Natasha Ritz, Brand Communications Manager at Lush Cosmetics for Australia and New Zealand.
By rousing and rallying their customers around their products, Lush has continued to grow organically for 20+ years.
3. Ask Them What They Want
Who knows what your customers want more than they do? In addition to tracking customer data and consumer trends, your customers can be your best focus groups and sounding boards — all you have to do is ask. You may be surprised at how willing they’ll be to provide thoughtful suggestions and instructive feedback.
Born out of the blogosphere, Glossier has led the way in creating products with their customers, not just for them.
The first sentence of Glossier’s about page reads: “You have now entered a people-powered beauty ecosystem.” This is not hyperbole.
As Glossier founder Emily Weiss explains, “In our product development cycle, we ask and listen to our customer about what she wants.” They actively seek customer input and have even established a Slack group to open constant lines of communication with a few hundred of their top customers.
This personal partnership with their customer has led to the development of some of their top-selling products. Power to the people!
4. Create Opportunities for Face to Face Interactions
Even though we now live in a digital world, nothing beats facetime with your customers.
Not only do in-person interactions create deeper and longer-lasting impressions, but they also present an opportunity for people to actually try out your products. As we all know, there is no substitute for being able to physically see, touch, smell and test a beauty product for yourself.
Whether you host an event, open a pop-up store or start a beauty clinic, finding ways to directly communicate and connect with your customers can go a long way towards building trust and cultivating a community around your brand.
Because beauty and skincare brand, Arbonne, sells their products through a large network of independent consultants, each seller has to establish their own community of customers. To build awareness and grow strong 1:1 relationships with consumers, they often host makeup clinics and ‘pamper parties’, creating a social environment where people can learn about and trial their products while enjoying a glass (or two) of wine with friends.
5. Embrace Causes Your Customers Care About
In their search for authenticity and transparency, today’s consumers tend to weigh not only what brands put into their products but also what they give back to society.
To get closer to their diverse audiences, many brands have invested in the common causes their customers care about — broadening their brand mission and effectively strengthening their bond with customers.
Although many brands are known for their philanthropic focus — Lush, Burt’s Bees, Make, Orglamix, etc. — Thrive Causemetics stands out as a brand that’s gone above and beyond to tie their cosmetics to a cause (the hint’s in the name).
Espousing a ‘beauty with purpose’ ethos, for every product customers purchase, Thrive Causemetics donates a product to a woman battling cancer.
Their mission was inspired by the loss of founder Karissa Bodnar’s friend to cancer at just 24 years old.
“Looking better helps [women] feel better, because [they are] able to rein confidence that may have been lost during their chemo treatments,” Karissa said.
It can be challenging to stand out and stay relevant in the crowded beauty landscape, but the brands that breakthrough are the ones that understand, empower and engage people in authentic and creative ways.