Why Beauty Brands Should Care About Building a Community

Customers want to be seen as valuable members of a community, not mere sales statistics

After diving deep into the beauty industry by working at Teen Vogue and Conde Nast, Emily Weiss gave a step aside to create her own beauty online site Into the Gloss. Little did she know that what started as a beauty inspiration and review-sharing platform would be the base for what is now the billion-dollar company Glossier. At Glossier, trending beauty companies show that communities mean everything for success. While it is increasingly easier to create makeup and skincare copy-cats, what cannot be copied are brand communities: groups of loyal consumers who identify with a brand and use the brand as a platform to create content, share ideas and build networks.

Brand communities are essential to promoting word-of-mouth recommendations, reducing marketing costs and yielding more invested customers than the ones you could get through advertisement campaigns. According to a 2019 study on purchasing behavior, consumers are more likely to buy products recommended by individuals with whom they have strong ties. Based on this principle, if dependable customers recommend products to their close friends and these new customers, in turn, recommend the brand to their strong ties, the result is a loyal brand community.

However, increasing the size of the brand community is not the only step to success. Companies must cement these groups through thoughtful online and offline engagement. Let’s take the example of Glossier. Into the Gloss started in 2010 as a how-to editorial and informational site for all things beauty. As lots of meaningful content and support built around this platform, creator Emily Weiss decided to take the blog a step further and launch a four-product collection in 2014: a cleanser, priming moisturizer, lip balm and a misting spray. The blog readers’ personal investment in Into the Gloss translated to sales and was the foundation for Glossier’s success.

As a digital-native company, Glossier is a front-runner in beauty online content creation and engagement. Its Facebook page, Youtube channel, Instagram account and Pinterest boards have over 3 million followers combined, and you still have to add the thousands of Into the Gloss followers to that number. Beyond featuring a perfectly curated pastel-pink-and-white Instagram feed, Glossier uses social media to have meaningful conversations with customers. Whether that means promptly answering their questions about a recent purchase or listening to their suggestions for future products, the brand focuses on keeping a customer-oriented business approach. As said by Henry Davis, CFO of Glossier, in an interview with Forbes: “The main thing Glossier stands for is the power of the individual to choose their own style, to make connections with other people, to ask questions, to understand better the things that they may want.”

Glossier understands that significant online interactions must go hand-in-hand with offline engagement. From their retail stores in Soho and L.A. to pop-up shops across the country and abroad, Glossier proves the importance of in-person events and physical spaces where like-minded customers can meet and share their passion for the brand. Glossier’s month-long takeover of a San Francisco cafe was an opportunity to engage with their large fan base in the city and to connect with them through something they love: food. The brand’s pop-up shop in London combined Britain’s social club aesthetic with Glossier’s pastel palette, providing a one-of-a-kind experience to customers in their second-largest market after the U.S. Both events yield hundreds of visitors that then shared their experiences on social media, adding to the brand’s online presence and customer-centered reputation. These are just two examples of many that prove offline interactions should be a key part of brand communities.

Another beauty brand that puts its brand community first is Volition, a beauty startup that relies on customers’ ideas and votes to launch new products. Venture capitalist Patricia Santos and beauty executive Brandy Hoffman created Volition after seeing that millennial customers wanted to get involved in their favorite brands’ product creation but there wast not a space for that. Volition turned this wish into a reality through a simple process. The brand asks customers, also called “innovators,” to submit pitches for new products. Then, depending on the originality and feasibility of the products, Volition chooses some ideas and puts them up for voting. If the product receives a specific amount of votes, it then gets turned into reality and becomes available for purchase. Finally, the innovator gets paid a percentage of the product’s revenue based on how elaborate the pitch was and whether some proceeds are going to a charity. Through this crowd-sourced approach, the brand achieves two things: higher product success rate as customers are creating the products they want to buy and innovation advantage over its competitors as they get an ever-growing flow of ideas for unique products.

After the innovator-designed product is released, Volition uses its social media to tell the stories behind the products, often accompanied by photos of the creators. Some of the highlight products include brow replacements ideated by innovator Deanna P. who lost her brows as a side effect of fighting against cancer and screen time hydrating mist created by innovator Tezza who wanted to protect her skin from blue light while actively working in front of a computer. By featuring the stories and faces behind the products, Volition shows their customers that they are the brand’s priority and promotes meaningful conversations between customers that have the same needs as the innovators.

When talking about community-inspired and online-thriving brands, we must mention Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. After years of an eminent career as a music, fashion and beauty icon, Rihanna saw that there were not enough makeup products that performed well on all skin types and tones, so she created her own. With 50 shades of Pro Filt’r Foundation, Fenty is all about personalization and inclusivity: making customers feel represented is what matters. Beyond its wide range of foundation tones, Fenty tries to promote inclusivity and belonging through its online presence. Every month, the brand features real customers on social media and their website in the section “You Did That.” Perks of becoming the “You Did That” client of the month include free Fenty goodies, a dedicated email feature, a dedicated feature on Fenty’s website and a chance to take over the Instagram stories of the brand’s 9.8-million-followers account. In their features, customers get to share their stories, who they are and why they love Fenty, which makes it easier for other customers to relate to them and to build a sense of community.

All these brands share similar traits that have contributed to their success, such as product co-creation with customers and meaningful online and offline engagement with followers. By welcoming their clients’ ideas, these brands make sure that they are creating the products their communities need and want. Glossier listens to customers’ reviews and takes their online engagement to real life. Likewise, Volition asks for clients’ ideas on what products should be released next and presents the story and the face behind each product to show each product was created with the clients in mind. Meanwhile, Fenty listens to underserved customers to fill the voids in the makeup industry designing products that cater to them. Leading beauty companies have realized the power of communities and are using them to revolutionize the beauty industry. In the future, we should expect more brand communities that will uplift and support loyal customers.

bilingual freelance journalist | tw/ig: @alejandrareval_ | alejandra-arevalo.com

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