More and more online retailers and especially digital-first brands use social networks like Instagram not just for promoting stuff but as a core part of their business.
The founders of Glossier and Outdoor Voices, Emily Weiss and Tyler Haney, respectively, spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York today about how they’re taking a bite out of the massive beauty and apparel industries. Key to both startups’ success? A digital-first, and friendly, approach to everything from sales to product development.
On Glossier’s part, appealing to millennials meant launching the brand on an Instagram account in 2014, not with a formal website or e-commerce app. As the company grows its brand and product assortment, that also means taking in thousands of customer and follower recommendations before developing new cosmetics or skin care items.
Social media activity here merges the activities of an online retailer or brand manufacturer with the usual activities of a media entity:
[Emily Weiss] also pointed out that Glossier’s social accounts feature customers who talk or write about their full beauty routine, including products that aren’t made by Glossier. “Traditional beauty companies had been reluctant to acknowledge that customers shop across different brands.
This makes sense once you start looking at the interaction from the customers’ point of view. (The more value the customers get out of it, the more popular the account can get. Interactions drive ranking in today’s feeds from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter. More engagement makes an account more visible.) This makes also perfect sense when combined with the super-focussed product portfolio at Glossier:
Glossier also keeps its catalog pared down, with about 20 products available at a time, each meant to be “modern essentials that are universally flattering.”
Outdoor Voices similarly keeps its catalog pared down to certain “Kits” with items recommended for different activities. The company also reverses course for marketing its athletic wear. Tyler Haney said she views her brand as “a best friend” to people who enjoy movement for recreation and not for competition.
Both brands are expanding their brick-and-mortar operations in the U.S, but the real story here is in how they approach the customer experience in today’s online world. Fortune on both companies’ store strategies:
Outdoor Voices’ stores “are not about revenue but about community — giving the customer a hook into the O.V. community” Haney said on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York on Monday. Same goes for Glossier’s “beauty showrooms,” according to Weiss. “While the sales are through the roof and defy all odds, what’s more interesting are the girls who come once a week because they want to feel the energy in the room, and I can’t say that about large beauty retailers,” she says.
When you look at the social media approach, the product portfolio, and the brick-and-mortar approach together (and at both companies) a pattern emerges.
It should not come as a surprise that both companies share an investor in Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green.
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