Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that Glossier last month received $25 million in a series c funding round. We regret the error.
LAS VEGAS — Customers don't just need to feel heard, retailers need to actually listen to what they're saying and promote information sharing — something the $4.3 billion beauty market has long neglected if you ask Emily Weiss.
The CEO of upstart beauty brand Glossier started her company three and half years ago from her popular product review blog Into the Gloss (which still exists today). In a keynote presentation at the Shoptalk conference on Tuesday, Weiss told attendees that the industry can no longer afford to shun social media and keep the power within brands.
She considers Glossier to be the first truly customer-centric brand, a claim that successful beauty retailers Ulta and Sephora would almost certainly contest. But Glossier does offer a different experience — one in which the brand lets shoppers evolve the brand narrative and purpose.
Weiss aims to take the brand out of the equation and instead let shoppers engage with each other on product recommendations, dislikes and overall makeup routines. Nearly 80% of customers are referred to the brand by a friend, Weiss said.
The beauty segment is growing at a rapid clip amid a particularly challenging time for many in the industry. Why? "When you feel excited about something — whether it's a person, a product, a destination or a restaurant — you want to share this feeling with others," Weiss said. "Beauty is an experience and people are obsessed with sharing experiences. And people are looking to other people and not experts when they're in the discovery phase of something."
"In the end you have to give your customers a voice, you have to truly listen to them and not just make them feel heard. You have to treat them with the respect that they deserve because after all in this world where there is no scarcity of choice, you have to give them a reason to keep choosing you."
That means brands have become somewhat irrelevant, and that's OK — so long as users are still talking up your brand for you. Just last month, the brand raked in $52 million in a series c funding round — bringing its total funding to $86 million — led by existing investors IVP and Index Ventures. Most of that new money will be funneled into improving the customer experience.
"What does customer experience mean beyond customer service that people have come to expect? Well, it's building the best place to visit, learn, engage and shop in the world online or off," Weiss said. "If you do it right, you'll fundamentally change what it means to be a customer-owned brand."
Glossier is clearly having a moment and it seems to be onto something. Last year, LinkedIn named it the fastest growing startup of 2017 among a list of private companies 10 years or younger with at least 100 employees; It recorded an annual employee growth rate for the company of 257%.
"Now we can connect you with even more members of our community and suddenly that non social network that is usually active in making purchasing decisions is quiet and the social part activated in a way that it's never been before when you are buying something on the internet," Weiss said. "This is the future for Glossier, it's what we are investing so heavily in and it's also the future for brands. Most importantly it's the future of the internet. Let's not forget that e-commerce is still in [its] early days."
Weiss touched on several topics that emerged as big trends during the show: a customer-centric attitude, community and most importantly an experience that differentiates from Amazon.
"In the age of Amazon, who has mastered offering a breadth of product, who has yet solved for a breadth of connection?" she said. "In the end you have to give your customers a voice, you have to truly listen to them and not just make them feel heard. You have to treat them with the respect that they deserve because after all in this world where there is no scarcity of choice, you have to give them a reason to keep choosing you."