The story of the Glossier brand is pretty impressive. In 2010, Emily Weiss started the makeup and skincare blog “Into the Gloss” (ITG) in her own free time, while she was working at Vogue. She worked on it every day between 4.00 and 8.00, after which she fully focused on her paying job as an editorial assistant. As the platform grew, she left Vogue in 2013 to focus on creating a curated e-commerce platform for ‘Into the Gloss’.
So when Weiss founded direct-to-consumer makeup and skincare brand Glossier, it already had a cult-like following from her blog. Within 6 weeks of the launch of the company’s first four products, Glossier had $8.4 million in Series A funding. And in 10 years’ time, it became one of the most important beauty brands out there, worth $1.2 billion.
The reason why Glossier is so extremely successful is because of its die-hard customer first culture and that’s why I wanted tell you about them. So here are 5 things companies can learn about CX from them:
- Community first
- Listen to your customers
- Relationship before transaction
- Own the customer relationship
- Make it fun
This is actually one of the most clever ways to build a brand: find potential customers – like Weiss did with her immensely successful blog – before you sell products. She in fact did almost the opposite of what most other beauty brands did: content marketing first, to build community, (via ITG) then an Instagram for Glossier, before it launched its first product – ensuring that by the time it debuted there were at least 15,000 engaged and excited customers waiting – and only then the product launch.
For Weiss, this wasn’t just a clever marketing strategy, though, she and her company genuinely are truly ultra-focused on their community, even if that makes it harder to build a more traditional long-term strategy. This is how Erin Miller, (now former) head of customer experience at Glossier, explained it:
When you have your product development driven by internal resources and internal opinions, you can plan that out for three to five years. But when you’re doing it in partnership with your community, it’s a lot harder to say where are we going to be in three to five years. And we’re really lucky that our leadership and our business allows us to do that and say, we don’t know 100% what three to five years looks like, but we know that our community’s going to help us drive.
By creating such a tight, powerful online community first for customers – to share their experiences, get advice, discover new products – Glossier, actually became more than just a company, but really a safe space for beauty lovers. And that magic ingredient is what created it’s cult-following.
“What separates Glossier from traditional beauty brands is we are not in any way confused about who our customer is.” Henry Davis, Glossier’s CFO and president
Writing her blog, Weiss realized that traditional beauty brands weren’t actually listening to their users, but forced some sort of perfect ideal on them that poorly reflected their real needs. Experts were telling the customer what they should or shouldn’t be using on their faces. Weiss wanted her customers to tell her what they wanted:
“I was interviewing hundreds of women from around the world, from Isabel Marant to Selena Gomez, and I realised that there was a real disconnect between the beauty brands and the customer. They weren’t communicating with her – they were talking down to her, or speaking at her, rather than having a conversation, which was leaving a lot of women at arm’s length.”
So through her blog, Emily Weiss interviewed hundreds of consumers to inform the business she would create, that would democratize beauty. And of course, the company uses brand monitoring software, too. Or they get a lot of insights from their skincare quiz that was designed to help customers find the best product for their skin. There’s even a Slack channel where its 100 most devoted shoppers can provide feedback on the latest releases. Most important of all, Glossier has a next level approach to customer service (see the next point).
One of their most successful products, for instance, the Milky Jelly Cleanser, was based on a collaborative effort where almost 400 ITG readers described their dream face wash. And when they announced the release on ITG, no surprise that Milky Jelly quickly sold out.
“The transaction is not the unit that we should be measuring our business on. We should be measuring our business on how many relationships do we have with customers and are they ongoing.” – Erin Miller
As I said, the way to listen to customer feedback and integrate it into your products is through a stellar customer service team that is not only empowered to interact with the customer in a genuine, non-scripted way, but that also communicates all the feedback back into all the layers of the company, including the product department.
I love how they gave their customer team a whole identity branding of their own with a funny quip: the gTeam. They actually call themselves a customer experience team rather than a service team. The gTeam is continuously browsing all the Glossier and ITG channels for customer feedback and concerns. They do not function in a segregated environment but send these concerns to product development and marketing teams for further action.
The gTEAM is constantly striving towards increasing conversations with customers (as opposed to other brand who see this is a cost to be avoided) most commonly via social media DMs, but sometimes even via FaceTime, which does make sense when it comes to discussing make-up.
And the best part is their deeply human, non-scripted, empowered, “yes we can” mindset in stimulating these relationships as is clear from the multiple customer stories you can find online. From staying updated about a customer’s whereabouts and safety during the Southern California Thomas Fire and sending them a care package with several balms and goodies to sending a new lip balm to a customer who had lost it at a concert. Or helping a panicked bride-to-be when their Haloscope highlighter was sold out, by finding an employee with an unopened sample and then mailing it to the ecstatic bride-to-be. It is so clear through all of their communication that they will always value a long and fruitful relationship over a (commercial) transaction. That’s how you build a powerful and trusted brand.
One of the biggest differences between Glossier and other beauty brands, is that they were really one of the first to truly own our relationship with customers. The customers of most traditional beauty companies are department stores or beauty store retailers like Sephora (though Glossier can also be found at Sephora, now) and they lack the direct feedback and interaction with the end users.
But it’s not just about useful customer insights through that direct link. It’s also about convenience. For instance, few customers will go back to Sephora and ask them to take a product back. But Glossier customers know that if they ever order something and it’s not what they expect, the gTeam is always going to help. And that’s really comforting and personal.
Last but not least, if you follow my content, you know that I always advise brands to “make it fun”, focus on 100% feel good (I call that the Top Gun Effect) and pure joy. Humor is a really important part of that and Glossier absolutely understands that.
Most beauty brands like Mac or Estee Lauder have a really serious image, offering these picture perfect and frankly intimidating visuals on their social channels. Glossier, however, offers real stories by users and micro-influencers, often laced with really fun(ny) memes and pictures. Just because a brands takes its products seriously, does not mean that it should not be able to make people smile. Just check out their Instagram account to see what I mean.
Of course, these are not the only traits that created Glossier’s success – there are others like a very strong brand identity (the signature Glossier pink is a household concept) with very instagrammable products, fabulous looking stores, useful content marketing, a focus on user generated content, social proof with reviews and a great employee culture – but these 5 described above were some of the more unique characteristics.