BeautyTech London #3 – Beauty Founders & Investors share their learnings
2nd July 2019
On 2nd July, Felix Capital hosted the third in their sell-out ‘BeautyTech London’ meetup series. We were first to snap-up a ticket, to hear from some of the most inspiring and insightful people in the beauty biz.
To open, Emilie Spire interviewed Gemma Bellman, Director of Europe at Glossier Inc. Emilie is an Associate at Felix Capital, focusing on BeautyTech.
Gemma began her career in sales and marketing at L’Oréal and went on to launch the get-the-look BeautySpotter app in 2013. From there she became MD at Get The Gloss, and in January this year she took on the role of Director of Europe at Glossier Inc. She is also a member of the Executive Board of the British Beauty Council.
Gemma’s been a Glossier fangirl since the 2017 launch and was excited to join the company at such an interesting time in its evolution. She’s discovered that she doesn’t need to be the Founder of a company or brand if she has a genuine passion and belief in it.
Q: What appealed to you about Glossier?
The founders and team view Glossier as an experience company, not a startup, a cosmetic brand or a tech company. This is fresh thinking and a very exciting approach.
Q: How have they achieved this?
Glossier has always created a global community, even when it was only available in the US. They put their belief in the power of the individual, striving to create a platform that allows people to share their stories, experiences and opinions. This “people powered ecosystem” delivers a direct, uninterrupted relationship between customers and the community.
Q: Where are the Glossier stores?
There are Glossier flagships in New York and LA, plus pop ups in cities around the world. With the focus on keeping things surprising and exciting, each pop up is individual and targeted to the location, so they never do the same thing twice.
Q: Why have stores at all, and not just focus on the online experience?
Gemma answered this by comparing beauty to music. When you discover a new band you can enjoy listening to them online and watching them on YouTube. But seeing them live, say at a gig or festival, is a very different, more inclusive and intimate experience.
Next came a panel discussion themed “How to engage with your community on social media”.
Moderated by Theresa Yee, Senior Editor at WGSN Beauty, the panel was Djimbi Djevdet, founder and CEO of Makeup Addiction, Colette Newberry, co-founder of BE for Beauty and Freddie Harrel, who introduced Big Hair No Care to her audience on Instagram in 2017. Her beauty start-up RadSwan will launch this autumn.
Q: How do you express your brand personality on social media?
For their brand The Inkey List, brand personality transcends everything they do, so social media is an extension of that. Focusing on transparency and honesty, they use social to invite people to talk, to send a photo of their skin and to share their skin issues and struggles. They don’t claim to have all the answers but support the community in suggesting ideas, recipes and even other brands’ products.
As both influencer and brand founder Freddie shares her musings, experiences and advice on hair with her 230k followers. She is building an audience and fostering conversations between people, where they feel they can be open and vulnerable, nurturing each other and moving forward together.
Makeup Addiction is very personal to Djimbi. Fun and colourful, it reflects what she likes and enjoys. She creates all the products personally, tests and plays with them, and then launches what she loves. They are all about loving makeup and discovering new talent, whatever the size of their following. They’re more interested in supporting talent than focusing on numbers of followers.
Q: What social media platforms are the most successful for you?
With only 9 people in the whole company, one person is dedicated to social media, focusing on Instagram, where they can be visual, personal and have conversations. Colette’s number one piece of advice was “don’t try to do everything as you will do some things badly”. Pick a platform and do it well, focusing on response times. DMs are huge for them, and they have answered 4,500 questions in just two months – by one person! They have built 35k followers since launch 10 months ago through communication and sheer hard work.
Freddie also uses Instagram as her only platform. She didn’t plan to launch a brand but got so many questions about her hair that she decided to source and sell premium synthetic hair extensions.
Hair needs to be visual so Instagram is ideal for video and images, and allows them to share lots of UGC. It has always been 70% of their traffic source and in a recent survey they found their followers look for hair inspo on Instagram first.
It’s Instagram for Makeup Addiction too, as the best platform for visual products. Djimbi originally started on Instagram in 2012 and has since grown an amazing 1.2m followers. Working closely with over 600 influencers, they co-create personal, genuine content rather than paid campaigns.
Q: How important is social media in your marketing plan?
Crucial. As a young brand, investment has to be ploughed into stock, so social is a cost-effective way to talk about and promote your brand. UGC is becoming ever more powerful, and video content is also very influential but hard to nail. In fact, she’s not sure anyone is doing it really well.
Freddie completely agrees. She says you need to budget for content creation, and focus on content that people will want to share and can maybe become viral. You don’t want to buy too much of your audience; if you are raising funding you will have to show how you have grown your audience organically. Video definitely drives engagement so think about how you can tell stories in an original way.
Makeup Addiction saw a huge amount of traffic to their Insta page when Djimbi started doing live videos. She had resisted this for a long time but people wanted to know who creates the products, so now she fronts the videos, showing how to use the products and sharing info and tips from the community. She schedules one day a week to do a live video in the office, doing her makeup from scratch using Makeup Addiction products and other brands too, tagging them in.
Q: Posting in Instagram regularly with the right hashtag no longer guarantees your content will be seen by the right audience. How do you maximise your engagement and ensure your posts get seen by your followers?
You need to get the right content out there and make sure you understand what works for your brand. UGC is great but not the same for all brands. They have learnt that their heartland is in sharing information and content directly from the brand, that’s true to them. That’s kept them at nearly 5% engagement.
Don’t think too much about the algorithm, as it can change and is beyond your control. Her motto is “lead with intention” rather than focusing on the algorithm. Create content that you know people will value and genuinely want to see and share. Their community is the global African diaspora and they aim to share everyone’s stories and let people in their community get to know each other.
The company invested time and energy in growing their following, then the algorithm changed. Engagement went down just because people weren’t seeing their posts, although they were doing exactly the same as they had for three years. Djimbi realised she couldn’t outsmart the algorithm and instead started to incorporate herself and more people from the team and community into the brand. This has worked to keep their engagement high. Her advice was: forget about the algorithm and do what feels right for your brand.