How Indie Beauty Brand Founders Solicit And Respond To Product Feedback

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 12 founders and executives: Where do you get product feedback, and what are key learnings from it?

Holly Harding Founder, O'o Hawaii

The customer is the ultimate source for feedback.  In my infancy of being an entrepreneur, I was convinced that all of my unique and totally out-of-the box creations were going to be the biggest sellers when, in fact, many times they were the slowest. For a while, I had a hard time letting go and discontinuing those products.

Eventually, I learned to detach from products I initiated if they didn't make the sales cut and include my unique ideas with a mix of what the market also indicated it wanted. Typically, 80% of sales are generated from 20% of the product line, so really tuning in to what makes the 20% sell is key to creating other products that generate good feedback and sales results.

I also value the feedback of our formulator as well as our PR agency who is at the forefront of industry trends. In regard to product quality, having the ability to review your products on your website is the best way to get honest feedback direct from the customer. It also allows you to contact any customer that might not have had the best experience and make good on it before the review is published. Taking feedback in regard to quality assessment from customers is also key in making formulation adjustments.

Hayley Stoddart Managing Director, Glow Girl Cosmetics

Initially, when setting up my business, we heavily relied on bloggers and influencers to review and give feedback on our products. Although influencers have been vital to our growth and brand awareness, we have found that reviews from customers have proven to be the strongest trust signal for other potential customers.

Our strategy toward curating feedback has strengthened as we began to understand the role of both influencers and client feedback. We tend to rely on bloggers and influencers to curate high quality and informative content on how to use our products, the benefits and discussing the more immediate results, whereas we rely on our customers to share their true experience and results from using our products over a longer period of time.

Based on this understanding, we recently decided to introduce a non-stop giveaway. This campaign is specifically aimed at our existing customer base to encourage genuine feedback with before-and-after images in exchange for a free mini Glow Girl kit.

Since launching this campaign we have continued to see more customers being consistent with their skincare routine and also sharing their personal experience. This has allowed us to open a two-way dialogue with our clients where we have been able to learn more about their needs and expectations. For example, we received feedback from a few clients recommending that it would be great to have a numbing cream when using the roll and repair device, and this is something we now have in development.

Isabel Madison Founder and Creative Director, Nude Envie

I receive a lot of product feedback via email.  My favorite words to see are “obsessed” and “my favorite new nudes.” When I see these words, it reassures me that I am on the right track and helps me understand which aspects are my selling points.

I have learned that engagement with the customer is vital to keeping a strong relationship with who is buying my products, and understanding what's working and what's not. I love receiving these emails, and I know my customers appreciate getting a personalized response from me.

Heather Wilson Director of Brand Development, InstaNatural

Our first source of product feedback is our internal team. While they are often our target consumer, they also share the same goal as R&D, to create the best products. Their feedback is not sugar-coated and it allows us to truly fine-tune our formulations to perfection. Additionally, as needed, we leverage our top customers to provide feedback on final iterations before we approve formulations to launch. The combination of internal and external feedback allows us to gain valuable insight into our products and how to best approach development.

Along the way, we’ve learned that it is important to have the right people test the right products. Just because they are providing feedback doesn’t mean you should ignore the type of consumer they are. It is important to consider skin type, concern, and preferences to ensure you receive the correct feedback and leverage your resources properly.

Also, asking the right questions in our feedback survey has provided improved results. During product feedback phases, we are working to uncover areas of opportunity and we need specific details. Rather than asking for blanketed feedback, we ask specific, open-ended questions. The combination of the right tester and the right feedback has allowed us to be more targeted and effective during our product feedback process.

Inger Ellen Nicolaisen Co-Founder, Eleni & Chris

It is essential to get feedback from various types of people to assess how your product works on different types of hair or skin. We have a very extensive testing process for all of our products in addition to the testing that is done at the formulation partner.

One key learning for us has been to always test the product in different types of water as the water quality can vary quite substantially, and you want to make sure your product is always performing well.

Urvashi Singh Founder, Aphorism

We request reviews from every single customer. We also have customers who reach out to us directly, and we often get into deep conversations and longer-term relationships with them that really help us understand our own products even better than we do at the outset.

For example, one of our lovely actress customers loved our Bright As Day serum because it really helped her with dry skin. In terms of look and feel of the product, Bright as Day is actually really light and goes on very quick so you would not guess that. With her perspective, we were able to hone in on that and call it out in the product details. Now, we have a loyal base of customers who love Bright as Day for dealing with dry skin and its associated skin challenges.

Amy Ling Lin Founder, Sundays Studio

Our nail artists give us a lot of first-hand feedback. First of all, they have several years of experience in the industry, so they are very knowledgeable about the different types of nail polishes and techniques. Secondly, they always share client feedback and concerns with us.

I think it is important to find your niche, and understand what you do best and what needs work. It's impossible to cater to everyone’s needs all the time, which is OK, but we always strive to improve our products and services for an overall better experience.

Jean Baik Founder, MISS A

We have a review system on the website, and we also get a lot of feedback through social media and YouTube. I try to watch every single and AOA beauty review on YouTube. There are thousands. I take customer feedback the most seriously and take it into consideration when developing new products and ideas.

Cheryl McSherry Founder, Pure Principles

We started our business by selling products at pop-up markets throughout the Chicago area. This setting allowed us to have face-to-face conversations with our customers, and we were able to get valuable feedback on the products we were creating. Since we produce our products in small batches, we were able to tweak and improve formulations based on that feedback.

Our Complete Protection All Natural Deodorant, for example, got great feedback from the start, but a few of our customers would report a slight irritation. Even though only a few reported issues, that was not acceptable, so we reformulated the recipe so that it contained more skin conditioning neem and just enough sodium bicarbonate to be effective, but not so much that it caused irritation. That feedback helped us to formulate the current recipe for what is now one of our bestsellers.

Today, all of our formulations are the result of the direct collaboration with our customers, and our willingness to be open to their feedback. It’s been an invaluable experience for us to sell direct to customers and have face-to-face interaction with them.

Danuta Dudek Founder, Cotarde

The first and most important feedback we always gather is from the ones who test our products way before they are presented to the public: pilots and frequent travelers. Our products are unisex, so the comments are quite different in nature and length when it comes to female/male feedback. We take it all into account, no matter if it’s regarding the packaging, smell, formula itself or the way you’d travel with Cotarde.

We want to be as useful, multifunctional and as instant in action as possible. Therefore, the key learning is to listen about one’s needs in the whole context of travel, and that’s why the main difference between our signature Frequent Traveler Research program and the typical customer/clinical tests done by other companies is that we let you test in as you go, every day and wherever you are, not in a lab that checks your skin on day 1 and day 28 or 56 without taking much into consideration what’s going on in between.

Eugene He CEO, Ceramiracle

Our customers leave reviews on our site, and we use that information to improve our products and customer experience. As an almost 100% direct-to-consumer brand in the U.S., customer engagement is our only way of knowing what works for our customers. We have amazing customers who leave us messages and even send their before-and-after photos. Our reviews have also been a key source of motivation to work harder and make better products.

Chris Collins Founder, Chris Collins, Alchemy of Fragrance

In the beginning, I kept modifying my fragrances, trying to make everyone happy until I realized that would never happen.  If I have ten people in a room and half of them didn’t like one of my fragrances, I thought maybe I’d change it a bit so they would. But what happens is now the other half that liked the original scent I created are unhappy because I changed the formula.

It was a vicious cycle. So, I learned to create the scents that I loved that were very personal to me and not make them for others. Consumers hold the key to your success, so you have to listen to their comments and suggestions, but to a degree.

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