How Indie Beauty Brands Identify Their Customers

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 10 founders and executives: How did you identify your brand’s core customer, and have you been surprised by who that core customer is?

Joi Ruud Founder, Amala Beauty

Identifying our core customer has definitely involved some trial and error. Since consumer-centricity is one of our core values as a company, we prioritize identifying and knowing our customers as an ongoing mission.

We’ve developed internal consumer personas that are at the center of everything we do from product development to social media content. The characteristics of these personas must remain fluid and open to evolution over time because the nuances of our consumers’ preferences and goals are also constantly in flux.

We partner with Poshly, a great and innovative digital source of aggregated, anonymized consumer insights about beauty and lifestyle. We also work with WSL, an awesome retail strategy consultancy who parlays its proprietary shopper insights and retailer relationships into retail distribution strategies. We know that, at the end of the day, it’s all about prioritizing what our consumers want in order to drive long term growth and brand advocacy.

Bethany McDaniel Founder, Primally Pure

We glean information about our core customer through all of the obvious traditional channels like Google analytics as well as other analytics platforms. Beyond that, we've always made a point to spend time with our customers. We send thoughtful responses to customer emails and take time to ask them questions.

We engage in conversation with our customers on Instagram and Facebook. We offer a local pickup option at our workshop so that we can interact with local customers. In all honesty, we haven't had any surprises about who our core customer is because all of us on the Primally Pure team are our core customer, and what we put out there is what we attract. Our team is made up of primarily health-conscious women who appreciate connection, authenticity, beauty in all aspects of life, and purity.

Erin Williams Founder, Erin’s Faces

By meeting her. The way that I built my business was by going around the country and doing workshops in women’s homes about skincare and makeup. For the first few years, I basically knew every single client personally because we were so tiny that I forged relationships in person.

I come from a heavy makeup artist background and the colors in my line reflected that. I learned that my client is generally not a fan of trends. She’s more of a classics kind of girl. She loves to look at the trends and thinks a glittery lip is fun, but, then, reaches for her pinky brown lip gloss and calls it a day. So, learning to adjust took a little time, but now we’re on the same page.

Shirley Menard Founder, Beurre

Our core customer has always been extremely broad, all ages and skin types. However, I was surprised at the amazing response and love that we’ve gotten from the vegan community. The vegan consumer is extremely informed, focused and aware of what they consume, and they keep us on our toes. All of our formulations are created with the vegan consumer in mind, and we believe that they are the pioneers of the natural beauty movement.

Melanie Petschke Co-Founder, Crunchi

The customer base that has developed since the launch of Crunchi has pleasantly surprised us. While a significant portion of our clients are exactly like us and seek higher level cosmetic performance with ingredients they can trust, there are a group of clients who seek Crunchi products simply because they love their overall quality and performance.

For this group, the green beauty movement and ingredient scrutiny is entirely new territory, and Crunchi serves as a gateway for them in their transition to living a more organic and toxin-free lifestyle. When a client walks away with priceless education that will change the way they look at their environment and what they put in and on their bodies for the rest of their lives, we have accomplished our goal. This bonus group of clients has been the most rewarding to experience.

Tracy Atkinson Founder, Mythologie

I come from a healing background, where I offer Vedic astrology readings and transformational coaching that aims to offer insight and open the way to a new way of being. I initially thought I would need to keep this part of myself hidden when creating Mythologie. However, as I began to talk to people and tell them about myself, much to my surprise, I found most people to be fascinated by my astrology and healing background. Very quickly a chorus of people began to grow encouraging me to reveal myself and infuse the brand with who I truly am, a healer.

Since launching Mythologie, it has become clear to me that there is a large group of people who are undergoing an expansion in consciousness and want to improve the world around them, feel more connected to themselves and others. What used to be called alternative is becoming mainstream and the ancient healing traditions of the past are now becoming openly accepted in the present. A new paradigm is emerging that is very hopeful.

As a part of this new outlook, Mythologie is transforming from purely a green beauty brand to a holistic spiritual evolutionary beauty brand. It’s an exciting and pivotal time in the world and I am honored that Mythologie is a part of it.

Julia Teren Founder, Thesis Beauty

This is a million-dollar question. We are going through a rebranding process and, several months ago, we had to do a complete brand audit. Customers are at the core of our business and understanding how their preferences may have changed since we launched in 2009 was a crucial starting point of the audit.

We did it all from formal customer surveys via Survey Monkey to informal interviews during in-store demos and consumer events. We analyzed stats and comments on social media, reviews, you name it. I wish this process was as simple and clear-cut as just running a survey with perfectly measurable answers. It's not. So, through all these multifaceted techniques, we got a pretty nice understanding of what people are looking for in our brand, and what they enjoy or would like to see going forward.

Surprising was the fact that our audience was a bit younger than we thought. We realized that the most value Thesis Beauty brings to the folks who are done with synthetics in skincare and are looking for lifelong relationships with a brand they can trust to be organic and non-sensitizing. It's a huge responsibility to always deliver on this trust, but that's what we’re here for and we love it.

As part of the audit, we also closely examined our core mission at the heart of Thesis. It turned out that we have been very consistent. Since day one, everything we do has strongly supported organic, vegan and eco values. As such, we have the reputation of a very reliable purveyor of fine, pure beauty, which explains why many customers have stayed with us for years.

Deb Pereira Owner and Founder, Neon & Co. and TLW Products

I first identified our core customer base through looking at our salon clients, as this is who we first exposed the ranges to before we expanded to the mass market. We identified that our clients wanted longer lasting blow waves and to cut the amount of time they spent drying their hair. They also really loved the idea of taking the results home with them in the form of products.

We looked at the types of clients who were loving our products and, then, after further research, we broadened this to lookalike audiences nationwide and in the U.S. Along the way, we were surprised that we gained quite a lot of interest from men. We had not been targeting specifically to men, so we’re now looking to broaden our TLW range to accommodate this.

Kate Lee Founder, VELVET

What's been the most fascinating part about running a startup is watching our brand evolve and reach so many different kinds of people. At the beginning, my team and I had an idea of our typical customer, but in just a few short months, we realized that we have several unique core customers that love our brand.

We were quite surprised that we garnered interest from a male demographic, but even more surprised when unique, talented artists wanted to work with us. What's been our core guiding principle was ensuring that our brand wasn't something people had to aspire to or covet, but rather something in which they could see themselves and their friends reflected.

We're constantly asking our customers and social media followers for feedback on our brand, products, and even how we conduct our giveaways. I think that a constant feedback loop from the community we want to represent is, and always will be, our number-one priority.

Claudia Keogh Founder, Honeypie Minerals

Before starting my business, I was driven to create makeup products purely for myself. I was in search for natural, non-irritating ingredients for my sensitive skin. I soon discovered there was a gap in the market, and our core customers were individuals just like me: modern, nature-loving females who were looking for simple, effective and healthy cosmetics that made them feel beautiful inside and out.

Luckily, I learned I wasn't the only one who wanted to be empowered with confidence and creativity, but that we had relatable customers who were in search of exactly the same. From then on, the brand just grew organically. Our customer surprises have been the wide range of age groups, and we also have male customers who love the simplicity of our products.

I think it's important to not only believe in your idea or product, but be able to engage and identify with your audience on a personal level. That's where loyalty will flourish and you'll be rewarded with the knowledge that you have consistently happy customers.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].