Social Media Favorite Jouer’s Circuitous Route To Sephora
Christina Zilber launched Jouer in 2008 with a very clear vision of the retailers she wanted to put it in: Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman or Henri Bendel. Henri Bendel bit first, and the prestige cosmetics brand’s sales at the retailer boomed for a few weeks before they suddenly tanked when the recession hit.
In the midst of the downturn, a stark reality set in that Jouer wasn’t going to have a future unless Zilber’s initial distribution vision changed. “The struggling department store model forced us to develop our own website and focus on our web sales because we couldn’t trust retail as much as we thought,” she says. “That was a shift we made at the beginning. We found our stride with our web sales.”
Social media helped Jouer establish its digital credentials. Rare for a luxury beauty brand, Jouer entered the influencer fray early with trips transporting YouTubers and Instagrammers to Paris in 2016, St. Tropez in 2017 and Capri this year. The same year it started the trips, Jouer introduced its Long-Wear Lip Crème liquid lipsticks and shimmery Lip Topper. The products were coveted by influencers and became bestsellers online at Jouer and e-tailers like Beautylish, where the brand could convert its virtual fans into customers.
The recipe of social media prowess and trend-driven products pushed Jouer’s sales up 146% in 2017, a year during which the brand quadrupled its investment in digital marketing, and experienced a 145% jump in Instagram followers and 1,118% surge in web sales. This year, Jouer’s sales are on track to climb 23%.
“I knew I eventually wanted to be in a big retailer again, but, to be completely honest with you, I wasn’t ready for it until now. I knew that, to thrive in an environment like that, I had to have all my ducks in a row. I had to have a concrete marketing plan and production calendar before I could consider a big retailer. I didn’t want to try and fail.”
With the brand’s strength fortified outside physical stores, Jouer has opted to head to a major physical retailer again. Last month, its Rose Gold and Skinny Dip Lip Toppers, and Essential Lip Enhancer rolled out across Sephora in the U.S. and Canada in Beauty On The Fly sections. Simultaneously, a wider array of products landed on Sephora’s website. In September, an amplified assortment of 10 stockkeeping units will be featured in select doors and, in the first quarter of 2019, Jouer will command a bay at Sephora with about 110 SKUs.
“I knew I eventually wanted to be in a big retailer again, but, to be completely honest with you, I wasn’t ready for it until now,” says Zilber. “I knew that, to thrive in an environment like that, I had to have all my ducks in a row. I had to have a concrete marketing plan and production calendar before I could consider a big retailer. I didn’t want to try and fail. I have spent the last couple of years really concentrating on my launch calendar and web sales so that, when I was approached by the right retailer, I could say yes with confidence.”
Jouer has diversified its product mix to support a retailer like Sephora. In October, the brand released 17 shades of Essential High Coverage Crème Foundation and boosted the shade range to 50 in April. In its short run at Sephora so far, foundation is Jouer’s top category. In general, liquid lipsticks are the brand’s bestsellers followed by lip toppers and highlighters. Skincare is a category that it’s expected to build upon soon. The brand already has nudged into the skincare arena with the products Daily Clarifying Treatment Oil and Daily Repair Treatment Oil.
“Liquid lipsticks became a trend, and the reason mine are so successful is I put vitamin E in them and made them more wearable instead of cakey and dry. Then, I came up with the idea of the Lip Topper to apply on top of your liquid lipstick to make it sparkly. I make trends wearable for everybody, and I’m formula-obsessed.”
Originally, Jouer’s concept hinged on interlocking packaging that led the brand’s products to be dubbed the Legos of makeup. Today, Zilber says the brand is known for “taking a trend and making it better.” She elaborates, “Liquid lipsticks became a trend, and the reason mine are so successful is I put vitamin E in them and made them more wearable instead of cakey and dry. Then, I came up with the idea of the Lip Topper to apply on top of your liquid lipstick to make it sparkly. I make trends wearable for everybody, and I’m formula-obsessed.”
Social media is in flux, and Jouer is adjusting its digital strategies accordingly. It’s zeroing in on micro-influencers rather than the splashiest names. “It’s really saturated. The big brands have thrown so much money at it that it’s hard to break through, but there is so much opportunity with the micro-influencers,” says Zilber, whose cultivated her own social media presence on Snapchat and Instagram Stories. “Influencers have a voice and personality, and people like that. They want to be able to relate to them.”
Meanwhile, Jouer’s brick-and-mortar opportunities are broadening. Although it’s fixated on Sephora at the moment, the brand believes it could expand its retail footprint in North America and beyond. “I’m really excited about where the brand is,” says Zilber. “Being able to pivot saved me. I got on the digital train. I loved it. It was so fun for me. I want to keep having fun wherever it takes me.”