Volition’s Crowdsourced Goods Entice The Beauty Crowds At Sephora
A self-professed beauty junkie, Anuradha Koli was poking around Facebook and stumbled across an ad for Volition, a crowdsourcing platform inviting regular folks to suggest beauty products. The concept interested her, and she started to ruminate about stubborn beauty issues her existing beauty stockpile hadn’t resolved.
In September last year, the Indian-American 42-year-old shot off an idea to Volition for a product that could exfoliate both the face and the body – she hated resorting to two products for her exfoliation needs – and harness the power of turmeric, an ingredient she’d been familiar with from Indian beauty remedies. Koli went back to focusing on her career in technology public relations and put the idea largely out of her mind until three weeks later when Volition called informing her it was moving forward with her product proposal.
“To be frank, I wasn’t expecting a response. I was thinking, ‘They get thousands of submissions,’” she says. “It wasn’t a setup where you submit the idea, they like it, and you never hear from the company again, and your idea disappears into the ether. What I appreciated about Volition is you were involved every step of the way.”
At the end of 2016, the crowds got to weigh in, and Koli’s idea went up for a vote on Volition’s website. By spring, it garnered enough votes to be produced. All the while, Volition and Koli were tweaking the product based on her idea to ensure the turmeric in it didn’t stain (the trick is using the turmeric root, not the flower) and that it was gentle for facial skin, but effective for body exfoliation as well. On Sept. 15, the Turmeric Brightening Polish that Koli formulated with Volition hits 47 Sephora stores along with four other products from the brand.
“As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a dream come true. I probably send half my paycheck to Sephora. I’ve always been impressed with their lineup and to have my product be in that lineup is incredible,” effuses Koli. “Volition has a very unique model, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. You can address very specific challenges and create tailored solutions that weren’t readily available even 10 years ago.”
The scalability of Volition’s model in physical retail will get tested with its Sephora launch. The brand already branched out beyond its website to QVC in August 2016, where it sells six products. Brandy Hoffman, co-founder of Volition, is confident its approach incorporating the voices of beauty consumers appeals to Sephora shoppers, known to be a vocal lot themselves, and that they’ll relish the stories of the brand’s collaborators. Volition’s products are priced from $29 to $60 at Sephora.
“Each product has a real story and a real person behind it that’s experienced a problem,” says Hoffman. “If you think about the ideas that we’re getting, they’re from all walks of life and all age demographics. “
“Each product has a real story and a real person behind it that’s experienced a problem,” says Hoffman, a beauty industry veteran who worked at Algenist and Radical Skincare before Volition. “If you think about the ideas that we’re getting, they’re from all walks of life and all age demographics. We are getting tons of ideas from millennials, but we’re also getting them from the 35-plus age group that is just looking for great beauty ideas. A lot of brands say they can address different demographics, but we know we can.”
Volition isn’t relying on its demographic range and compelling backstories to convince Sephora customers to check out its merchandise, though. The brand has embarked on an extensive sampling program for the Sephora doors carrying its products. Volition is concentrating substantial energy on its bestselling Detoxifying Silt Gelée Mask in the program, but is doling out samples covering the entire selection entering Sephora. The brand has hired an outside salesforce provider to help it service Sephora.
A year from now, Hoffman anticipates Volition’s business will be evenly split between Sephora, QVC and its website. The brand has built a sizable digital community of over 250,000 people that she forecasts will grow with Sephora giving exposure to the brand. “Our process can coexist with industry leaders like Sephora, and their customers are getting the best of our process,” says Hoffman. “I’ve been in the beauty industry for a long time, and I can honestly say we’re very different, and I love that about us. Sephora recognizes that.”
Volition isn’t shifting its modus operandi to squeeze into the Sephora mold. Hoffman insists it won’t chase the latest trends. And, if a product meets its online voting criteria, but may not be a suitable product for Sephora, Volition will introduce it on the website. SKUs don’t have to be retail material for them to be successful at Volition. “We have products that are on our website that will never be in Sephora, will never be in QVC, and we still can sustain that clientele,” says Hoffman.
Lindsey Ashworth, a product innovator behind Volition Beauty’s Helix AM/PM Eye Gel and a QVC spokeswoman for the brand, would be disappointed if the brand ever changed. With Volition’s assistance, she was able to bring to market her idea for an eye product that simultaneously addresses antiaging concerns and smooths the eye area for makeup application. As a makeup artist, Ashworth swears the product is a savior for clients that don’t want to compromise their skincare routines for the sake of makeup.
“What I love about Volition is the empowerment. We live in a day and age where the consumer is smart,” says Ashworth. “They know what they need, what they want, and what’s not out there.”
“What I love about Volition is the empowerment. We live in a day and age where the consumer is smart. They know what they need, what they want, and what’s not out there,” says Ashworth. “Volition is the first brand that actually brings them in from the very beginning. It’s literally flipping the normal process, which is driven by a bunch of executives thinking about what trend they can jump on for sales. This brand goes against the status quo and puts the power in our hands.”