“Everything You Do Is Content”: Winky Lux, Lawless Beauty and Glossier Execs Discuss Engaging Consumers
“The publisher pain point for years was: Where are we going to find content? That’s now the brand’s pain point,” said Henry Davis, president and COO of Glossier, at Citi’s Consumer Disruptive Growth Conference last week. “Your store is content. You making your product is content. Your being a business is content. Everything is on the table. When someone opens a box from you, it shouldn’t look like an Amazon package. That’s not content. It’s got to look like something someone wants to take a picture of and share. The brands of the future will be content creators who know how to tell stories around everything that they do.”
Davis joined Annie Lawless, founder, chairman and CEO of clean color cosmetics brand Lawless Beauty, and Natalie Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Glow Concept, owner of fast beauty brand Winky Lux, on a panel about engaging today’s consumer moderated by Deepti Chauhan, director, global consumer products investment banking at Citi, during the bank’s conference in New York City. The executives discussed the integral role content plays in drawing audiences, and omnichannel strategies that keep customers emotionally connected to brands.
Lawless suggested social media doesn’t have to be difficult. She pointed out simple interactions that are effective. “Engage with the customer by liking their photos,” she said. “Going back and reposting their user generated content, commenting back to them, really reaching out and touching these consumers to make them feel like they are part of this brand with me. It’s been interesting to see how much they respond to me responding back to them.”
On the topic of social media, Mackey brought up the maturation and pricing of influencer marketing, and the diminishing returns it now provides. “How do we, as consumer products brands, and especially as heavily digitally-driven brands, get off the crack of paid social?” she asked. “Every time I’m with a group of founders, it becomes a key topic of conversation. What is the moat we’re going to build around this brand? How are we going to hack the next big channel, interaction, content piece? What is going to be our next way to acquire a customer in a way that’s really efficient and economical?”
Davis stated Glossier believes strongly in community created through a mix of online and offline experiences. “We’re somewhat agnostic about channel in that regard as long as it drives community,” he said. The key, Davis elaborated, is the scaling of engagement that digital can support globally. He said, “We know that digital is where the scale is. Building brick-and-mortar to drive community is hard work. We’re not scared of hard work, but, ultimately, scale is important because the customer experience is richer for it. If you build a digital experience, [it] lets the customer [at our pop-up] in Chicago relate to our customer in Paris, either Paris, Ohio or Paris, France.”
“How do we, as consumer products brands, and especially as heavily digitally-driven brands, get off the crack of paid social?” she asked. “Every time I’m with a group of founders, it becomes a key topic of conversation. What is the moat we’re going to build around this brand? How are we going to hack the next big channel, interaction, content piece? What is going to be our next way to acquire a customer in a way that’s really efficient and economical?”
When it comes to scaling production, an optimized supply chain technology is essential. Chauhan prodded Mackey about how Winky Lux uses supply chain technology to constantly deliver new products into the hands of gen z customers. She responded, “Traditionally, the R&D in color was done on the factory level. So, factories innovate, they present their newest products, and brands would choose them and, because a few conglomerates owned the vast majority of the business, infrastructures were somewhat bulky and they could be that way as they really owned all the distribution. Now, the discovery has changed, the pace at which people want products out is much faster, so our internal technology helps us make some risk assessments around reactivity with plastics, around chemical components of products, but also it helps us makes decisions really fast, which is where a lot of bottlenecking happens in traditional development.”
Mackey went on to explain why Winky Lux’s streamlined production process is a tool for propelling customer engagement. “As we are able to get product out really quickly, we’re able to bring that customer into that process a lot more,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of live product development from our lab, ‘This is what we’re doing, What do you guys think?’ It’s helped the customer feel very vested in the product. Also, it’s helped when we’ve had a mistake or there’s been a lateness. Our customers feel very emotionally vested in the product, so they’ve had a little bit of forgiveness around it.”
Lawless agreed that listening to customers helps forge meaningful relationships with them. “It all comes down to making the consumer feel like you really care for them,” she said. “Through social, they can be part of the brand in a way that they never could before. They can really see the face behind the brand and build that connection. Ultimately, they are the ones that are spending their dollars, so making the products they want and serving those needs that they have is the way to have them engage with your brand.”
Davis stressed that listening alone isn’t sufficient. Brands have to act on consumer listening exercises. He said, “The way you make people feel heard is to play back what they said to you, ‘What we heard from you is this, and by the way, here is the thing we all agreed that you wanted.’ Making them feel heard is really important, but, then, you have to deliver on it. So many people ask the question and think that means they’re listening, but they’re not. You’re listening when you respond.”
While most of the panel discussion concentrated on digital endeavors, the future of brick-and-mortar stores, and synergies between physical retail and the digital environment were touched upon, too. Chauhan wondered how brands use the viral nature of experiential retail to push awareness, engagement and sales.
Winky Lux racked up a million social media impressions in the first couple of days of its New York City pop-up described by Mackey as a mash-up of the Museum of Ice Cream and Sephora. “The idea was to create these moments so that people really want to share,” she said. “It might seem a little odd from a retail perspective because you’re actually removing selling space, which is against the retail bible. However, I think that’s how were going to approach that virality. We can’t compete on paid spend or paid influencer posts, but we can compete by giving people a moment to tell their friends about.”
“The way you make people feel heard is to play back what they said to you, ‘What we heard from you is this, and by the way, here is the thing we all agreed that you wanted.’ Making them feel heard is really important, but, then, you have to deliver on it. So many people ask the question and think that means they’re listening, but they’re not. You’re listening when you respond.”
Mackey continued, “All of us [brands] are in the same race to figure out what that next thing is because paid social is fully-priced. We’ve dedicated a lot of exploratory spend into new channels. We’re long on brick-and-mortar, so we have our own brick-and-mortar stores opening up. We love our customers that come into our stores. We find that their retention rates are a lot higher.”
Davis agreed that retail experiences offer impactful moments for engagement, citing the 2,000 visitors that flock to Glossier’s New York City showroom every day. “Those 2,000 people take photos share them, create content,” he said. “What we do offline we use to drive online conversation for products as well. When we create a product, we think when someone gets that product, how are they going to put that back onto a digital conversation? So, there will always be a place for offline experience. How that creates an emotional response with people. How you bring that back to digital is the key and something we think about all the time.”