Latana x Glossier logos (Cover image)
Brand Deep DivesMarch 8, 2022

How Consumer Insights Helped Make Glossier A Unicorn

March 8, 2022
Cory Profile Picture
Cory Schröder
Senior Content Marketing Manager

“Democratize beauty” — it’s a bold statement for a company to make, but beauty brand Glossier has never taken the easy route.

Founded in 2014, Glossier was born of CEO Emily Weiss’ mega-successful blog, Into the Gloss, and is dedicated to the goal of making beauty “as much an element of personal style as fashion.”

From the beginning, Weiss took a different approach to the beauty industry — and spent her time interviewing hundreds of women to find out what actually mattered to consumers. Along the way, she discovered that the traditional beauty paradigm was incredibly flawed — with experts telling the customer what they should or shouldn’t be using on their faces.

Weiss’ approach with Glossier does the opposite by building a beauty brand where everything they make starts with the consumers’ needs and wishes. But how did Glossier transform from a personal beauty blog to an international brand valued at $1.8 billion? And do recent blunders threaten to bring the high-flying brand down a notch?

This Brand Deep Dive will provide all the answers — plus, three lessons others can learn from Glossier’s journey.

Glossier’s Journey to Success

Source: Into The Gloss

For Emily Weiss, the Glossier journey began in 2010 when she launched her beauty blog, Into the Gloss. At the time, Weiss had a day job as a fashion assistant at Vogue — one she had worked long and hard to get.

But, she wanted to try something different — to “start a website that would show the real-world beauty routines of fashion insiders and celebrities” and share the fascinating things she learned in her role at Vogue.

This meant that all Weiss’ work for Into the Gloss happened between 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning. But, her grueling schedule paid off, and by early 2012, Weiss’ blog had more than 200,000 unique visitors a month — a very impressive figure for only two years on the market.

Early content for Into the Gloss included the popular series “Top Shelf”, where Weiss interviewed women in their bathrooms about their beauty and skincare routines — with photos of their actual shelves and cabinets included.

This personal, intimate look into womens’ beauty routines really resonated with readers, and Weiss began to score interviews big-name subjects like model Karlie Kloss and fashion designer Jenna Lyons.

Source: Into the Gloss

By 2016, Into the Gloss was garnering 1.3 million views per month, and “Top Shelf” afforded Weiss with an “all-access pass to powerful people.” In an interview with Vanity Fair, Weiss explained, saying:

“I could not only meet Arianna Huffington, but go into her bathroom, spend two hours with her, and, in turn, make her feel really seen and heard—because she reads the article that I painstakingly edited from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.”

But for Weiss, it was about more than just gaining followers, she saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the beauty industry as a whole and contemplate the big issues, such as:

“how beauty can start conversations, how beauty can break down walls, and how beauty is something that every single person everywhere in the world deals with. It’s really foundational to who you are and how you relate.”

But before Into the Gloss could make the jump from a powerful beauty blog to an up-and-coming brand, Weiss had to secure funding — and that’s where things got a bit tricky.

In 2013, Weiss and the Glossier team dealt with nearly a dozen rejections — but finally struck gold with a $2 million investment from Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures.

And by 2014, was officially launched with four products: a sheer skin tint, an all-purpose balm, a facial mist, and a moisturizer. While this may seem like a low number of products to start out with, Weiss was determined to only produce beauty products that they fully believed in.

Over the next few years, Glossier kept on steadily growing — and was even dubbed “one of the most disruptive brands in beauty" by Fortune’s Polina Marinova.

In 2018, the brand entered its Series C funding round and came out successful, with $52 million in investment — bringing its total funding to $86 million. When it came to sharing the news, Weiss chose a more personal route than many other CEOs — she emailed Glossier’s customers directly.

Bearing the subject line “Business News (It’s Good)”, Weiss updated the brand’s subscribers and explained that the recent investment would be used to “keep building the beauty company of the future: the one you shape.”

Covering the investment news for Forbes, journalist Janna Mandell’s made a great point as to why Weiss’ approach worked:

“This idea of transparency – reaching out directly to customers to explain what the company’s new cash infusion will be used for – is what catapulted this three-year-old-company to beauty conglomerate status.”

Leaning into a “sense of authenticity and belonging” helped Glossier maintain the magic of Into the Gloss — allowing the brand to connect emotionally with major target audiences like Millennial women.

By 2019, the company raised $100 million in Series D funding and had reached a value of $1.2 billion. But that’s not all, Glossier also announced that it more than doubled its revenue in 2018 and added over one million new customers.

Clearly, the brand’s approach to marketing was resonating with consumers.

Since its launch, Glossier has expanded its product line quite a bit — now offering everything from face serums to eyebrow pomade to Glossier-branded pink hoodies (of the GlossiWEAR collection).

In early 2019, the brand introduced Glossier Play, a line that included metallic and pigmented makeup products — such as eyeliners and eye shadows. Though it was highly anticipated by consumers, Weiss and the team chose to suspend the line’s production in 2020.

In an article for , Weiss admitted that “launching a sub-brand was, in hindsight, unnecessary” and identified her realization that, in reality, they “could have just launched more make-up products.”

However, the brand learned from the faux pas and doubled down on its “commitment to fulfilling customer feedback – from the curation of products to the suspension of them” as a key driver for success.

So, what can you learn from Glossier’s astonishing journey? Let’s discuss.

3 Brand Lessons From Glossier

A brand like Glossier isn’t built overnight. It took years of research and extremely hard work from Weiss and many of her colleagues to build a company now valued at $1.8 billion — a true unicorn.

As with every other success story, there are always lessons to be learned. So, let’s take a look at three top lessons.

1. Consumer Feedback is the Foundation of Any Good Brand Strategy

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it until everyone has hopped on board the consumer feedback train — listening to your consumers’ wants and needs forms the foundation of every successful brand strategy.

And Glossier is the perfect example of this fact. Developed from mega-popular blog Into the Gloss, Weiss knew from the beginning that her secret ingredient was consumer feedback.

While most beauty brands see their customers as the retailers that buy goods to stock their shelves, Glossier views it differently. In an interview with Forbes, Glossier’s CFO and president Henry Davis explained:

“What separates Glossier from traditional beauty brands is we are not in any way confused about who our customer is.”

Glossier knows they’re targeting actual people — not corporations. And when it comes to how the brand defines its target market, Davis shared that Glossier takes a somewhat non-traditional approach:

“The Glossier customer is a psychographic, someone who understands the role beauty plays in their life. (...) The main thing Glossier stands for is the power of the individual to choose their own style.”

Clearly, Glossier understands the importance of consumer feedback and how it can be used to shape a brand marketing strategy. Because when you know how your target audience feels — what they want and how they want it — you make it so much easier to deliver products they will connect with.

The Takeaway: No brand marketing strategy is complete without a heaping helping of consumer data. After all, you can make the highest-quality product with the coolest design and it can still fall flat with consumers if you haven’t first researched their needs. Taking a customer-centric approach is key.

And to do that, you need access to data from the source: your target audience. That’s where brand monitoring software comes in. With the ability to create custom audience segmentations based on reliable, accurate data — you’ll be able to make much smarter, more data-driven marketing decisions.

2. Lean Into The Power of Community

Choosing beauty products is a somewhat personal task, as no two people have exactly the same issues, hang-ups, needs, and wishes.

Each person is unique and wants to feel that way. But at the same time, they want to connect with others and understand that they’re not alone in their struggles — and that’s where fostering a strong community comes in.

Another area where the brand has excelled, from the beginning, Glossier built its brand around a “personal, authentic connection with its customers.” And — quite impressively —Weiss was able to transfer this defining aspect of the brand’s online presence to its brick and mortar retail locations.

“Rather than opening stores with the sole intention of selling products, Glossier was also creating spaces for its community to hang out. By 2017, Glossier’s flagship retail space was generating more sales revenue per square foot of space than the average Apple Store, and boasting a 65% conversion rate.”

By creating a close-knit, powerful online community for customers to share their experiences, get advice, discover new products, and more — Glossier became more than just a company, but a safe space for beauty lovers of all walks of life.

The Takeaway: Consumers want to feel seen and understood. They want to forge emotional connections with brands, and one of the best ways to encourage this is by creating a community where they feel that their opinions matter.

And you don’t have to be a beauty brand to tap into the power of community. Brands from almost every industry could benefit from leaning into community — both online and offline.

3. Never Underestimate Brand Identity

We know — you’ve likely heard this before. But, in a world where 95% of new products fail, there’s still room for us to harp on brand identity a bit more.

Again, Glossier crushes it when it comes to brand identity. From its signature share of “Glossier pink” to its minimalistic design to its focus on female diversity — the company’s brand identity has never been weak.

In an interview with Business Insider, Weiss stated: “Brand is really, really important. It's kind of everything.” And all it takes to see this statement in action is a quick look through Glossier’s social media channels.

Sleek, minimalistic, modern — one look and you immediately recognize the Glossier brand identity. This instantly-recognizable aesthetic is one of the things that helps the brand stand out among the competition and attract new customers within its desired target market.

The same can be said for Glossier’s physical locations, where brand identity clearly played a huge role in the design.

Source: Personal Care Business

From the signature Glossier pink to the minimal setup, everything about its stores strengthens its overall brand identity.

The Takeaway: From the first moment a potential customer lands on your website to the tenth time they visit your physical store or purchase from your online catalog — they need to be 100% sure of what your brand identity is.

After all, how can you ask customers to trust your brand and give you their business if you don’t really know who you are or what you represent? Consumers want to trust brands — and a rock-solid brand identity makes creating that trust a lot easier.

Final Thoughts

On the surface, Glossier’s journey from a personal beauty blog to an international powerhouse brand with unicorn status may seem like a fairy tale. But in reality, it has involved an enormous amount of work, research, mistakes, and second-trys to get it right.

Admittedly, the brand has made some fairly large blunders since the start of the pandemic — “going wide instead of going deep” with their brand strategy and spreading itself too thin. But if the brand can take a step back and refocus on what it does best, it will likely be able to get back on track.

Ultimately, Glossier is a great example of a brand that understands the importance of consumer insights — having been powered by customer feedback since day one. So, if you want to follow in Glossier’s footsteps, we suggest keeping the above-mentioned lessons in mind.

For more insights, feel free to check out our Glossier Brand Bite — which features exclusive data from our own brand tracking software. And, if you like what you see, consider giving brand tracking software a try. After all, you can’t use customer insights to shape your brand strategy without first having access to quality consumer data.

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