Nine years after starting a blog, Into the Gloss, Emily Weiss’ Glossier is now a product-based beauty unicorn worth $1.2 billion that focuses on a small range of utilitarian products that retains the personal view of the beauty world.

This is according to a new FT interview with Weiss, the founder of the DTC beauty company, whose online (and increasingly physical) empire sells one of its £14 Boy Brow sticks every 32 seconds.

“We take an Apple-like approach to product development and product creation,” says Weiss of the company’s range (around 30 distinct products). “We’re not interested in the fast fashion beauty approach, where you’re churning out trend-driven items, throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks.”

“One of the insights that led to the creation of Glossier was actually my experience listening to women as I was interviewing them for the blog years ago telling me how much they loved their Lancôme mascara or how much they really loved their XYZ moisturiser,” she explains. But her key observation was that they weren’t talking about loving brands as much as they were talking about loving products.

Initially, the brand was based on crowd-sourcing ideas. Last autumn, WARC reported on the development of the brand’s bestselling Milky Jelly Cleanser. Ali Weiss, the company’s SVP Marketing told a conference in Las Vegas that in 2015 the site posted “What’s your dream cleanser?”. It received “tens of thousands of responses”, which were then sent in real time to the product development team.

Emily Weiss plays down the word crowdsourcing, casting the company’s process more as listening at scale. “It’s something that any smart brand and any company is increasingly going to have to do.

At a marketing level, the category excels in influencer marketing effectiveness – as WARC’s What’s working in cosmetics and beauty aids briefing shows – but Glossier’s strategy has been to leverage engaged consumers, who create content and receive in return product credit and a commission for any friends they refer.

Though Glossier is moving into a select number of physical retail outlets in New York, and one in London opening later this year, it is more comfortable in the pop-up format. Weiss argues that many incumbent brands, in contrast, are weighed down by their legacies. “Look at how tied a lot of these companies are to offline channels,” she explains, “and to ways of selling and ways of communicating with customers that are pre-social media”.

“What does it take to be the future beauty company? I say it’s putting the customer experience front and centre. … We are an experience company. We create digital experiences, we create physical product experiences, and we create offline experiences.”

Glossier’s aim is to be a brand that creates a desire in its consumers beyond the existing product line, she continues. Effectively, building a brand that people want to reflect comes from shared values – but big ones: personality and individual identity in beauty. “I do think our success to date has been about that value alignment.”

Sourced from the Financial Times, WARC