Glossier engaging customers by spurring interaction, communication

| by Elliot Maras
Glossier engaging customers by spurring interaction, communication

Emily Weiss, Glossier founder and CEO, cites the need for brands to listen to customers, not just make them feel like they're listened to.

The future belongs to brands that can engage customers. But in order to do this, it is necessary to truly listen to customers, not just make them think you are listening.

Glossier, which specializes in beauty products, is making this happen by enabling customers to interact with one another about their experiences, said Emily Weiss, founder and CEO, during a presentation at the recent ShopTalk Conference at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas.

Weiss' presentation was one of several ShopTalk events focusing on the importance of personalization in retail.

Weiss began her talk noting that many brands recognize the importance of making their customers feel heard. But making the customer feel heard is one thing, she said, and actually listening to the customer is something else.

Brands weren't listening

Glossier launched three and a half years ago because competing beauty brands were not listening to customers, Weiss said. She knew this as she had interviewed hundreds of women.

The women Weiss interviewed, despite their experiences using beauty products, did not feel qualified to discuss the products they had been using for years, shared Weiss. This was because the beauty industry wants to keep the power in the hands of the brands and not the customer.

"They resisted social media," Weiss said of the beauty brands. "Their marketing and advertising engines ran on the fuel of making their customers feel like constant beginners…like they weren't the ultimate experts on what worked for them."

That's a big reason Glossier has distinguished itself as a company that enables customers to talk to one another about their needs and experiences. 

"Nobody likes feeling in the dark about the products they buy," she said. "And they especially don't like to be talked down to by the companies that sell them these products."

Empower the customer

In creating Glossier, Weiss sought to take the brand out of the equation and create a business model based on empowering customers to share knowledge with one another.

"It doesn't matter anymore what a brand says about its products," Weiss said. "It matters what the customers say about the product."

The beauty industry, one of the fastest growing industries, is expected to reach $750 billion by 2024 and almost $1 trillion by 2030.

The reason for such growth is because of how beauty products make people feel. When a customer feels excited about something, no matter what it is, they want to share this feeling with others, said Weiss. Social media is spurring user interaction.

"And thanks to social media, we can share these feelings with anyone at any time," she said. "People have become obsessed with sharing their experiences. As a result, people are looking to other people, and not to experts," she added.

This is why diners looking for a new restaurant check out reviews on Yelp rather than The New York Times restaurant review, she said.

"You could argue that this makes brands irrelevant, and you'd be correct," Weiss said. "An airbrushed ad isn't going to sell you on a (facial) foundation, and neither is a brand appointed expert in a department store."

But brands don't have to be irrelevant if they engage customers. Glossier recently raised additional funding to further invest in the customer experience, Weiss said. 

"And if we do it right, we will fundamentally change what it means to be a customer of a brand," she said.

Glossier paves new ground

Much discussion in retail marketing focuses on the need to improve online shopping experiences. Glossier is not the only brand addressing this challenge, but it is taking a unique approach.

While many customers prefer online shopping, these experiences are not meeting customers' needs, according to Weiss. It takes a long time for the customer to figure out what product they want, go to a separate website to make the purchase, then have to wait at least a few days to get the product in hand.

"There's a breadth of product online and in physical stores, but not a breadth of connection in one place to help you find these products, learn more about them and understand how to use them and why they're important," Weiss said.

She asked the audience when was the last time was they actually enjoyed making a purchase.

"There are thousands of you here, and I'm guessing there aren't many of you who can remember being this really excited to visit a store or a website," she said. 

Social media the cornerstone

She also asked about the last time they really connected with someone. Evolution has primed the human brain to see the world socially. Hence, Glossier has focused on connecting customers via social media.

Eighty-percent of Glossier customers hear about the company through a peer recommendation. The customer then goes into the company's "land of 15 tabs," where they access social media recommendations to help them contextualize whether or not they should get certain products. 

The Glossier website allows customers to engage in conversations with other customers who have the same concerns. The customer might not purchase a product, but these other customers they engage with provide new connections.

"Encourage your customers to spend more time on your site and purchase fewer products," advised Weiss. "We believe in building the connectivity with and between people," she said.

She gave the example of a customer who tagged Glossier in an Instagram post in 2014. That customer has since placed 30 orders and sends 20 new customers per month.

"Something about the way she talks about her beauty routine sparks your interest," Weiss said. "So you go to and you see what other products she likes." Users feel compelled to chat with her and learn more about the products she uses, noted Weiss. By the end of a one minute conversation, the user could have walked away with four new product recommendations.

"We made a bet that when you hear about people talking about their products, this is more interesting," Weiss said. "We can give you a customer experience that might just be the best in the world. We can tailor our communication to you to make sure we're showing you the best content, the most relevant products, the proper context that you need to make your purchasing decision."

"Suddenly that non-social network of your brand that's usually active when making a purchasing decision is quiet, and the social part is activated in a way that's never been before when you are buying something on the Internet."

This, she said, is the future for brands and the future for the internet. E-commerce, she noted, is still in its formative days and accounts for just 5 percent of global commerce.

Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Service, Digital Merchandising, Merchandising, Online Retailing, Social Media

Elliot Maras

Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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