Social media enables brands and retailers to assess the sentiment of thousands — and at times millions — of consumers at a time. The power of the crowd, in fact, equips businesses with insights that even the most detailed surveys couldn’t capture.
Beauty brand and eTailer Julep is one company that understands the value of social followers and brand ambassadors, maintaining robust communities on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Tumblr. On these sites, consumers post pictures and videos of themselves using Julep products, which range from nail polishes, to makeup, haircare and skincare. They also use the sites to seek out advice from fellow beauty fans.
Social media also helps Julep garner customer insights, which helps the brand shape future investments, according to Jane Park, Founder and CEO of Julep.
“Doing business in the era of social media and such transparency is all about embracing vulnerability,” Park said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “You have to know you’re going to make mistakes but you have to open that dialogue, even if it’s not positive all the time.”
Due to consumers’ increased desire to search for beauty inspiration online, Julep has experienced a four-times increase in revenue between the first half of 2012 and the same period in 2013.
“We’re in this to build the next enduring and engaging beauty brand,” Park said. “We really feel the next major brand is going to be built online, not over the counter. We have always focused on meeting women where they are, and that’s why we have that digital presence.”
But that doesn’t mean Julep is dismissing brick-and-mortar. Sephora carries Julep products in all locations nationwide, and the brand is in the midst of finalizing a distribution deal with Nordstrom. Park also appears regularly on QVC, which has transformed Julep into a true multichannel brand.
Although Julep doesn’t have branded brick-and-mortar stores, consumers can visit its parlors to get manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, and more. All services use Julep products, helping consumers determine whether they may want to purchase a product.
E-Commerce, social, brick-and-mortar stores, and parlors integrate to create the “girlfriend connection.” Park explained that the promise of the girlfriend connection is merely “meeting the consumer where she is. It’s not about the channel itself, but the person at the end of the channel. You have to think about who she is and what she wants in that very moment, and develop special ways to engage her.”
Creating The Next Generation Of Cosmetics
However, it is the brand’s Julep Mavens that have the most impact on brand recognition and value. Subscribers receive one box a month of best-selling products, as well as items in the early stages of development, Park explained. With the help from its Mavens, Julep launched more than 50 new products, as well as more than 120 new nail polish colors in the last year.
“Julep is all about innovation, and from the very beginning we focused on using beauty ingredients that not only show results, but also are natural,” Park said. “We realized that if we included women and their voices earlier in the process we could really create the next generation of cosmetics.”
Mavens are encouraged to share their feedback on new products directly with the eTailer and through social networks, Park explained, which provides Julep with ample feedback to refine product recipes before items go to market.
“We’re creating a lot of innovative new products, faster,” Park said. “Sometimes it comes from inspiration and from travel. For example, I’m from Korea and there’s a lot of innovation in that area, as well as Japan. We brought konjak sponges back for cleansing and exfoliating, and added charcoal to create a skin clarifier. We were able to test and bring the new product to market faster because we have that direct community of Mavens to help.”
Typically, the traditional beauty development cycle is three to five years, Park noted. By embracing social networks and reaching out to Maven members, Julep is “speeding up the process and getting new products into women’s hands.” This approach helps create a smaller, more efficient innovation pipeline, which in turn, “cuts down the clutter of product planning.”