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We’re just back from the Los Angeles Beauty and Money show, where up and coming beauty brands shared their experiences, hoping to make it big by impressing investors and larger brands. We were there to get a pulse of new brands, keep abreast of new developments in the mainstream beauty market, and present our point of view and predictions for personalized beauty technologies. Key topics of the day included omnichannel, prestige, personal experience, natural and hypoallergenic ingredients, sustainability, women entrepreneurs, efficacy, and humanization of beauty.
What stood out however, was not necessarily the beauty brands themselves or any technology per se, but the stories behind these young companies and the personal passion that fuels their success; many young companies are more focused on humanizing beauty, empowerment, and independence than technology alone. CEOs and founders were most often strong, smart, and exceptionally creative and persistent women who had an idea and passion for their product. Usually based from personal experience and many times overcoming major hurdles, each founder was uniquely gifted and had a story to tell, articulated through their products they worked so hard to develop and bring to market. Anyone who has started a company, developed product and brought it to market should be revered. It’s exceedingly hard, and while technology plays a role in every part of the industry, at Beauty & Money, it was refreshingly second seat.
What stood out however, was not necessarily the beauty brands themselves or any technology per se, but the stories behind these young companies and the personal passion that fuels their success; many young companies are more focused on humanizing beauty, empowerment, and independence than technology alone.
We saw presentations from twelve young companies all with a dream of building a successful and attractive company that might someday be sold to a larger brand to leverage its marketing and distribution power and scale. Most of these young companies face a very fickle and crowded market, where the odds of surviving beyond 3 years are stacked against them—on average only 10% make it longer. To achieve that milestone requires perseverance, a little luck, and hard work to develop the brand story, community, and consumer who will cherish and accept the brand as their own. These are smart and tenacious women who won’t take “no” for an answer, and really know how to push the boundaries of what a founder can achieve. As highlighted by founders of Playa, Ellis Brooklyn, and Doctor Rogers Skin Solutions, finding the right omnichannel mix between direct to consumer and specialty retail, like Sephora, was a key to early success in brand and customer development.
We were there to discuss a big industry topic—personalization. The global brands we spoke with acknowledged the importance of meeting the consumer where they are at and on their terms, but also realize technology solutions can’t succeed if they impart a barrier to the enjoyment, ritual, or ease of access. Any technology, no matter how clever, must account for both the realities of the situation, and the user’s perception of its role in the job to be done. Technology isn’t a replacement for quality, it’s simply a multiplier, helping enable better customer experience, performance, awareness, adaptability, etc. As always, high-quality efficacious products are at the heart of the user experience, which means the partnership between beauty experts (those who truly understand beauty) and technologists is key to the success in this new digital era. Users are constantly (and subconsciously) looking for the best functional, emotional, and cost optimized solution, and beauty products are no exception. We enjoyed chatting about these topics with Lori Haram (Estee Lauder) and Carla Ruiz (Shiseido), who understand this consumer and market dynamic well, and other companies actively looking at how technology and the user experience can compliment each other.
So many companies, and so many stories, but all one thing in common—how to become relevant and noticed in an exceedingly digital world led by online micro and macro influencers and an omnichannel strategy that balances direct to consumer and specialty retail channels.
During our presentation, a few themes became evident. Amazon is an emerging force in the beauty space and will continue to be so. While not everyone believed the new Amazon, data-driven Belei line was exceptional, everyone acknowledged it was an important milestone, and likely not the last beauty product we see from Amazon, who prides itself in putting the customer center to all it does. Given the trend that more data is better, nearly every attendee raised their hand when asked if data was key. The challenge for any brand is access to real user data (purchase, use, efficacy, and contextual data). We know the big brands are developing apps and front-ends to collect more data, but they currently can’t compete with the big box, specialty, and online retailers who have access to megadata and trends across brands at a highly granular level—these being Amazon, Sephora, Feelunique, Douglas, CVS, and Walgreens Boots to name a few. It’s not a level playing field.
The challenge for any brand is access to real user data (purchase, use, efficacy, and contextual data).
Other key themes included:
Many amazing stories, passionate women founders, and exiting things happing in the beauty space. We are looking forward to staying engaged on this journey, helping how we can, and seeing how the stories unfold.
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