Owning Customer Relationships: Glossier Case Study

The problem for most marketers today is figuring out how to cut through the noise of social media and make an actual human impact on their customers. How do you go from being just a brand vying for customer attention to a friend your customers WANT to spend time with?

This is a question many marketers have begun to ask themselves as more of their social media campaigns fail to drive any real organic growth, let alone get a good enough return on investment. These days, unless a brand is willing to spend an awful lot of time, money and effort, they simply won’t see any significant traffic or conversions from a single Tweet or photo posted to Instagram.

Why is social media getting harder to crack for most CMOs?

Much of it boils down to what overall objectives are being set for a campaign. If you’re thinking of social media as just another channel to deliver your marketing message – you’re thinking of social all wrong. And if the goal of your social campaigns is to simply get more likes, shares and comments, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the results.

It can’t be just about getting customers to like you, but rather showing your customers that you like and care about them.

Glossier is Breaking All the Rules

Glossier is a beauty company started by Emily Weiss, who turned her beauty blog into a line of products that now boasts a cult following. Though Weiss declines to share exact earnings with the public, she has disclosed that Glossier experienced 600% year-over-year growth from 2015 to 2016. What is behind this phenomenon? According to Glossier’s president and chief operating officer Henry Davis, the company doesn’t “go by the rules.”

Davis, who had been inspired by direct-to-consumer brands such as shaving subscription players Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, was determined to figure out how to use digital for creative marketing campaigns that would engage women and ultimately change what it means to be a customer.

Davis recognized one of the biggest problems with brands today, and that is most lack a tangible understanding of who their customer really is. “We’re increasingly seeing the decline of department stores, which is suddenly making everyone wake up and think ‘I need to know my customer’.”

Glossier is completely disrupting the beauty industry by basing its entire marketing strategy around owning the customer relationship. Davis has said, “At the moment YouTube or Instagram or Facebook owns the context, the environment and the format in which we talk with our own customer and actually, if we really believe that having customers as a core part of the company is the way to build brands of the future, you have to start to own that relationship.”

How Glossier is Killing It

How can other marketers begin to own the relationships they have with their customers? Let’s take a look at some of the digital marketing strategies Glossier uses to build their loyal and incredibly enthusiastic following.

True Customer Engagement

Glossier’s SVP of marketing, Ali Weiss, did not come from a traditional marketing background. She developed Glossier’s marketing team and strategy with one goal in mind: to truly understand and serve their customers. Weis has said, “We were able to test, learn and scale our structure and processes with the customer as our ‘true north’.”

To Weiss, it made far more sense to focus on customer engagement than bottom-line results. This meant Glossier did not go the traditional route of spending massive amounts of advertising or offering discounts and special promotions.

No, Glossier’s cult-like following (women line up around the block when new products are launched) is a result of customers feeling like the company was created just for them and, in a way, by them. They have been made to feel like they are co-creators of the brand.

Beyond the standard product development and performance measurement teams, Glossier also has what they call their Customer Experience Team (gTeam), which embodies the heart and soul of the company. Team members are the eyes and ears of the brand, constantly collecting feedback from their community of customers and assuming responsibility for creating the best experience possible with the brand.

Glossier has made it a top priority to make sure the customer’s voice is always heard. They don’t just pay lip service to the idea, they have built a structure that keeps the customer front and center at all times.

Most Important Metric – Lifetime Value of the Customer

Glossier does metrics a bit differently than most brands. They focus on experience first and business results second. This means every piece of content that Glossier creates has a goal of cultivating an active community of women who partake in conversations and make real connections. The brand believes that this strategy ultimately leads to transactions.

Weiss has said,“We do also measure quantitative results. If our content and products are engaging for her and for her friends, we have been able to prove out downstream business success in terms of product purchases. We are able to demonstrate how social engagement correlates with the lifetime value of the customer.”

The brand does monitor where sales come from — social, stores or organic — and they try to determine why. They also measure how many conversations their gTeam editors and showroom editors engage in. If those metrics are strong, they know bottom-line results will follow.

They Leverage the “Feedback Loop”

Collecting customer feedback is one thing, innovating based on that feedback is something entirely different. Glossier has a Slack channel with 100 of their top customers. Each week they exchange over 1,100 messages with these customers. This allows the brand to leverage their customer feedback loop for research and development purposes. In fact, Glossier developed its Milk Jelly cleanser in complete collaboration with its customers.

Other brands would do well to leverage their own feedback loops that social media offers instead of focusing their efforts simply on gaining likes and follows. A Forbes survey found that 62% of millennials would show more loyalty to a brand if that brand engaged with them on a personal level through social media. Posting is only half of the story; truly connecting is the other half.

Invite User-Generated Content

Much of Glossier’s marketing is done on social media and is made up of user generated content (UGC) in the 18-35 age bracket. The brand also receives thousands of tagged photos each day, which the team reviews to find their “real girl” models. This creates a sense of community and shows what the company is all about: that all women are beautiful, and that their products are for everyone.

 Be Authentic

When you think traditional beauty brands, retouched, perfect, glossy images come to mind. But that isn’t how Glossier presents their creative content. They are all about real and raw, which is why they shoot their product images with an iPhone rather than a DSLR camera.

They also use natural light to shoot their models and product line, and many Instagram photos are of real women wearing their makeup in their naturally-lit-day-to-day lives. To add to the authenticity, Glossier also posts all testimonies, even the not-so-great ones, in an effort to be fully transparent.

Today’s consumer can smell phonies from a mile away. Be authentic with all of your communication.

Drive Excitement by Leveraging Influencers and Fans

Before a new product launch, Glossier creates hype by sending out free product samples to their loyal fans and influencers. Many customers will create detailed videos and reviews, not because they are paid to do so (they aren’t), but because they love the brand and the products so much. This UGC drives excitement and almost presells the product.

Final Thoughts

Glossier is an excellent case study for today’s digital marketers and illustrates that knowing and serving your customer can go a long way toward building a brand with a cult following. By genuinely listening to customers and authentically engaging with them, marketers can build a loyal customer base and increase their bottom line.

PHOTO CRED From Glossier!

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