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Applying a Digital Foundation

Photo courtesy of Ipsy

Ipsy pursues “high delight” through customization

As a beauty industry veteran and someone who is “beauty obsessed,” Emine ErSelcuk, senior vice president, merchandising at Ipsy, probably has enough intuition to sense what’s next in beauty. She also has something even better, though: data.

“I suspect that shopping beauty in brick-in-molder is going to change forever, right? You know, how we test and touch products and how we interact,” ErSelcuk said. “What I will say is so critical, still, is the ability to touch and feel products that are right for you before you invest in a full size or come back to replenish, and one of the amazing things about subscription is it allows you to do just that.”

After a long career working with companies including Bare Essentials, Perricone MD and Estée Lauder, including stints working on Kat Von D and Fenty Beauty, ErSelcuk decided to take a chance on her first subscription-based beauty brand.

“Ipsy was really at the forefront of recognizing the relevance of social media and the shift of the conversation in the beauty business,” she explained. “They’ve always stood for inclusivity and diversity, really embracing what is unique about everyone rather than trying to conform to any specific look or trend.”

In her role at Ipsy, ErSelcuk oversees brand partnerships — essentially, what goes in each of the brand’s “glam bags,” which are scaled to accompany three tiers of membership. Each bag contains an assortment of customized beauty products (usually incorporating a theme), which are delivered to subscribers every month.

“We target up-and-coming brands — rising stars — and we work with big, traditional brands too,” ErSelcuk said. “We personalize for our members so that everything they receive is unique to what they are looking for. We have about 10,000 different bags that we do each month in order to ensure that we are delivering high delight to each of our members.”

The secret to “high delight” for Ipsy is data collection; the company relies on a member quiz, social media, focus groups and other metrics to personalize each bag.

“We pay a lot of attention to social media and what they share there,” ErSelcuk said about Ipsy’s online community. “We also periodically run surveys with our members to get more membership insight.”

With 500 million monthly content views and an online community of 25 million, many consumers recognize Ipsy from its engagement on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Tik Tok, among other platforms. The company’s basis on digital engagement was one reason ErSelcuk kept her eye on the brand in the first place.

“I think social media has become and will continue to be incredibly relevant in terms of being a lever to drive awareness, excitement, engagement and, ultimately, sales,” she said. The numbers support her intuition; GlobalWebIndex reported that, globally, internet users spent an average of 142 minutes on social media in 2018. According to Statista, 30% of internet users ages 18 to 34 in the U.S. have purchased something through social media.

As part of its social media strategy, Ipsy engages heavily with influencers, operating a community of about 8,000 on both a macro and micro level.

“We definitely feel like the community is incredibly relevant, and when we activate any of our programs, we have sort of a comprehensive, 360 approach to activating within the community via social, including our ‘Ipsters’ — because, keep in mind — anyone with a phone is an influencer of some kind,” ErSelcuk said.

Reviews have been another crucial element in online success; so far, the brand has received 160 million product reviews (which is — you guessed it — another store of extremely valuable data).

“We definitely get an active, engaged, vocal community, and they tell one another what they think,” ErSelcuk said. “We adjust our marketing approach to make sure we are really focusing on the group of members or the group within our community that will really activate that program.”

Typically, the brand unites its online base with monthly themes and experiential commerce, though in-person options have been limited recently by the COVID-19 outbreak. Luckily for Ipsy, it’s been easier for the digitally-native brand to adjust than some brick-and-mortar retailers.

“We’re obviously really grateful in this moment in time that we’re shipping and not — you know, we don’t have retail stores, so in some ways, we’re a bit more insulated from what’s happing right now with COVID-19,” ErSelcuk said. “One of the points that we continue to get with what’s happening right now is how much gratitude our members have for something that’s coming to them that’s positive and fun and just for them and makes them feel really good.”

ErSelcuk also suspects that the decline in retail sales due to the pandemic will position Ipsy to work with even more brands in the future.

“Likely, brands will have a surplus of really great merchandi[se], and retailers are going to be looking to build back traffic and confidence and revenue,” she said. “This is where Ipsy can continually drive value, which is important for our members, but do it in a way that is meaningful … and doing it in a way that does not provide a long-term discount or in any way damage the brand equity for the partners that we’re working with.”

Expanded partnership opportunities will accompany a revamped quiz and an even “deeper dive into our membership preferences,” ErSelcuk said, as the brand also plans to let members have a greater say in the brands they want to see in glam bags.

“Beauty subscription services are really fascinating,” she said. “We’re so fortunate to be able to draw upon this amazing data and tabulate great data points in order to better personalize to the consumer.”

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