Today beauty brand Glossier boasts over 3 million customers, 200+ employees and is valued at $1.2 billion. Instagram followers top 2.7 million, and the term ‘glossier skin’ has become shorthand to describe a naturally healthy glow.
But how did this former lifestyle blog, set up as a side hustle by then Vogue employee, now Glossier founder Emily Weiss, grow to disrupt the notoriously over saturated beauty industry?
To find out we went back to basics, and broke down how Glossier won its first 1000 customers.
Put simply, Glossier has always been different. From the off the brand challenged the transparency-shy, image-obsessed beauty industry which had long become disconnected from its consumer base.
Whilst incumbents like Clinique, L’Oreal and Lancôme marketed products by telling women what they should look like, Glossier made waves by listening to the needs of consumers and creating products based upon them.
In the early 2010s this was a revolutionary approach. Glossier tapped into a trend of popular online feminism that was moving away from make up as a way of covering up imperfections in favour of a cleaner, healthier approach to skincare.
The brand ditched the aspirational images of luxury and glamour which characterised its competitors, instead positioning itself as a ‘people-powered beauty ecosystem’ that puts ‘skin first, make up second’.
“Glossier allow(s) women to look like the best version of themselves, not an aspirational version of someone else.” TIME
This fierce consumer focus and come as you are acceptance was a hit with early customers, but it didn’t come out of nowhere.
The genesis of Glossier’s radical approach was the beauty blog Into the Gloss - a passion project of Glossier’s now-founder Emily Wiess first published in 2010.
The site delivered educational content covering lifestyle topics and transparent reviews of beauty products. It's a model that Into the Gloss follows to this day:
Early audience engagement revealed dissatisfaction with traditional beauty brands, and an industry disrupting idea was born. Thanks to the reach of the blog, Glossier already had 15,000 Instagram followers when VC funding allowed it to launch a narrow line of 4 products in 2014.
“The best thing we can do is give people content, that is our main driver of growth” Former Glossier CFO Henry Davis quoted in Forbes in 2018.
It was this early audience that would go on to become the core of the brand’s initial customer base.
Having identified an opportunity and built a following, community became a key pillar of Glossier’s early acquisition strategy.
Huge emphasis was placed on the importance of fostering two way brand-customer conversations. Glossier religiously engaged with users by consistently replying to Instagram comments, tweets, emails, Facebook posts and comments on Into the Gloss articles.
This not only gave customers an experience many had never seen from a brand before, but also brought Glossier much closer to the wants and needs of their audience.
“In an age of online access and unending choice, customer engagement is something that Glossier has gotten right.” Business of Fashion
In turn this insight was then fed into product development, making new releases hyper relevant to consumers. In doing so, Glossier turned their early customers into stakeholders in the business - strengthening LTV.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) distribution
These customer-centric origins naturally led Glossier to adopt a digital-first model based around its owned website. Although common these days, this DTC approach was revolutionary for the beauty industry in 2010.
It enabled Glossier to own and optimise deep, value-packed relationships with early customers, and capture data-driven insights from these interactions.
Even now, as a billion dollar brand expanding into owned physical retail stores, Glossier rarely strays far from the idiosyncrasies which made it a hit with its first buyers.
Early acquisition drivers - radical positioning, emphasis on content and community, and a DTC focus - have underpinned compound growth long after its first 1000 customers were won.