For some indie brands, getting your products on the shelves of stores like Sephora, Ulta, or Bluemercury is the ultimate goal. I mean, who wouldn’t want a piece of the $56 billion beauty retail market pie?
Full disclosure — although I would love to say, “Follow these steps and YOU GET A DEAL, YOU GET A DEAL, and YOU GET A DEAL!”, sadly, I cannot. Getting your brand into major beauty retailers is a tough task. However, with my own experience working on the inside of one of the largest retailers — it may or may not rhyme with Shmeshmora — I was able to learn first-hand from product buyers to understand what factors retailers look for when deciding which brands get the coveted spots on their shelves. With these tips, you’ll be putting yourself in a position to pitch your brand and get one step closer to securing a deal with your ideal retailer.
So put on that bold lip, get that highlighter on fleek, and keep your mascara wands inside the cabin as we proceed on this journey of all things beauty.
Gain a Cult Following
As we all know, cults are simply and easily built over-night — no prob! KIDDING.
Although this may seem trivial, gaining a dedicated customer base is actually a vital first step in gaining the attention of retailers. Think about it: as customers leverage the convenience of shopping online, the retail industry has continued to struggle with thousands of stores closing their doors permanently last year. But the same is not true for the beauty industry. Beauty retailers have only expended thanks to their loyal customers who love being able to feel and touch beauty products in-person before purchasing.
Having a built-in audience is a major plus when pitching your brand to buyers. Beauty retailers are looking for brands that will stand out on shelves and excite their customers. Below are some suggestions on how you can start gaining a dedicated audience of your own:
- Differentiate yourself early on. Is it an ingredient? Is it an innovative product design? Amazing brand story? Whatever it is, call it out and focus on it.
- Get your name out there, especially on social media. Obviously, spreading brand awareness is the number one goal when your brand is just getting started. Start getting your brand name out there by building a strong identity and online presence. We’ll talk about this more in the next sections.
Influencers — I Want What She’s Having!
I know I don’t have to tell you twice, but influencers have become the expert voices in the world of beauty. The influencer community is the first place a retail buyer will go to do research on new brands and products.
Start sending beauty influencers samples of your products and work your way to building ambassador programs, collaborations, and events.
For more information on building a successful influencer marketing platform from the ground up, check out The Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing.
Connect With Your Target Audience Through Influencer Content
It’s hard to build a following on social media if you don’t have tons of like-worthy content. Yet coming from a traditional retail environment, I’m extremely aware of the time, budget, and energy it takes to create content in-house. I would see $30k easily go into one photoshoot.
For many brands, this type of budget just isn’t realistic. However, there is a way to generate amazing content without breaking the bank. By leveraging influencers for their content creating abilities, you’re able to source incredibly diverse and engaging content at a fraction of the price.
You can then repurpose this influencer-generated content on:
- Your website
- Email newsletters
- Owned social media channels
- Paid social & digital ads
- Offline ads
Boost It ‘Til Ya Make It
I’m sure you’ve at one point discovered a brand you love through social media. With all of the highly targeted sponsored posts on Instagram and Facebook, it’s impossible to avoid. Paid ads on social are a great way to get your brand in front of your target customer.
If you just want to dip your toe into paid social, start with “boosted” posts. Essentially, this is when you pay to promote posts that already exist on Instagram. This could be a post made by an influencer or a post on your own feed that’s performing really well with your audience.
Boosting is different and easier than running a normal ad because you are not creating a new ad set. Instead of an existing post, engagement and all is shown to a larger audience or re-targeted to your own fans. Boosting posts is an incredible way to capitalize on already successful posts. By giving the influencer a little extra budget to boost their post, they’re able to reach more people while keeping the post looking organic and authentic.
Little known fact, the travel size section — oh yes, that section that you’re sucked into as you’re checking out that somehow leaves you buying a $25 mini-sized setting powder — that section accounts for over 50% of total sales. And it's a space that is consistently a staple on their websites and apps and is a coveted spot now for all brands. Some brands have already begun enticing customers with travel or sample-sized beauty products that they can get for free after paying shipping and handling.
A few reasons why this is good news for you:
- Mini sizes offer a non-threatening introduction into your brand that hopefully will turn into a loyal customer
- The price does not have to be mini — you’re at such an advantage as the consumer has just walked through the aisles with an average price tag per item of $40+ so they come into this section desensitized to price so the $20 price point feels incredibly attainable
- With thriving loyalty programs, stores are always looking for mini-sized products to offer as points redeemers