Winky Lux & The Rise of Instagram-Native Retail

A growing trend among burgeoning retail brands is to start brand-building on social media before launching any products. This allows these brands to cheaply gauge interest and generate buzz while learning about their audience and potential customer base.

In a recent webinar with Kate Fernandez, Director of Global Brand Marketing at Winky Lux we learned more about Instagram-native retail and speeding the supply chain to capitalize on trends as they arise.

Below is an excerpt from Custora Marketing Manager, Maddie Buras’ conversation with Kate.  

To hear the whole interview, you can watch it here, or listen to it on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

Maddie: The beauty space has really exploded in the past 10 years, with tons of new brands launching. Can you tell us about how you guys found your niche, how you identified a market, a target market, that wasn't really being catered to in the beauty space?

Kate: It's really funny. I think Natalie and Nate, our founders, could probably tell the story a little bit better since I wasn't physically there. I know that back in 2014 when they were first joining forces and figuring out what they wanted to do together, they were actually building an app that would allow shoppers, beauty shoppers, to find products more easily, and to curate online.

A lot of apps like that were popping up in 2013-2014. They brought in girls between the ages of 16 through 35 to dump out their makeup bags and tell them, "Where did you buy this? What do you feel about your makeup? What do you like about shopping for makeup?" They found that one, nobody was really interested in the app. Two, they weren't really happy with the products that they could afford.

They wanted all of the pretty things, which is actually something that we say, "All the pretty things" quite often, but they were holding up pieces like their Charlotte Tilbury lipstick, their Tom Ford lipstick, their Dior mascara. They were super-excited about this, but when it came to their drugstore makeup—which I can say I have a lot of drugstore makeup—they were almost ashamed to talk about it. That was interesting. They discovered this gap in the industry, the luxury feel at drug store prices.

Maddie: My understanding is that from the very beginning, you guys have leveraged a micro-influencer strategy for a more down to earth and cost-efficient type of social media presence. Can you tell us about that? Tell us what it means to be a social media-first brand.

Kate: To me, it means putting your followers first. When you're a social media-first brand, you're pretty vulnerable. Your community is helping you make decisions and validating them in public for everyone to see, which can be great and sometimes, pretty scary.

Being social-first also allows us to be more nimble. Everything that we do, from product development to getting feedback from our consumers online, and changing our messaging, even product formulas.

Maddie: Let's talk a little bit about how you guys are using customer intelligence to inform the direction of your branding and content. How do you guys incorporate customer intelligence? I have to ask this being Custora.

Kate: Before we had Custora, we always thought we knew our demo, but being able to dig deeper into the smaller segments, that at first sight, don't appear to be who she or he is, and discover ways to keep on-brand, but modifying the content to speak to these groups, is more powerful than we ever knew, because we didn't have the data.

Maddie: How do you guys measure the ROI of a given social channel or a campaign?

Kate: Our two usual suspects are view engagement, reach impressions. Pretty simple.

Maddie: You use Google Analytics, and some--

Kate: Yes, we use Google Analytics, we're using Dash Hudson. Dash Hudson is our social media dashboard and platform. Obviously, this all gets threaded to places like Custora.

Maddie: We didn't ask her to say that. Now, I want to talk a little bit more about how Winky Lux is using customer intelligence. We read an article in Forbes that talks about how your successful line of matcha infused products came to be, by an intern just manually scanning Instagram, BuzzFeed, PopSugar and Refinery29 to find new trends. What does the Winky Lux R&D process look like now?

Kate: Our Matcha Balm is born from a lot of manual research. It was also made reality because of our followers on social media. A fun story is our CEO went to an Instagram story. When you receive the prototype at a product development meeting, it's just like, "Okay, guys brace yourselves. I'm going on," and just flat-out asked, "Do you want this?" She applied it, she explained what the product was. The majority of our followers did want it.

I would say our research and development process has gotten a bit more advanced as we've grown. Our new tools, cough cough, Custora, [chuckles] that help us understand what's working, and what isn't, in our current product line.

Maddie: Do you guys have interns just continuously scanning Instagram looking for the latest trends?

Kate: We sure do. We have several interns in different departments that look at it. I think it's important. It's not just interns. During our product development process, we can find inspiration from so many different places. My favorite is just looking at different departments, like our operations team, that you wouldn't normally think at a traditional company, to look to for ideas. We definitely do. We like to keep things manual. I think it's just the startup in us.

Maddie: We totally understand. Cool. How much is driven by data-driven analytics versus human intuition and trend-spotting? How do you guys balance those two things?

Kate: Oddly, like I just said we are fans of the manual work. We just like to torture ourselves. I want to say that we're at an even 50-50 split now when it comes to data versus intuition. Numbers don't lie, but gut instinct is what really allows us to innovate. We don't have data on things that don't exist.

Maddie: How does data inform your product line in general?

Kate: I have a favorite story on how consumer data we found on Custora played a major role in a product line decision. One of our OG products, the Glossy Boss, our third product I believe. It was an in-house favorite. I love it. It's super moisturizing. Get yourself one. Get one for your loved one. After three years, we considered it pulling out of the line. It was selling, but it wasn't a heavy hitter SKU.

When we were locked and loaded on the dashboard and started digging into our LTV products, we found that Glossy Boss was actually a super valuable product. It would have been a mess, a huge mess if we decided to pull it out. Needless to say, Glossy Boss is on our permanent collection. We even created an experience room around it in Nashville. It's probably going to stay there for a while.

Maddie: That's awesome. Did you guys-- Were you thinking about lifetime value from the beginning?

Kate: It was the main reason why we joined Custora. We didn't really have any visibility into that. No.

Maddie: That's really cool. I always get really excited when friends are thinking about customer lifetime value.

To hear the whole interview, you can watch it here, or listen to it on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. In it, you’ll learn:

  • How Winky Lux chooses which influencers to work with
  • How Winky Lux keeps its data consolidated for a single-view of the customer
  • What agile DTC brands are doing to leverage SMS marketing
  • A few trade secrets of how Winky Lux is able to keep their idea-to-reality timelines within 45 to 60 days
  • How the Winky Lux marketing team turns data into insight and insight into revenue-driving action
  • And so much more!  

And if you want to hear even more, Custora is heading to the Glossy Summit in Miami with Kate Fernandez to share how we are helping them grow their brand in today's changing retail landscape.

Using customer data to make strategic, intelligent, actionable decisions is key to building a customer-obsessed strategy that engages new customers and retains current ones. We'd love to hear how your 2019 strategy is shaping up and how we may be able to help empower your team. Schedule a time to meet with us here

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