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How Brands Are Selling Beauty to a New Generation

As prestige brands are struggling and beauty standards are shifting, the beauty industry is pulling out all the tricks to sell to young consumers…

The new generation of beauty buyers has been frustrating longstanding brands with their “finicky” and suspicious ways. While some traditional brands made the list of female Millennial and teens’ favorite beauty products, that list was also full of non-traditional players, and most prestige brands didn’t make the cut. Women 18-34-year-olds are currently the largest portion of the cosmetic market, purchasing 10 types of products a year, but their approach to buying beauty is certainly a shock to many in the industry. They refuse to stick to a “signature” brand or product, instead leaping from brand to brand, playing and experimenting with those who seem more innovative, or more authentic, or more interesting than the last. Beauty trials have helped them to hone this fussy behavior, and major brands are running to launch their own versions of sampling.

But that’s not the only way that the industry is hoping to appeal to the next generation of cosmetics and beauty shoppers. Here are four other ways the beauty world is trying to get younger beauty mavens on their side:

By Going Mobile (Of Course)

Sephora is stepping up its mobile efforts to create “addictive shopping experiences.” To re-launch their private label the Sephora Collection, the beauty brand took a page from dating app Tinder, introducing a feature that allows users to browse looks and swipe left to pass, or swipe right to buy from Eventually, they hope to add more “user-generated” looks with consumers’ photos. They also added the “beauty uncomplicator,” a tool that helps users “whittle through thousands of makeup and beauty tools to find what they’re looking for,” by filling in the blanks like Mad Libs. While these tools are available online, they’re perfectly designed for mobile use, and clearly take inspiration from some of the smartphone-hits of today.

By Tapping Influencers

A recent Women’s Wear Daily report revealed just how advantageous it is for beauty brands to have a blogger or vlogger on their side. Beauty blogger Arielle Charnas uses Snapchat for her sponsored posts, generating $17,5000 worth of sales for Peter Thomas Roth’s gel masks in one day and $13,500 of sales for Yves Saint Laurent Mascara in another. Thanks to numbers like these Business Insider reports that brands are “shifting advertising dollars away from traditional media,” and paying digital creators large sums of money to be their new “tastemakers.” Last month, Charnas also partnered with Macy’s and Lancome for a sponsored post, and was included in a WWD article calling beauty bloggers the industry’s most “in demand authorities.” Estée Lauder, which is actively pursuing Millennial shoppers on multiple fronts, just made Amber Rose the face of new brand Flirt. Racked reports that the surprising choice for the heritage brand was unexpected even for Rose herself: “I’m tatted, bald headed, I talk about sex like really raunchy…but I just speak my mind. Are you sure you want me for your brand?” However, Rose—who has 12 million followers on Instagram—is the perfect match for the brand’s targeting of “social media savvy Millennials.” Flirt’s products will be available only online and marketed heavily on social.

By Showing Up In Unexpected Places

Need a new lipstick? Head to the bookstore. Barnes & Noble is appealing to the co-ed audience by bringing beauty products to college campuses with The Glossary, their new concept store-within-a-store stocked with brands like Smashbox, Philosophy, Bliss, and Burt’s Bees. According to B&N execs, students across the county are overjoyed to the point of “squeals of delight” when they see the products now available between the cookbook and art book sections. The concept makes brands more conveniently available to a “receptive audience”: over 60% of 18-24-year-olds have purchased eight or more beauty items in the last year.

By Going All In On Social

Smaller beauty brands are appealing to Millennial women, and social media strategy is giving them “an edge.” New research from Kline & Co. found that beauty brands like Tarte, Too Faced, and E.L.F. Cosmetics who have mastered social media platforms and found ways to personalize products are reportedly “registering double and sometimes triple-digit sales gains.” Meanwhile, beauty brands are bringing the unboxing trend to Snapchat in an effort to create authentic marketing on the platform. Benefit Cosmetics taps into beauty influencers to unbox products and focus on personalization to make the content more “Snapable.” Snapchat Lenses are also at play: In June, L’Oreal launched their first makeup lens, which added cateye eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush, and lip color to selfies. When a user raised their eyebrows, camera lights flashed around them, and the L’Oreal logo popped up. Urban Decay’s Lens, which allowed users to “try on” multiple colors of lipstick, reportedly boosted engagement and sales for the brand. It’s no wonder more and more beauty brands are playing with new tools on social platforms. 

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