Glossier just closed a $52 million series C round of funding. President and COO Henry Davis discusses the beauty brand's rise.

Glossier Inc., which dubs itself as “the beauty brand you want to be friends with” launched in 2014 as a spinoff of Into The Gloss, a blog that features interviews with models, makeup artists and other influential women. Over the past four years, Glossier has evolved into a maker of a wide range of beauty products and a fast-growing, buzzed-about online retailer.

And investors like it. A lot. Glossier last month closed a $52 million series C round of funding, bringing its total raised to $86.4 million. In a world where beauty blogs are nearly as prevalent as the unused makeup samples lurking in many women’s vanities, Glossier has built a brand following and used its blog as a platform to make a name for itself. Its sales are growing exponentially and it’s also rumored to be eyeing an initial public offering.

Internet Retailer recently spoke with Glossier president and chief operating officer Henry Davis about Glossier’s foundation, growing pains and what it plans to do with all that new cash.

Henry Davis, president and COO, Glossier

Glossier’s sales grew nearly 300% last year. That followed roughly 600% growth a year earlier, Davis says. More than a third of its sales stem from word-of-mouth recommendations, he says. Those suggestions are important because roughly half of consumers’ beauty products purchases stem from a friend or family member’s recommendation, Davis says.

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Even so, most beauty brands are owned by large companies with massive advertising budgets, he says. That isn’t the case with Glossier. 80% of the retailer’s sales stem from some combination of word-of-mouth recommendations, the Into the Gloss blog, Glossier.com’s content and social media, he adds.

Building a community

Glossier, which has more than 150 employees, aims to spend time on interacting with shoppers, as well as giving shoppers a forum to interact, Davis says. “Everything we do is designed to start a conversation,” he says. Consumers spend time with Glossier’s community—and tell their friends about it.

The site logged 2.14 million visits in January, according to web measurement firm SimilarWeb Ltd., up 75% from 1.22 million during the busy holiday shopping month of December 2017.

Then, there’s the Into The Gloss blog’s already-loyal followers, numbering some 2.43 million monthly visitors, which enables Glossier to listen and speak directly to its consumers outside its retail site and to highlight Glossier products where appropriate. Blog visitors can shop Glossier from the blog and when a shopper signs up for the Into The Gloss email list, she also gets news about new Glossier products. Its fans follow the brand away from the site and blog, too: Glossier’s Facebook page has more than 181,000 likes. The brand also has 1 million Instagram and 54,000 Twitter followers.

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Over 50% of beauty products today are bought on a friend or family recommendation.

Glossier sells products it’s developed itself based on feedback and conversations it has with its wide audience. For example, the retailer’s Milky Jelly facial cleanser was born out of the Top Shelfie (#ITGTopShelfie) photos submitted to Into The Gloss of the top shelf of consumers’ medicine cabinets or some similar area, he says. The snapshots feature consumers’ daily beauty product staples. “We noticed facial cleansers were never in the photos,” Davis says. “People would spend time organizing their cabinets with products for these pictures but cleanser was never featured as part of their routine.”

The company went to work to fill the void in the market and develop a cleanser that was “picture worthy”—one that shoppers would want to highlight as part of their skincare regimen. It asked its community the actor or actress who would play their dream cleanser in movie. Fair-skinned Emma Stone and Eddie Redmayne were among the most popular responses, leading Glossier to lean toward a gentle cleanser for milky skin—hence Milky Jelly.

Growing pains

When a brand grows at breakneck speed, it’s bound to encounter a few potholes along the way. Glossier is no exception. Glossier staff still refer to “The Great Inventory Stock Out of 2016” around the office—when Glossier had major issues keeping up with demand for its products and ran out of stock on several items, he says.

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“That was hard for me as the COO,” Davis says. “But the company grew so quickly, and we just didn’t have the inventory to keep up. It’s hard when your community is excited and wants to engage with you and they feel great about buying something and then you can’t give it to them.”

To ensure the issue doesn’t occur again, the retailer hired supply chain experts and worked to be more on top of inventory planning to fix the issue. “It took us awhile,” Davis says. “It was very much a hard lesson learned.”

With its latest $52 million cash infusion, Glossier “intends to double down on” using technology to improve the digital customer experience. Davis declined to provide more details, but founder and CEO Emily Weiss hinted at helping consumers discover new products—perhaps through digital services (paid for or free is unclear) that help shoppers.

“E-commerce has made buying easier and more efficient, but discovery less fun and meaningful,” Weiss said in announcing the funding news. “Our direct-to-consumer model has enabled us to build uniquely powerful relationships with every single one of our customers on a personal level. We know that our customers are driven by the excitement of finding a new beauty product that they love, through someone they trust. This breadth of human connection and celebration of personal choice is core to who we are, and something we want to further facilitate and develop through new digital products.”

In 2017, Glossier expanded into the United Kingdom and Canada. The company also opened offices in London and Montreal after acquiring the Canadian tech agency Dynamo. Customers can buy Glossier products through its website and at the company’s New York showroom.

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