This week, I take a look at the status of the mega-beauty festival and the reason why health tests are being embraced by beauty brands and retailers alike.
Big beauty events are back.
On October 9-10, Ipsy hosted its Ipsy Glamiversary event, a take on its former flagship Gen Beauty events, in New York City’s Hudson Yards. The live event, meant to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary, was only its second since the pandemic began in 2020 and changed life as we know it. Yes, masks and social distancing were prominent, but so were meet-and-greets and panels with influencers Benito Skinner, Tabria Majors and Bailey Sarian, among others. Also front and center were buzzy brand activations and services from 20 brands partners including Sunday Riley, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Halsey’s About-Face, and Ipsy’s own Item Beauty and Refreshments.
“We’re a community-first, digital platform,” said Jenna Habayeb, chief brand officer at Beauty For All Industries, Ipsy’s parent company. “But you still need to touch and feel and have that engagement with tutorials and treatments. We invested a lot in ensuring we could have those real-life touchpoints because we don’t have physical retail. New York is very much like, ‘We’re back.’ And we want to be, too.”
Ipsy began teasing its Glamiversary event and its 10 years in business in July, when it launched The Next 10, a social media challenge to discover the next generation of creators. The top 10 finalists, who were selected by Ipsy’s social media community, included Fatima Starks (@FatimatheMUA) and Edwin Martinez Rodriguez (@claimedparadise), who were spotlighted at Ipsy’s Glamiversary event. The event itself was free and, over 85,000 people passed by throughout the weekend, according to Hudson Yards. Ipsy expected just over 4,000 attendees.
Habayeb said the company felt confident in hosting the Glamiversary, not only because of New York City and State’s seriousness on curbing Covid-19, but also because the company recently had a bit of a primer. After 18 months, Ipsy took its first stab at IRL events during the first weekend of October when it brought its double-decker, mobile experience series to Austin, Texas.
A take on the activation Ipsy hosted at SXSW 2019 and had planned for the festival again in 2020, when it was testing smaller-format events, this experience was done in partnership with The University of Texas at Austin. Like Glamiversary, the event itself was free, open to the public, and promoted via social media and Ipsy’s online channels. Fifteen brand partners, including Sol de Janeiro and ManiMe, participated via activations and on-site services. The company saw over 3,000 attendees, and Habayeb said the experience received a net promoter score of 92.
“There is a lot of activity around the University of Texas, and being at a college is very much in line with capturing [our target] audience,” said Habayeb. “It was a litmus test of what people wanted and were ready for.”
For its part, Ipsy, which got its start with OG beauty influencer Michelle Phan in 2011, has been hard at work courting Gen Z. That includes with its in-house brands like Item Beauty with Addison Rae and Treslúce Beauty with pop star Becky G. In addition, its quarterly Glam Bag X offers eight products for $55 and is developed with a creator curator. Following collaborations with Patrick Ta and Khloé Kardashian, Huda Beauty founder Huda Kattan is set to be the next Glam Bag X collaborator.
While the Ipsy events have provided a sense of normalcy à la pre-Covid times, the larger event playground remains tenuous. Those that have tried to push past Covid or Delta variant cases, such as Revolve, have come under fire for dismissing pandemic rules.
Pre-pandemic, it seemed every company was trying to outdo one another with a beauty festival — think of Sephoria, QVC’s Beauty Bash and Popsugar Playground. But events were the first thing to go in March 2020. And the leaders in the space, like Ipsy and Beautycon, were retooling their strategies before then. Ipsy moved to more intimate events, including Destination: Ipsy; Ipsy Live, a refresh of the Gen Beauty event; and Creator Day, a one-day event for up-and-coming influencers. And Beautycon launched a rotating Pop series and online store. Fast-forward to 2021, and Beautycon was sold off to Richelieu Dennis’ Essence Ventures in a foreclosure sale, and Sephoria remains virtual.
Though some question if we can go back to those large-scale events, both from a safety and ROI perspective, Ipsy remains confident in this piece of its business. Its next event will be in Miami, pegged to Art Basel. Like its previous Austin and NYC events, the Miami edition will be free and open to the public. Just as it highlighted its connection to Gen Z in Austin, Ipsy will spotlight singer-actress Becky G’s Treslúce Beauty, given Miami’s large Latin population.
“We have all these different avenues of interacting, and engaging with our community rounds out what our subscription experience [provides],” said Habayeb. “The more members that we capture, the more we want to be able to personalize for that community. So if we want to bring in a Gen-Z customer, I need products and great merch to be able to cater to them. If want to expand into a Latin X community or cater to the Black community, I want to make sure that not only are we set up, in terms of the data signals, but also that [we have] the right merchandise and trends to deliver. Everything we do has been very methodical about being able to deliver on that promise of really delighting our members and personalizing what they want and when they want it.”
Marcelo Camberos, BFA Industries CEO and co-founder added, “At our core, Ipsy is about making beauty inclusive and enabling self-expression. Our focus for the last decade has been to democratize the beauty industry and create a broader definition of beauty. We’ve built our brand on the foundation of an incredibly passionate and diverse community that continues to inspire and push us forward to make beauty welcoming to all.”
Are personalized tests the way to better beauty?
For some brands, personalization might mean shoppers are engaging in an online quiz to find product. For others, it’s all about a virtual try-on that leads to purchase. But for a new guard of indie brands, better beauty via personalization means a 23andMe-esque health test.
On October 14, skin scientist Dr. Elsa Jungman, founder of her namesake skin-care brand, launches a skin microbiome swab test on the company’s DTC site and at Credo. The test itself is $149, and customers simply have to swab one’s face to gauge the existing bacteria on the skin that might be contributing to skin sensitivity, irritation or acne, among other issues. Rather than directing customers only to Dr. Elsa Jungman-branded products — the brand launched in October 2020 — Jungman provides a holistic report that includes nutrition advice and what ingredients to use, no matter the brand.
“There is an explosion of sensitive skin and skin issues right now, and it’s because people are putting so much on their skin without knowing about their microbiome or what’s right for them,” said Jungman. “It’s not about clean or not clean, or even the trendy ingredients. [It’s about] knowing what ingredients are right for you and how to build a routine.”
Given the rise in skintellectual consumers, Jungman believes a test like hers can empower shoppers even more.
The Dr. Elsa Jungman Skin Microbiome Swab test comes shortly after indie brand Veracity’s launch of a Skin + Health hormone spit test, which debuted in February for $149. Available via Veracity’s DTC site, the Skin + Health test measures five key hormones and pH that drive one’s skin condition. Users also get a holistic report and skin recommendations based on findings. In June, the brand debuted six skin-care products that range in price from $55- $85. In September, Veracity announced a $5 million in seed financing led by Global Founders Capital.
“The real purpose of personalization should not just be a website engagement quiz, where it’s a kind of filtering based on skin type or zip code. It’s the ability to get personalized insights, so that when you’re digging through a sea of information and products, you can actually be informed to make the best choices for your skin health and overall health,” said Allie Egan, Veracity founder and CEO.
Fortunately, both companies are avoiding 23andMe’s previous fate after test sales declined, with products that also serve the consumer. And for Jungman’s part, her products already boast a 40% repeat purchase rate. The brand added that consumers who have taken Jungman’s masterclass on microbiome education have a 35% conversion rate to becoming a buyer, with 30% higher AOV. That proves that there is a community that is interested in their skin’s microbiome and the factors that impact it.
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Image via Peter Pabon for Ipsy.