Affordable beauty brand Wet N Wild struck gold on Instagram when it announced its new rainbow highlighter, a limited edition product. Selling for $5, the Wet N Wild version was a cheap riff on the viral beauty trend that hit YouTube tutorials earlier this year. The product — a shimmery, pearlescent compact striped with the shades of the rainbow — sold out online in under five hours.
In the same amount of time, the post also got 13,000 likes and 900 comments.
While the rainbow highlighter was a one-off, Wet N Wild’s new collection for 2017 launched Wednesday with 85 items that include liquid and gel lipsticks, contour sticks, cushion compacts, Micellar cleansing water, and skinny mascaras in addition to the highlighters — all items trending heavily on social media. That’s not a coincidence.
“In the past year, we put a serious focus on social media and used it as a source of consumer feedback,” said Liz Villafan, communications manager at Markwins Beauty Products, Wet N Wild’s parent company which also owns Physicians Formula, Bonne Bell and Lip Smackers. “Things like new products, formulas and packaging are based on the comments we’ve gotten on social.”
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The 35-year-old drugstore brand has been busy upping its social media and digital strategies over the last 18 months. It launched an e-commerce site, built an in-house content studio at its L.A. headquarters, launched on Snapchat, and grew its total social media follower count to 1.3 million across all platforms, a 285 percent increase over last year, according to the brand.
The brand’s “Mega Glow Highlighter” product was part of a limited edition summer set, but after customers rallied for the brand to bring it back in comments on Instagram, it’s becoming part of the full collection. On Snapchat, the team tested product color swatches through screenshot-surveys on the app.
With its arsenal of new products (most of which cost under $10) and new muscle behind its content production, Wet N Wild is looking to join the ranks of digitally savvy competitors in the beauty industry, which, with its visual nature, has been dramatically changed by influencers, social media tutorials and new technologies.
Fellow drugstore beauty brands like NYX, Maybelline and L’Oréal have long put emphasis on social media content and influencer power, putting Wet N Wild in a game of catch up. On Instagram, Wet N Wild has 874,000 followers compared to NYX’s 8.6 million, Maybelline’s 3.9 million and L’Oréal’s 2.5 million. These brands have also pulled ahead in more advanced technologies, like mobile apps that scan in-store products and augmented reality try-ons.
Wet N Wild only launched its e-commerce site last November, mixing in user-generated content and tutorials. Each video on Wet N Wild’s website is paired with the product link for each item used.
“E-commerce was really important for us, because customers are doing everything on mobile — researching, consuming content — and making purchases online, even while they’re standing in a store,” said Villafan.
The brand isn’t the only one to gauge consumers’ interest on social media before making product decisions. Urban Decay, Birchbox and Glossier all reach out on Instagram and Snapchat for customer feedback regarding preferred shades of products and other points of interest.
“Influencer and customer power has surpassed celebrity in beauty,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of visual marketing platform Curalate. “Social media followers aren’t just for show — they’re a built-in focus group.”