Glossier: Disrupting the Traditional Beauty Industry

Glossier is a digitally native, direct to consumer company that has utilized digital content and an online community to transform the beauty product development process and reduce marketing costs.


The inspiration for Glossier stemmed from founder Emily Weiss’ blog, Into the Gloss, where her posts about beauty products and ultimate readership response helped identify a gap in the beauty industry. Glossier was founded in 2014 and strives to involve beauty consumers in the product creation process, a need existing beauty companies were not fulfilling. The company sells skincare products catered largely to millennial consumers and targets them via online channels. Glossier is a digital winner due to its direct to consumer strategy, forgoing brick and mortar stores for e-commerce and social media to create a new type of consumer experience. Specifically, they have been able to capture value via an interconnected system of content, co-creation, and online community.

Digital Community

Glossier’s competitive advantage stems from their extremely engaged and loyal online community, which they have worked hard to maintain and grow from its beginning on Into the Gloss. The blog changed the focus of conversation from the product to the person wearing the product. This approach of speaking candidly about a range of topics allowed Glossier to become a beauty authority and develop a unique, trusted voice. Now known as the “Glossier Girls,” the community’s relationships are based on digital content that allows customers to connect and help one another discover beauty products. Glossier successfully inspires and activates the community to talk about beauty with one another and to bring others into the fold, increasing their customer base. This strengthens the ties that other members have to the community and increases the authenticity of communications posted by the company. Glossier has been able to capture value from the community by turning likes and engagement into sales and free marketing. Additionally, the community has been a vital part of Glossier’s product development, offering new ideas and honest feedback.

Digital Content Strategy

Boasting over 2.6 million Instagram followers, Glossier’s main driver of growth has been their innovative digital content strategy. Glossier combines their own product focused content with user-generated content about real product experiences. Consumers are 40% more likely to buy beauty products based on a friend’s recommendation and they capitalize on this insight by re-posting user content. Glossier’s own product posts are therefore validated by the community, leading to higher sales. Glossier has been able to capture value from this new digital version of word of mouth marketing.  In addition to their social media content strategy, Glossier has optimized other portions of their business model for social media. The company designs their product packaging to photograph well and includes stickers for consumers to make products their own, encouraging them to post product moments. Through these platforms, Glossier has been able to capture tremendous amounts of value from virality of content only made possible in the digital era. Glossier has effectively turned each one of their customers into a product evangelist and recognizes that digital channels allow each sale to become an opportunity for additional community engagement. Social media has greatly lowered Glossier’s product development and marketing costs compared to the traditional methods in the industry. Additionally, it has allowed Glossier to benefit from a faster product development life-cycle, which in turn keeps their consumers engaged and encourages more purchases.

Product Co-Creation

Unlike beauty incumbents, Glossier has a unique direct relationship with their consumers. A key driver of this relationship is the authentic, two-way communication that is achieved via Into the Gloss and social media platforms. Glossier has been able to leverage these online channels to make products specifically for their audiences. Their content encourages conversations about customers wants and needs, often leading to new product ideas and existing product adjustments. Glossier has created a new type of digital focus group with much lower costs and reduced time to collect feedback. Because they are digitally native, they better capture this data and utilize it to influence product development and iterate further on ideas with the Glossier community. The product co-creation makes consumers extremely engaged with both Glossier products and the brand, even outside of the sales funnel. It also promotes a sense of ownership. This creates an extremely valuable consumer and starts a flywheel where they help create better products but also become a sales channel themselves.


Glossier is clearly a digital winner. Emily Weiss has created a business model designed to flourish in the digital age, harnessing the power of a digital community, differentiated content strategy, and customer feedback loop to co-create products. Glossier successfully differentiated themselves from incumbent beauty brands by emphasizing social commerce, focusing on building conversations and connections via digital channels.





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Student comments on Glossier: Disrupting the Traditional Beauty Industry

  1. This is a great digital branding case. It is interesting that many America famous singers or actress, such as Rehana, Lady gaga, all created their own cosmetic brands. While the one who got initial success is Emily Weiss, a blog writer and influencer. I think the way of her branding is really unique. The similar way of branding is also used in China market, such as perfect diary and HFP, both achieved $160 million sales volume within 2 years by using digitized branding skills.

  2. Definitely think Glossier is a winner too! As a customer, I never considered how user engagement with impacted the product development cycle and provided Glossier with key customer insights. I’m curious as to how Glossier is systematically capturing data and using it when designing new products.

  3. Glossier is a really fascinating digital branding case! One of the things I do wonder about is whether giving so much power to the average consumer is a good thing. Because of “Into the Gloss”, there is a digital online community where technically any one of these “Glossier Girls” could post negative things about the products created by Glossier. In a sense, you could be creating your own influencers who do not seem motivated by anything more than their love for good personal care. So I do wonder, if you are using digital to empower consumers, are you then also giving consumers too much power to potentially dislike and influence others to also dislike your product? It will be interesting to see how Glossier deals with one of their products that may not have the community backing (for example, if it doesn’t live up to the product co-creation quality expected from its community).

  4. There are several DTC e-commerce beauty brands that have a community with a couple of million followers in social media. I get their instagram adds all the time and what caught my attention is not the frequency of the adds or quality of the product, but how real the women wearing the products look. They don’t hire a Victoria Secret model with perfect makeup and unrealistic beauty to do the advertisement, it is more like the girl next door that looks effortlessly pretty and very natural. This way Glossier is not only reaching a large amount of women but it is empowering them and making them more self-confident seeing that they look similar to the model in the add.
    On a side note, they have failed to reach to an audience like me and my friends. I consider myself pretty savvy with the beauty brands and usually don’t trust the instagram adds since 9/10 of them are not exactly what they are preaching. Glossier needs more validation that just the online hype for me to give it a try.

  5. I had heard of Glossier before but thought that it was just another typical make-up brand! I’m definitely going to check their products and blogs out. One thing that worries me of their product co-creation model is if I, for example, was someone really excited about the make-up/beauty world and spent a lot of time sending really developed ideas to Glossier, how would I feel if Glossier never implemented or did anything with those ideas? Do they reply to everyone’s suggestions? If they just ignore the ideas that they don’t like, consumers would likely feel disconnected with the brand and could even hurt the brand’s reputation by posting negative comments about Glossier.

  6. This case is absolutely interesting – specifically, I like how it described the different digital initiatives that were able to lower entry barriers in the space. Re. Digital Community and Digital Content, I agree these are dynamics that helped the brand grow in a very efficient way. One thought that could be interesting to explore in this case – what is the actual balance of inbound/organic digital marketing activities (i.e. the ones above) vs. paid digital marketing activities? In fact, several studies confirm that inbound/organic (free) activities have a very high ROI in the first stages of brand growth. Afterwards, paid activities are required, so it would be interesting to understand if/how they leveraged the opportunities of digital media also in this space.

  7. Great post! I think in addition of data leverage, being very considerate of how important is their first mover advantage is as a digital native not only for product development, I believe the one thing Glossier is doing in social listening. As much as the sales funnel is a great strategy for the brand, I believe they ignite the flywheel by connecting with consumer feedback and particular needs, to offer innovative products that answer to their needs.

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