3 Ways to Disrupt the Beauty Industry

The biggest beauty disruptors are brands that practice positivity, focus on social media, and give consumers an immersive experience.

The beauty industry is invariably difficult to penetrate, with 70% of North America’s $66 Billion make-up market under the control of only 10 established corporations [1]. But the past few years have seen innovative start-ups disrupt this traditionally saturated market. So, what gives these brands an edge in an otherwise fickle category?

The most successful disruptors are adopting 3 main tenets, using modernized philosophies, channels, and changing behaviours to appeal to the growing Millennial consumer base. Millennials are expected to make up 30% of total global beauty retail sales by 2020 [2], and brands looking for longevity must learn to cater to their unique demands. Companies competing in beauty, and in fact, across various industries, can adopt these principles to gain traction with this powerful demographic.



For decades, beauty brands have been telling women they are not good enough, all in an effort to sell them products that will ‘fix’ what’s wrong with them. More recently, however, it’s the power of positivity that’s setting the up-and-comers apart from the rest.

Glossier, primarily an online direct-to-consumer business, is one such brand. This 4-year-old cosmetics company is the lucrative by-product of the popular Into the Gloss blog, started by Glossier founder and CEO, Emily Weiss. Borne out of a need to dispel beauty myths and unite women through meaningful content, Weiss created a space that affirmed women’s beauty, gaining a cult like following in the process.

Glossier’s Instagram page showcases packaging, product, user generated content and how-to videos

Through listening to her readers, Weiss learned there was a hole in the market for simple and affordable products that spoke to the everyday woman – a realization that led her to launch Glossier, and a product line developed directly from the needs of her fan base. This customer centric approach has propelled Glossier to achieve revenue growth of 600% year over year and an incredible 65% conversion rate [3].

Glossier attributes much of its success to the feeling of inclusivity it consciously fosters through its products and communications, a philosophy that any brand can benefit from. Brands targeting Millennials would be especially wise to take a positive approach, with this generation gravitating towards more idealistic brands that reflect their optimism.

Glossier’s Showroom in NYC where consumer experience is #1



Digital channels are a significant influence on purchases with 4 in 5 shoppers using digital devices before or while they buy beauty products [2]. Beauty consumers are increasingly turning to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to learn about new products and inform their buying decisions. They are actively seeking out beauty vloggers on video sharing platforms like YouTube, where established brands and new cosmetics companies are tested and flaunted through make-up tutorials and product hauls.


Gelcream is a strictly Instagram-based beauty product review account, showcasing honest opinions about the most buzz-worthy beauty brands

Social media is paramount in influencer marketing. Through cultivating relationships with online beauty enthusiasts and brand advocates, companies can effectively reach their target market with an authentic voice – a strategy that can be key in launching new products. Take Lise Watier’s new cosmetics line, Lise Watier recently partnered with FASHION Magazine for the successful launch of its Haute Nature Fall 2018 beauty collection, putting a heavy emphasis on influencer marketing. Although the campaign incorporated traditional elements to create a full 360-degree program, it centered around a VIP influencer event where over 100 beauty bloggers and vloggers could participate in an Instagrammable secret garden beauty shoot while sampling new products.


FASHION Lise Watier’s Haute Garden Party

Social media is a two-way street. This inevitably means giving up a certain amount of control, opening oneself up to influencer opinions, consumer ratings, and possible customer concerns. Brands that can embrace this two-way dialogue may find a unique opportunity to create deeper relationships with their consumers.

Social media shouldn’t start and end as a media strategy. Instead, brands can take advantage of social’s unique ability to provide cost-free focus groups, using online feedback for product development and future communication plans. Even packaging plays a role in today’s social media obsessed world, where image-conscious beauty consumers are happy to pose with Insta-worthy packaging.



Experiential marketing has long been a growing trend in the market, but is now considered a must-have in the beauty industry. Consumers are looking for a personalized experience, seeking out product sampling and makeovers to understand what products best suit their individual needs. Brands that can deliver can create stronger emotional attachments with their target audience.

Experiential marketing can take many forms, from the aforementioned Lise Watier product launch to Glossier’s unexpected collaboration with Rhea’s café, a restaurant pop-up in San Francisco. Although the food and cosmetics categories may seem at odds, the two companies’ shared principles and target markets presented the perfect collaboration.

Glossier’s pop-up at Rhea’s café in San Fransisco 

Beautycon, a fashion and cosmetics summit featuring hundreds of online tastemakers and celebrities has taken things one step further, using experiential marketing as the foundation of its offerings. While once an exclusive event for YouTubers, this beauty symposium has opened up to all consumers, allowing them to sample the latest products, meet their favourite influencers, and get free make-up tutorials. The ultimate immersive experience in the beauty industry, it now boasts over 15,000 attendees with pit stops in cities across the world.

Whether online, in-store, or through roving conferences, consumers are clamouring for the next big thing in beauty. They want to participate in something memorable that feels customized to their needs. Success today means knowing that beauty and cosmetics is no longer about selling products to make someone whole. Instead, it’s a way for women and men to showcase their individuality and their unique personality, no matter gender, age, or ethnicity.


  1. Adweek
  2. Deloitte
  3. Entrepreneur