Brands on Fire: e.l.f. Beauty
“With everything that’s happening in privacy right now, and how the media landscape is changing, your first-party and your zero-party data become at the center of communicating with your community or your consumers. And that’s why we really nurture this program.”
—Ekta Chopra, Chief Digital Officer, e.l.f. Beauty
Chopra is referring to e.l.f.’s Beauty Squad in the quote above, a loyalty program that boasts an impressive three million members. The brand’s success on social media, which includes creating TikTok’s first viral campaign and becoming the first beauty brand to launch on the app BeReal, can be attributed to community listening followed by swift action, Chopra explains.
“e.l.f. really listens to their community. And once we get a signal, we lean in,” Chopra says. “We tend to take more risks than some of the other brands do. That’s one key differentiator. And we are not afraid to go into channels, partner with people, and be authentic to those channels.” Chief Marketer spoke with the digital chief about the benefits of loyalty programs, managing personalization at scale, keeping up with the speed of digital, and more.
Chief Marketer: How do you account for e.l.f.’s success on TikTok? What’s working for you that other brands can learn from?
Ekta Chopra, Chief Digital Officer, e.l.f.: It’s grounded in who we are. First of all, e.l.f. is a bold disruptor with a kind heart. Disruption is in our DNA. We listen to our community; our boots are on the ground. Back in 2019 when TikTok was just starting to come up, we did a small test, and it gave us the signal that our community is actually there. We leaned into that signal and partnered with an expert in TikTok, and [created] the most viral campaign that TikTok has ever seen, our #eyeslipsface challenge. Now we are a TikTok “billionaire” multiple times.
The key thing there is, e.l.f. really listens to their community. And once we get a signal, we lean in. We tend to take more risks than some of the other brands do. That’s one key differentiator. We are not afraid to go into channels, partner with people, and be authentic to those channels. Sometimes brands just want to dive in, but they don’t lean into this ecosystem of people that actually know how those channels operate. Once our community tells us that you need to be here, we don’t wait. We want be the first ones. The same thing happened with BeReal. We are the first beauty brand on [the platform]. Then everybody else followed.
CM: Talk a little bit about your Beauty Squad and how you nurture that community.
EC: Beauty Squad is our loyalty program, essentially. Currently we have a little bit over three million loyalty members. With everything that’s happening in privacy right now, and how the media landscape is changing, your first-party and your zero-party data become at the center of communicating with your community or your consumers. And that’s why we really nurture this program. Our program rewards our consumers not just for shopping with us, but also for shopping with other retailers. They can choose different types of rewards. On our app, 95 percent of our shoppers are Beauty Squad members, so we know that from a shopping experience perspective, that is our most engaged consumer. And it is also about giving us feedback. We learn a lot from them.
CM: How do you approach creating a personalized customer experience at scale?
EC: We invested in ActionIQ’s CDP way before the privacy landscape was even starting to change. For us, leveraging and harnessing the power of data is very important. When you think about personalization, it is your data, right? When it comes to Beauty Squad, that’s the most engaged consumer that’s giving you information about who your consumer is, what they like, what they don’t like. [It’s about] leveraging the power of a CDP and then surfacing up insights that can then help us create the right content for the right people, the right messaging across all channels. And then ensuring that the consumer is not wasting their time, they get the information that’s going to be relevant and our brand shows up the best that it can. The CDP is what’s helping us power that.
CM: As a digital-focused company with so many different products and launches, how do you keep up with it all?
EC: Digital is always changing. You’re on shaky ground all the time. Number one, it takes the whole organization being digitally-centric and data-driven. Because if it is only one person talking about it, it doesn’t go anywhere. There is an alignment at an organization-level that’s needed. Number two, for me personally, I like to focus on learning from others. You partner with like-minded people, whether it be other companies that are doing amazing things or the insights that you’re learning, and then building an organization that can activate those insights into actions. [It’s] bringing those insights to the organizations externally, leveraging what you’re learning internally through the data that you have, and building an action-oriented team that can actually deliver and focus on speed—because doing it with quality and speed is really important. You have to balance both.
Digital is a constant muscle of testing and learning, and then quickly leaning in when you see that something is working. TikTok was a great example of that. We didn’t wait a year before we got any approvals or anything. It’s about leaning in once you see a signal—and leaning in hard and quickly.