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Team gathers to discuss customer feedback
March 28, 2019

3 Lessons from a Unicorn: How to Harness Customer Feedback to Drive Brand Growth & Success

Glossier achieved unicorn status by tapping into customer feedback. B2B brands can benefit from using tools like online community and marketing automation.

Facts: The Unicorn is Scotland’s national animal; you are reading this right now; and Glossier, a direct-to-consumer beauty brand, recently joined the ranks of other female-founded “unicorns” (privately held startup companies valued at over $1 billion). How? Customer listening.

Emily Weiss, Glossier founder and CEO, managed to transform what started in 2010 as her beauty blog Into the Gloss… into a beauty brand valued at $1.2 billion, and they recently launched Glossier Play, their colorful spin-off brand. On what she did differently, Emily says:

“Many of the beauty brands I grew up with were expert-led. They told me what products were in style and how to use them. From the start, I wanted to take a different approach with Glossier by co-creating the brand and products with customers.”

If you haven’t harnessed the power of customer feedback, you’re missing a serious opportunity to grow your brand into a community of advocates with customer success and satisfaction in mind. 

You don’t need to have the same business structure as Glossier to heed lessons from their approach – B2B brands can benefit from using engagement tools like online community and marketing automation to tap into their customer base on a more personal level for product collaboration, customer feedback, and brand growth.

So, let’s talk about the power of people, since all companies are really “people to people” at their core, you know?

1. Create an Online Space Where Customers Can Connect

Did I mention that Glossier only has two permanent retail locations? If it weren’t for the power of the internet, and the people using it, the mass success of their empire wouldn’t exist. By creating an online space where customers could connect with their brand and provide input, they were able to field feedback that helped shape their future. Now, as Fast Company reports:

“Weiss says Glossier receives five direct messages a minute on Instagram and 50,000 customers a month in stores. This feedback shapes everything from its advertising strategies to the products it develops, and, now, what kinds of new brands it spins out.”

(While this is awesome, I’m admittedly exhausted just thinking about checking those DMs…)

Remember that while a blog, website, and successful Instagram account might be the right outlets for a booming beauty brand, it’s important to focus on your industry when choosing where to create an online space for your customers. A publicly devoted social media following is not the same thing as an active, engaged, private online community.

Meeting the demands of a growing customer base requires a high touch level of support, so  invest in the right engagement tools to accommodate that. For B2B brands like software companies who want to engage their customers, online community software offers solutions to scale this type of growth, decrease support costs, and increase customer success.

You can increase customer satisfaction simply by bringing customers together in one space – learn more about how:

2. Embrace Data Collection with a Customer-Centric Approach

It’s worth noting that Glossier, in all its unicorn glory, spent years harnessing data from different sources in an effort to better understand their customers and how they interact with the brand. From website data to Instagram comments, they paid close attention to the customer feedback that was coming in when they were ready to grow their brand (more on that in the next section).

The point is: Never. Underestimate. Data. Data collection allows you to gauge the wants, needs, and expectations of your customers. It guides your marketing efforts with a behavior-based understanding of how your customers engage with your brand and products online.

When engagement tools like online community and marketing automation work together, you can track valuable behavioral data that informs your next steps. With business intelligence gleaned from community interactions, you can also better identify customers at risk of churn.

3. Product Development: Better Late (& Awesome) than Never

If you’re not providing value to your customers, what do they stand to gain by doing business with you? If you don’t offer the products or solutions they want and need, they’ll find a company that does. If one of your products or services isn’t selling, ask yourself if you’re lacking a value driver in your offering. Then ask yourself why you created that product in the first place.

Glossier credits much of their success to the slow and intentional pace of their product development. Unlike many big name beauty brands who rush out products to satisfy seasonal trends, Glossier deliberately takes their time considering data to create products their customers will love and be able to use year-round. As Emily Weiss put it:

“I’m fascinated by longevity. I’m interested in how to create something that can actually grow with your customer. I think part of the answer to this question is to really take our time with making decisions and releasing new products.”

Now I know it can be tempting to speed up the process when customers are making demands, but when you collaborate to deliver real value, they’ll know it was worth the wait.

By the way, don’t be afraid to use your online presence to ask for customer feedback, and try not to get discouraged in the face of critical feedback (it’s your greatest teacher).

For example, in the past Glossier received some online criticism that the color range of their product line wasn’t adequately catering to the needs of women of color. Now the brand has, as Fast Company noted, “launched a newly expanded 12-shade range for its concealer and skin tint, along with an online shade finder tool; its advertising has also become noticeably more diverse over the last few months.”

The customer feedback they received gave them the opportunity to be more inclusive, diversify their brand, and expand their customer base. In their early days, Glossier used the blog Into the Gloss as a sort of focus group for their customers to offer feedback on upcoming products in the works.

Fast Company reports:

“Weiss asked readers of Glossier’s blog, Into the Gloss, a simple question: “What would your dream cleanser look like? Smell like? Feel like? Do for you? Not do for you? Who would play this cleanser in a movie?” The post generated more than 380 responses, which the product team used to create what would end up being Glossier’s popular Milky Jelly Cleanser.”

Customer Feedback & Listening is the Secret to Legendary Brand Longevity

All of this begs the question, do you know that your customers really want out of your brand? You should be asking, actively listening, and using that insight to grow your brand and satisfy your customers.

Resource: How to Actually Hear What Customers Say

So, embrace discussions, polls, comments, and more to field customer feedback and ideate with your people. This can help improve product adoption and customer engagement. Plus, you’re building community by letting your customers know that their opinion matters in the process.

When your customers are involved and feel heard, the sky’s the limit. Glossier’s unicorn status is proof.

Download the Engagement Trends Report 2020

Gabrielle Wathen

Gabrielle is the Content Marketing Manager at Flockjay. She has a background in journalism, film, and marketing. When she’s not writing, you can find her cuddling her cats Harvey and Wilbur, traveling the world, or storytelling in any way she can. Favorite food: All things cheese. Favorite place: Black Rock City, NV.