IPSY, the beauty subscription service founded in 2011 and synonymous for its Glam Bags, is today the world’s largest, digitally native, vertically integrated beauty innovation platform. Having acquired BoxyCharm at the end of 2020 and forming Beauty for All Industries (BFA), IPSY is doubling down on its strategy for expansion, which includes delivering a highly-personalized experience that leverages millions of beauty reviews and member data points, partnering with third party brands to address consumer needs, and amplifying creator content to engage its massive community. Beauty industry executive organization, CEW, recently partnered with BFA to tap the group’s community of consumers to vote on two CEW beauty award categories (voting is typically restricted to CEW’s beauty executive membership.) Here, Emine ErSelcuk, an Ambassador for CEW’s 2021 Beauty Creator Awards and who joined IPSY as Senior Vice President Merchandising in January 2020, talks to CEW Beauty News about its community-first subscription business, how everyday consumers will shape the future of beauty, and the importance of growing and celebrating diversity with sister brand BoxyCharm.
BN: Before joining IPSY, you were Vice President of Brand at Morphe. What was your experience like?
Emine ErSelcuk: I was part of the core team that built the business. It was an amazing adventure. I led the retail organization. While everybody else was pulling out of brick and mortar, we were building stores, launching big events, and building a multi-brand strategy which included trying to create a retailer for the Gen Z community. Despite of the great retailers out there, a lot of our customers felt that they were their ‘mother’s store or older sister’s store.’ We wanted a space that was attuned to Gen Z and young Millennials.
BN: What attracted you to the company?
EE: Everyday individuals are ultimately going to shape our industry. Being part of IPSY, where our heritage is so clearly based on the individual, and meeting her/him/they where they want to shop and experience beauty, is the direction that the industry is moving into. This is a powerful vehicle for the future, versus influencer-creator. I feel very fortunate to be part of a company that’s so focused on customers and their preferences, as opposed to what we’re trying to tell them as a beauty authority.
BN: So you joined IPSY two and a half months before COVID hit?
EE: It was really challenging joining the company and going right into movement. The bulk of my team is in New York. Some of my team is in L.A., so I squeezed in a few trips in both places before this all happened, but it has definitely been a challenge for all of us to navigate. We’re very fortunate in beauty subscription to have had some nice tailwinds as a part of COVID because of the convenience of having a shipment at your door. However, you don’t want to benefit from such a difficult situation for everyone. What we always said is we want to lean into the new reality. Aside from being passionate about our business model and supporting our consumers, as someone coming from the brand side, I am also really passionate about supporting the brand community and how to enable brands that are launching something new, or are trying to boost their DTC with trial and buzz and engagement. If a brand might have some excess inventory, how can we help them move it? We work with over a hundred brand partners, and it has certainly unlocked some great brands into our portfolio. It’s the same with BoxyCharm. We acquired Boxy into Beauty for All Industries (BFA Industries) at the end of last year. They had a similar trajectory by experiencing those tailwinds that helped build the business further.
BN: What did the BoxyCharm acquisition bring to IPSY?
EE: We are officially the world’s largest, digitally native, vertically integrated beauty innovation platform. What that means is we’ve been able to solidify our stance in terms of delivering high-delight beauty subscription that’s personalized. We do it in a slightly different way to slightly different consumers. I like to call BoxyCharm our sister brand. We work very closely together. We want everyone to win, and we want everyone to have a great experience on the brand side and the consumer side.
BN: Who is your consumer?
EE: She’s very diverse in terms of her demographic. She’s very much the girl next door, Middle America. She’s super-passionate about beauty. We have young millennials; older millennials are our sweet spot at IPSY. BoxyCharm skews a bit younger, maybe even Gen Z. It is a bit more diverse in terms of Hispanic, Latinx, and Black consumers compared to IPSY. However, IPSY is about three times the size of Boxy in terms of membership. We had a running start as we’ve been around for 10 years. We have a wonderful, diverse community within BFA Industries.
BN: What is your consumer looking for today?
EE: Consumers are looking for so much more than just a great brand. That’s obviously important, but a brand with a powerful founder story or ingredient story that is differentiated can really connect with the community. Beauty consumers are interested in brands that are purpose-driven, but they still have to deliver on product performance. For our members, the most important thing is that we listen to them. The assortment is based on their preferences because the best products and brands don’t really mean anything to our members unless they are right for them. That’s where personalization is so critical for us. There’s nothing worse than bag stuffing with sampling, where a consumer gets stuck with products they don’t want. A brand wastes money on things that don’t ever get tried. Every month, our consumers receive a box that really speaks to them based on what they’ve shared they want.
BN: Why is it important for consumers to be aware of CEW’s Beauty Creators Awards and participate in voting on the People’s Choice Awards?
EE: While we are tremendously respectful of the beauty community, and our peers within the industry, we also feel that our singular mission is to inspire individuals around the world to express their unique beauty, so bringing in the consumer element feels very relevant. Our North Star is to democratize beauty. That’s why we launched a community-first beauty subscription business. We didn’t come in as a beauty authority. The validation of the community is key. We also feel very passionate about supporting our consumers in their journey of self-discovery. We love that, for the first time, we’re going to have [our audience] participate in the People’s Choice vote for the Iconic Beauty Award and Social Media Superstar Award. The individual’s voice is becoming more powerful, and even shapes some of the choices that brands are making in terms of product development.
BN: That’s really the crux of the Beauty Creators Awards: honoring people who have created the products.
EE: Yes. With social media, you can connect directly with a curator or founder on Instagram. You can share your point of view on YouTube. There’s almost this feeling of knowing them personally. So a great connection exists. CEW’s Beauty Creators Awards is a way to validate that connection between individuals in the community and consumers.
BN: What else should we know about CEW’s partnership between IPSY and BoxyCharm?
EE: Both IPSY and BoxyCharm have always strived to inspire self-expression. Our community is built on real people and creators who are showing the world a new view on beauty, one that is very inclusive and diverse. We’ve built everything on personalization. Sharing the voices, picking up what our members are saying, and using that information to evolve the business is particularly meaningful.