Glossier: Distribution Before Product

The importance of distribution for consumer startups is well-documented. Product and distribution are usually developed in tandem, but there is one company that stands out for developing its distribution advantage prior to even having a product: Glossier.

Emily Weiss did the hard part of figuring out distribution and building customer loyalty before even launching a product by starting with her blog Into The Gloss. When it was time to launch Glossier, there were thousands of loyal customers ready to buy the products and provide feedback. The strategy stands out for flipping the order of operations that usually happens with these startups.

Glossier’s customer acquisition strategy is multi-pronged and stands out for its focus on content and user interaction:

  1. Quality original content Into The Gloss drives users to Glossier (40% more likely to purchase than those who just browse Glossier)
  2. Beautiful products that beg to be photographed down to the pink bag that products arrive in – the bubble wrap pouch was so iconic that the luxury brand Jimmy Choo made a $950 version 
  3. User generated content that serves as a referral and growth engine with 79% of sales in 2016 from organic and peer-to-peer sources – Glossier nurtures this by talking directly to top customers on a Slack channel to elicit feedback
  4. Brand that stands for values: skincare first, makeup second – has remained the core idea behind the company from one of the photos of the packaging from Emily’s blog post on Into The Gloss launching Glossier
  5. Paid reps who earn commissions on products sold through their pages
  6. Launch of brick and mortar store in New York provides an experiential touchpoint with the brand but does not plan for future permanent locations other than pop ups – commitment to digital is apparent in the focus on keeping customers online viewing and posting content about Glossier

Their success has translated to explosive growth in a capital efficient way. Plenty of companies can grow quickly by burning through a lot of money; it is the businesses that build sustainable growth engines that are worth emulating.

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