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Walmart unveiled the five beauty brands that will take part in the inaugural class of Walmart Start, a startup accelerator program that offers a chance to launch at Walmart and business-building resources.
Launched earlier in 2022, the nation’s largest retailer put out a call that it was aiming to discover up-and-coming beauty brands through Walmart Start. Like many accelerators, Walmart Start offers education in the form of classes, and 1-to-1 mentorship and networking opportunities.
Being a large retailer, Walmart is also offering brands the potential to launch at Walmart stores. While it is not guaranteed, having the scale to expand to mass retail is a requirement for application. The company is also holding out the opportunity for inclusion in some marketing efforts, as well as support with the Walmart Connect retail media platform.
\u201cCongrats! \ud83c\udf89 We\u2019re thrilled to announce we\u2019ve accepted five brands into our Walmart Start accelerator program: The Hair Lab, Pardon My Fro, Dossier, Undefined Beauty and Paintlab. Learn more: https://t.co/hQYiw86fq6\u201d— Walmart Inc. (@Walmart Inc.) 1661271140
Among the participants who have already launched at Walmart is The Hair Lab by Strands, which is already available at Walmart.com, and is set to launch at 2,500 Walmart stores starting on Sept. 1. Founded by Eric Delapenha, the company builds customized hair care products by analyzing a customer’s strands through a handheld scanner or online test. Then, it develops a haircare routine based on these unique strands. It makes more than 1,000 combinations available, and takes into account all types, textures, and styles. By applying data, Delapenha said in a news release that the brand can cut down on trial-and-error, as well as waste in the haircare system.
The Hair Lab “offers customers the ability to choose hair care products that match their needs at an accessible price-point," said Creighton Kiper, merchandising VP for Walmart U.S. Beauty, in a statement.
"We've heard from customers that they are interested in products personalized for them and this new offering delivers on those evolving interests,” Kiper said.
Here’s a look at the other brands that were selected for the first cohort, according to Walmart’s website:
- Pardon My Fro: Founded by Dana Bly to celebrate women, the brand started with products in home and travel. It is set to launch its first line of beauty products at Walmart.
- Dossier: Founded by Sergio Tache, the brand manufacturers fragrances in France that are designed to be a fair alternative to luxury perfumes.
- Undefined Beauty: Founded by Dorian Morris, the brand’s skincare and wellness products pairs “ancient plant wisdom with modern day powerful actives.
- Paintlab: Founded by Karina Sulzer, the brand makes expressive press-on nails, makeup and accessories.
Trending in Retail Channels
Product innovation, marketing and ecommerce helped boost sales 49% in the holiday quarter.
The clouds are getting darker in today's retail environment, but e.l.f. Beauty is shining. Digital commerce and marketing growth is a primary reason.
The makeup and skincare brand posted the following results for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2022:
- Net sales increased 49% to $146.5 million year-over-year, driven by retail and ecommerce.
- Adjusted EBITDA was up 69% year-over-year, accounting for 25% of net sales.
- The outlook for the fiscal year was lifted. Net sales are now expected to be $541-545 million, up from $478-486 million.
The brand is also outperforming category trends. The cosmetics category grew 8% over 2021, while e.l.f. grew 36%.
“We grew our market share by 150 basis points and increased our rank to the #4 brand as compared to #5 a year ago,” CEO Tarang Amin told analysts. “We continue to be the fastest-growing top five brand by a wide margin.”
The strong results proved validating for a brand that prides itself on offering affordable cosmetics, and digital-forward marketing. They were also another sign of the resurgence of beauty as people return to in-person experiences post-pandemic and seek affordable luxuries that can provide joy despite tougher economic conditions.
Here’s a breakdown of the digital drivers of growth for e.l.f., and how it is showing strong results in a tough economic environment:
Marketing: Viral brands and sustained investment
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The brand prides itself on marketing that is both bold and pioneering on emerging channels.
One example came in the form of a holiday kickoff with the singer Meghan Trainor delivering a Weather Channel-informed report on social channels to celebrate the restock of the brand’s Halo Glow Liquid Filter, which was a viral sensation.
“The trifecta of e.l.f., The Weather Channel and Meghan Trainor helped us reach new audiences and entertain our community,” Amin said. “The campaign generated over five billion press impressions, exceeding last year's holiday campaign by a wide margin.”
The combination of innovation on product and virality in marketing helps attract a new audience for the brand.
“They see the viral buzz,” Amin said. “They see other people talking about this prestige quality, these great prices and particularly these days with platforms like TikTok, we get consumers doing their own demonstrations and comparisons.”
When it comes to metrics, Amin said the brand explores, “What percent behind each product are we pulling in new users?”
It's often up more than 50%, and attracts the core consumer in Gen Z as well as millennials and Gen X.
“I think the quality of these products at the prices we have and our ability to engage them really are attracting even more consumers to our franchise,” Amin said.
e.l.f. also deepened its marketing investment. The overall share of marketing is now 16%, as compared to 7% three years ago. It will increase to 17-19% this fiscal year.
“We recently completed our annual Nielsen marketing mix analysis and again saw exceptional ROI results, giving us further confidence that our marketing and digital initiatives are driving brand demand and delivering profitable growth,” Amin said.
Strong ROIs were observed across digital advertising and influencer marketing, while PR was “off the charts,” Amin said. Experimentation also plays a key role in developing these channels.
“The other thing about us is, we're not afraid to test and learn our new platforms. So we were one of the first beauty brands on TikTok. In the early days, it was hard to get attribution on TikTok. We now can see almost immediately when something goes viral on TikTok, the impact it has on our business and our ability to be able to attract that,” Amin said.
Ecommerce: Growing the squad
When it comes to ecommerce, Q3 digital consumption trends were up over 75% year-over-year, said CFO Mandy Fields. Digital channels drove 17% of total consumption in Q3, up from 14% a year ago. In the quarter that includes the holidays, digital channels were particularly strong through Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
A big point of emphasis for digital growth is the company’s Beauty Squad loyalty program, which provides early access, exclusives, free gifts and bonus points. The program grew enrollment 25% year-over-year to 3.5 million members. The loyalty program helps to boost the value of individual customers.
“Our loyalty members drive almost 70% of our sales on elfcosmetics.com have higher average order values, purchase more frequently, have stronger retention rates and are a rich source of first-party data,” CFO Mandy Fields said.
No slowdown in sight
Plenty of brands and retailers reporting earnings over this week are speaking of a slowdown in demand as a result of inflation and cooling demand in the economy. They also talk of consumers trading down to more affordable and smaller products that challenge margins. Amin batted away that kind of talk.
“No, we've not seen any slowdown in demand,” Amin said.
The response spoke to the unique place that beauty sits in this moment.
“What I'd tell you is, historically, mass color cosmetics, mass skin care has fared really well in…recessionary environments,” he said, referring to the Lipstick Index that posits beauty sales rise during economic downturns as people seek the small joys when they have less to spend on bigger items.
But there’s also a timing factor coming out of the pandemic.
“This is a category that really did suffer during the pandemic when people were restricted from their normal behavior,” Amin said. “So I've long felt there's a lot of pent-up consumer demand for the categories in which we compete, and we very much are seeing that.”