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As Makeup Sales Decline, e.l.f. Cosmetics Thrives on Inclusivity

Ekta Chopra

To adapt to shifts in consumer behavior, e.l.f. Cosmetics doubles down on its ecommerce and digital transformation efforts to stay engaged with its base.

For many cosmetic brands, the COVID-19 shutdown has meant a steep drop in sales. How can the beauty industry respond when people are working from home and wearing facemasks in public? To adapt to the shift in consumer behavior, e.l.f. Cosmetics doubled down on its ecommerce and digital transformation efforts to stay deeply engaged with its base. These efforts helped them continue to thrive amidst the downturn.

Being in lock-step with digital innovation is not the only space where e.l.f. is a leader. They have also been speaking up and speaking out against racial injustice. In our recent Leading Through Change episode, Salesforce’s Executive Vice President of Product Marketing Shannon Duffy called on e.l.f.’s Vice President of Digital Ekta Chopra to share how e.l.f. is living its values and using its digital expertise to bring about change and build a positive connection with its consumers and community that will endure beyond these uncertain times.

The following are excerpts from Duffy’s conversation with Chopra. They have been lightly edited for content and clarity.

On supporting justice, equality, and pride


I’m grateful to work for a brand that stands behind every eye, lip, and face, and is truly inclusive of all genders and all preferences. Our CEO Tarang Amin has been very vocal about racial injustice and supporting Black Lives Matter — it all starts with him.

We carry this sentiment throughout our business practices. In commerce, especially, it is key to stand for all the voices and faces that make us who we are. With our content, storytelling, influencer communities, and the products with different shades and colors, we make a conscious effort to play our part and represent all communities. During LGBTQ+ Pride Month, it’s about raising our voices and standing together with some of the voices that have never been heard before.

On responding to the needs of the community during COVID-19


Change cannot happen without great leadership and alignment all across the board. Our CMO, Kory Marchisotto, always puts consumers at the center of everything we do. We use data and insights to inform our messaging and product strategies to stay in tune with the communities we serve. This allows us to be agile and adapt to new things.

We threw away any go-to-market plans we had and quickly pivoted and adapted to our consumers’ needs. We launched a page called e.l.f. Cares that shared everything we were doing to support the community and to keep the mental well-being of our employees. We’re doing all this to stay connected and our consumer comments have been heartwarming. It keeps the momentum going knowing we’re doing right by our consumer.

On doubling down on digital commerce during COVID-19


[After closing our retail outlets], we took all those resources and dollars and made an effort to make our digital experience [even more] amazing — connecting the consumer journey across every single touchpoint, harnessing consumer data and learning what our consumers wanted, informing our messaging and product strategies,and personalizing each experience.

Our digital transformation started with Salesforce and the hard work and investments are paying off. Our overall digital business has grown tremendously across the full ecosystem. We launched our mobile app on Salesforce at “e.l.f.-speed” and saw app sales triple with little or no marketing whatsoever. Our content hub offers an amazing consumer experience that brings in augmented reality, amazing video content, and self-discovery, where you can learn how to play with your makeup and have some fun. Every “eye, lip and face” comes to life on our digital experience. 

Speed at e.l.f. is very critical and has definitely put us ahead of the curve. If you don’t have a digital strategy today, you’re already behind the curve and probably aren’t going to survive. If you had plans, it’s even more crucial that you accelerate now.

On listening to customers and letting them lead


We’re even more conscious about looking at insights on a constant basis and pivoting our strategies as needed. For instance, skincare has become a bigger category for us because people are no longer focused on color cosmetics, but on self-care.

We stay in tune with our consumers through our daily reports on consumer comments. A nurse recently sent in her picture with marks all over her face from wearing a mask all day. She had been using our e.l.f. Putty Primer to hide those marks. Because it made her feel beautiful, she could go into work and not be stressed about how she looked. 

It was such a touching story — to realize that we’re not just selling makeup, we’re making a difference for our consumers, like these first responders. We get so many thankful comments like this through our social channels and email. Serving them just makes me so passionate and excited about what I do.

On her hopes for the new normal


In today’s environment, it’s about heightened awareness, never taking your liberties for granted, and focusing on what really matters. It’s keeping your health and family at the center of everything, being conscious about inclusivity, and committing to being the change that we need to be.

Watch the full interview with Ekta Chopra below:

This conversation is part of our Leading Through Change series, providing thought leadership, tips, and resources to help business leaders manage through crisis. Prior video interviews include:

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