Beauty and the Beat with Emily Weiss (Glossier) and Kirsten Green (Forerunner Ventures) | Disrupt SF | Summary and Q&A

September 7, 2018
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Beauty and the Beat with Emily Weiss (Glossier) and Kirsten Green (Forerunner Ventures) | Disrupt SF

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In this video interview, Emily Weiss and Kirsten Green discuss their experiences in the beauty and e-commerce industries. They talk about the importance of putting the customer at the forefront of any business decision, the significance of building relationships with consumers, and the role of platforms like Instagram and Amazon in the retail ecosystem. They also address the funding needs of e-commerce companies and the challenges and opportunities in the industry. Overall, the conversation highlights the value of connecting with customers and the potential for growth and innovation in the beauty and e-commerce markets.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Emily decide to expand from her blog into the Glossier beauty brand?

Emily explains that the decision to expand into Glossier was based on a fundamental belief that beauty is a means of connection. They aimed to break down the barriers between the company and the end-user to create better products. By involving the customer in the product development process, Glossier has experienced significant triple-digit growth, primarily through peer-to-peer recommendations rather than paid marketing.

Q: Did Emily always plan to expand into the beauty industry?

Emily clarifies that revenue was not the driving factor behind their business decisions. Instead, they focused on addressing the unmet needs of their audience. This led them to create products and tools that resonated with their customers and filled the gaps in the beauty market.

Q: What attracted Kirsten to working with Emily and into the gloss?

Kirsten was intrigued by Emily's insights into the consumer and her ability to identify unmet needs in the market. Emily's focus on developing products with the end-user in mind, combined with her understanding of what customers want and need, made her an appealing partner.

Q: Is it important for companies to have their own platforms rather than depending on third parties like Instagram?

Kirsten emphasizes the importance of meeting customers in various places, as different consumers have different preferences and behaviors. Having a strong product and value proposition is just the beginning; the real opportunity lies in developing a relationship with the consumer that goes beyond simply selling a product. Therefore, having a presence on multiple platforms, including a company's own website, social media, and physical stores, can help build loyalty and a deeper connection with customers.

Q: Will Glossier consider creating products targeted at different demographics, such as older women or men?

Emily explains that Glossier views beauty as a psychographic rather than a demographic, emphasizing that their core products are essential for all individuals, regardless of age or gender. They aim to create fundamental, essential beauty products that can be used by everyone. Moreover, Glossier has noticed how people of different demographics are using their products and engaging in conversations about beauty. This indicates that beauty products can transcend age boundaries and become a source of connection between different generations.

Q: How does social media platforms like Instagram impact the beauty and fashion industries?

Emily and Kirsten acknowledge the significant role of social media platforms, particularly Instagram, in the beauty and fashion industries. They mention that 72% of Millennials make their purchasing decisions for beauty and fashion products through Instagram. Social media allows users to connect with like-minded individuals, share product recommendations, and influence others' purchasing decisions. The power of personal stories and peer-to-peer recommendations is transforming the retail landscape.

Q: What are Kirsten's thoughts on the reports of Instagram developing a social shopping network?

Kirsten believes that Instagram's move into social shopping aligns with the current opportunities and challenges in the retail industry. People are seeking connections and recommendations from others, and businesses that can develop a relationship with the consumer and understand their needs will have the advantage. Instagram's potential for social shopping provides valuable data and insights that can drive successful ecommerce businesses.

Q: How does Glossier stand out in the crowded ecommerce and beauty industries?

Emily attributes Glossier's success to their direct connection with every customer, enabling them to develop better products and respond immediately to customer feedback. By involving their customers in the product development and decision-making process, Glossier has built a powerful and loyal user base. Additionally, they focus on creating an emotional commerce experience that goes beyond the traditional focus on products. They aim to leverage data and technology to help people tell their stories and find the information they need about beauty.

Q: Do Glossier and other e-commerce companies need to rely on platforms like Amazon to reach customers?

Emily acknowledges that Amazon meets a significant consumer need in terms of efficiency and breadth of product. However, she also highlights the importance of a user experience focused on connection rather than just efficiency. Glossier aims to provide a breadth of connection and enable customers to find the information and stories they need about beauty. They prioritize their direct channel,, and invest heavily in technology to enhance the user experience.

Q: How does Kirsten advise portfolio companies regarding their relationship with Amazon?

Kirsten suggests considering the overall value and potential ROI when evaluating opportunities to partner with Amazon or other platforms. It's important to assess what a company stands to gain, such as access to a larger customer base, as well as what they might lose in terms of control and customer insights. The decision to work with Amazon or other third-party platforms should align with the company's business model and goals.

Q: Is there a formula for successfully raising funding in the e-commerce industry?

Kirsten explains that the amount of funding a company needs depends on various factors such as the business model, the core products, and the growth strategy. Each company will have its own unique set of metrics and considerations. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for raising capital in the e-commerce industry. It's crucial to be conscious of why the money is being raised and how it will contribute to the company's goals and value generation.


The interview highlights the importance of prioritizing the customer and building strong relationships in the beauty and e-commerce industries. Companies like Glossier have found success by involving their customers in the product development process and leveraging social media platforms to enable peer-to-peer recommendations. The retail ecosystem is evolving, and there is a need for businesses to adapt and invest in a breadth of connection rather than just efficiency. While platforms like Instagram and Amazon offer opportunities, companies must carefully consider how these platforms align with their goals and values. Overall, the future of e-commerce lies in creating emotional commerce experiences and leveraging technology to meet the evolving needs and behaviors of consumers.

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