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Julep Beauty

A new kind of beauty brand is finding insights and loyalty through a omni-channel community, reports Taffy Brodesser-Akner in Fast Company (Feb 2014). Jane Park is a former Starbucks director who understands "just how crucial the happiness of the customer is at every turn." As she says, "It’s about thinking through every step of the customer journey." Jane’s venture, Julep Beauty, reimagines "the entire enterprise of selling beauty merchandise to women, from product design to the transaction experience."

Her first move, six years ago, "was to open a small chain of beauty parlors" in the Seattle area. Her idea was "to encourage social interaction via communal spaces" and create "mini labs in which to test products on actual customers." Julep’s "facialists and verniseurs (a term that is to manicurist as barista is to coffee pourer) … listen closely to reactions and report back. Julep then uses that info to tweak details such as colors, packaging and scents." Jane has since "expanded the test-lab concept into the digital sphere," via a "core group of about 5,000 customers known as the Idea Lab."

The online Idea Lab is intended as "a natural extension of the conversations" that starts in the offline salons. "Whenever we would do something that involved input, we let the lab know," says Jane. "It’s the spiritual testing core of our brand." Most important, Julep makes its customers "feel as if they’re part of the company," creating community and, in the process "a deeply loyal customer base." "We feel like product development and marketing are one step," says Jane. "When we’re testing something, we’re actually also kind of marketing it at the same time."