The skincare industry is changing rapidly. While demand historically came from older consumers, a growing younger customer base is taking over. A lot of that is thanks to the rise of social media — there are thousands of beauty influencers who make it their job to showcase the latest skincare trends and products across YouTube and Instagram.
But while it’s great that the younger generation is hopping on the skincare train, this has also welcomed more knockoff brands than ever before — and a lot of them come with false promises for instantaneous results.
Julia Faller, founder and creator of Benedetta, the Original Plant Realized Care for Skin, doesn’t think that skincare products should serve as “a band-aid for blemishes or wrinkles.” Instead, she believes that the only way to truly care for the skin is through a system that encourages your skin to be healthier with prolonged use, much like a consistent, healthy, organic lifestyle will do the same for the rest of your body.
We sit down and talk with the company’s Digital Marketing Manager, Heather Chloe Wallace, about Benedetta’s origins, customer-centric marketing approach, and future plans.
Breaking the Status Quo
Julia Faller has been interested in holistic health and the health food industry since she was a teenager. It’s this interest that caused her to challenge the skincare industry’s most popular products — many prominent skincare brands label their products as “all-natural,” when in reality, they’re riddled with petrochemicals and false ingredients.
That’s why in 1986, Julia founded Benedetta with a clear intention to serve a need that hadn’t yet been met — to provide a skincare line made of 100% botanical Farm-Sourced® ingredients, with attention to synergistic formulas. Right off the bat, her products were unlike any other skincare brand in the industry.
“The Benedetta system doesn’t follow the status quo or conventions of what people think the skin needs,” says Heather. “There are no toners after cleansing, no night creams, no soapy cleansers, and no SPFs.”
Instead, Julia developed the line with a holistic view of what the skin truly needs to be more nourished. “Our skin isn’t plastic, so why do companies use fillers and phthalates and parabens,” explains Heather. “Your skin absorbs as well as excretes toxins, so what would the absorption of nutrients do? Where and what nutrients can the skin recognize, and what is needed for them to be efficiently bioavailable? That’s where Benedetta comes in. We only use plant realized ingredients, because like a plant-rich diet, that’s what the body recognizes and wants.”
Gaining Customer Loyalty
“This company was genuinely founded on service to the end user first before profit. Many people have this misconception that anyone can make a successful skincare line,” says Heather. “But most, if not all, companies focus on marketing first, not the product or audience even.”
Benedetta’s laser focus on their product and customer has led them to achieve a phenomenal retention rate. “Julia has always said that it’s about taking care of our customers — to let them know that we’re not here to sell to them but to take care of them. That’s why around 60-80% of our customers return, which is double or even triple the industry standard.”
So in what other ways does Benedetta gain customer loyalty?
They challenge their customers
“When it comes to customer growth and engagement, I think it’s important to challenge your customers,” says Heather. “For instance, if people see that a company touts using 100% natural ingredients, what does that really mean? You can say that you use natural ingredients, but in what form? How was it processed? Where was it sourced? These things affect ingredients and their potency, so one company’s ‘100% natural’ could mean anything. We like to base a lot of our advertising messages on challenging the consumer’s understanding of these vague, trendy concepts.”
Pro tip: It’s essential to build brand trust by being transparent with your customers. One way of doing this is by offering glimpses of how your company operates. For instance, you can write a blog post on how you source your products or create behind-the-scenes videos featuring your staff. Not only will this bring your brand to life with your customers, but they’ll also feel like they’re a part of your journey.
They have one-on-one conversations with their customers
“The real magic between Benedetta and our community happens through one-on-one conversations, whether that’s over the phone for some quality customer care or via our comments section,” says Heather. “Recently, we’ve been looking into replicating this same intimacy across other platforms like our email marketing and social media.”
Pro tip: Customers become more invested in a company when they feel valued beyond the “customer” label. Encourage your customers to reach out whether that’s over the phone, via email, or through product Q&As or reviews. Encourage their curiosity, skepticism, and feedback.
They never oversell their customers
“I know that this is a weird stance to take, but we never oversell our customers,” says Heather. “We developed our products to work, not to sell. But when it comes to skincare, where customers are especially cautious, there’s a degree of trust that a customer has to surrender when purchasing a product. Unlike clothing or appliances, you can’t get a sense of skincare in the immediacy. You can’t demo skincare or try it on in a dressing room. You have to trust the product at checkout. Here at Benedetta, we say trust BEFORE profit. To build trust, our team provides resources such as blogs, podcasts, and videos, for a three-dimensional understanding of our products and essential skincare.”
Pro tip: Consumers trust other people’s opinions much more than branded content, which means user-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for building trust with prospects and customers and scaling your service and customer success efforts.
They have an authentic and honest business model
Heather points out that many skincare brands sometimes skirt the truth when it comes to their product descriptions. “This goes back to our marketing focus on challenging the customer. If a skincare brand says that their products are ‘organic,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘plant-derived,’ with ‘no parabens,’ and ‘no sulfates,’ — we want people to ask, ‘how?’ How can these companies use these naturally-derived ingredients and still end up with identical white fluffy moisturizers? Natural ingredients are not white, so how is your product white?”
“People, and customers specifically, want authenticity,” stresses Heather. “When you can start a conversation with customers and potential customers from a position of honesty, it can make a huge difference.”
Pro tip: Don’t just market to your customers; educate them, too. The more informed and empowered customers are, the more satisfied and confident they are with their choices. Take a page out of Benedetta’s book and leverage video marketing in the form of live demos and video tutorials.
A Shift to Brand Awareness
Although Benedetta has been on a steady growth trajectory, like many other businesses, it did not escape unscathed by the effects of COVID-19. One of the most significant changes during the lockdown was Benedetta’s retail store shutdown in San Francisco, which accounted for a substantial percentage of their annual sales.
“We spent 2020 on damage control,” says Heather. “And 2021 will be about selling online, with brick-n-mortar on the side — and that’s a huge leap. The challenge we’re facing right now is to stand out among the hundreds of new ‘natural’ beauty companies online.”
So far, Benedetta has adjusted their marketing strategy by focusing primarily on their online presence — a huge adjustment, as they went from purely retargeting advertising to brand awareness advertising, which AdRoll was happy to help with. “With AdRoll, we have the option to tailor those reach-based campaigns so we can advertise to the right audience rather than guessing. Since launching our first reach-based campaign, we’ve seen a 27% increase in new visitors to our website, which is a gamechanger for us.”
To focus on the products’ integrity, the marketing team has also been tirelessly working on rebranding their products as less “beauty” and more “health and wellness.”
As for future plans, the Benedetta team is keen on developing more resources to educate people about the differences between “beauty” skincare and “health and wellness” skincare and how to take care of skin beyond their product line. They also plan to create a more robust social media strategy to distribute those resources.
Mastering the Art of Marketing
When asked what’s the most important thing she’s learned from her marketing career, Heather admits that there isn’t really one thing. “The thing is, marketing in the digital age is continuously evolving. I’d say that it’s most important to keep learning and never assume you’re an expert at marketing your industry. Customers are more educated about commerce than ever before and also incredibly confused. The art of marketing is getting your brand and products out there while walking that line successfully.”
As for her tips to other D2C marketers, Heather maintains that it’s essential to build your marketing plan around these three pillars, just as Benedetta is doing: consistency, conciseness, and authenticity.
As the Customer Marketing Manager, Veronica is responsible for building strong relationships with customers and amplifying their stories. Outside the office, Veronica is happiest when she’s exploring hidden gems in SF, eating her weight in cheese/charcuterie, and dancing at a show (preferably in that order).