Interview: How To Meet Consumer Demand For A Clean Beauty Resource
Tara Foley of beauty service Follain explains why her company not only offers personalized skincare products but also educates curious consumers
Non-toxic beauty products are in high demand, and consumers are hungry not only for better, cleaner products, but also for more information and resources about what the healthiest and greenest options are for their particular skin type.
For his clean beauty podcast, PSFK founder and editor-in-chief Piers Fawkes spoke with CEO Tara Foley of Follain, a skincare and cosmetics service dedicated to helping its clients find the optimal clean products customized for their specific needs. Foley discusses how the company not only functions to match people with the perfect products but also acts as a much-needed expert source of education on skincare, ingredients and health for today’s increasingly conscious consumers.
Tara: Clean, green and natural beauty options are growing like gangbusters right now. A lot of the bigger beauty brands are a little bit worried about this. Consumers now have access to so much more information about the ingredients in our products. I believe that this is the reason why cleaner and greener beauty is growing. I hate to call it a trend—I know a lot of people do, but actually I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. Just like the healthier food movement, once you know about healthier ingredients, you can’t un-know it, if that makes sense. Once people find something that’s healthier and works for them, very few go back. I would say it’s not just a trend, but an important new movement.
Piers: We’ve seen a lot of new brands in the beauty space develop. Have the legacy brands just been slow to change? Didn’t they see these trends, or did they stick their heads in the sand?
It’s a great question. It’s difficult for them to be as nimble as we are because we’re just much smaller. The huge conglomerates are making millions of units of these products regularly. To change the formula and every product on every single CVS store shelf is much more complicated. It takes a longer time, due to sheer size.
Do you have the DTC model?
We have a couple of stores, and we’ll be opening a handful of additional ones this year, but we’re mostly online. We’re educating and finding customers and shipping all over the country. We’re growing much faster online, and we consider ourselves a digital-first business.
The idea behind the store seems to be a do-it-yourself apothecary, where people pick the ingredients and the products that have worked best for them. Can you explain the experience?
Absolutely. More and more people are reading about the issues in their everyday products. They’re looking for a resource, for education, to try new products and to go clean, to “start their clean beauty journey.” Follain is the resource to help them do that. We have developed a ton of knowledge about these products in this category over the years. Since 2009, when I started a little blog about this, we’ve been getting super educated on these products, the makers, the brands and what works best for different skin types.
People trust Follain as a resource. They say, “I’ve been using x cleanser from the past 10 years. What’s the most similar one?” or “What’s the best if my skin is oily or super dry?” We’re very good at matchmaking and helping people find the right thing. We have a quiz on our site that does that, and we have awesome people on our site’s messenger chat as well as in the store who we can hold the customer’s hand through the process. That matchmaking is definitely what we’re most known for.
Can you talk about the new ideas you’re thinking about developing over the next 12 to 18 months?
We’re going to be servicing a lot more of that education. We talk to customers about it, and we’ve realized that there’s a ton of these common questions that we’ve been getting. We’re going to be releasing a ton more content this year—more of a compendium and an encyclopedia, a go-to place for people if they don’t want to chat with us, or if they don’t want to send us an email. It’s just there at their fingertips.
Why is it important to develop that offline retail, considering you have so many online sales anyway?
In many ways, the in-person experience is what we’re trying to replicate online. If you think about it, it’s so difficult to digitally deliver every single little piece of content and education that you can during a quick conversation in a store. We’re using the in-store experience to make the site better.
There’s that side of it, and then there’s something to be said for being able to pick up a soap and a lotion, touch it, try it and experience it. Our stores are very interactive. We have these big basins for you to try the products. We have the quiz on iPads throughout the store. It’s just another touchpoint, and we have to be wherever the customer wants to shop. We can’t be just online or just brick-and-mortar, we have to be wherever the customer wants to go.
Listen to more experts discuss clean beauty on our PurpleList podcast episode.
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