8 DTC beauty brands known for their customer acquisition strategies

June 17, 2024

After social media happened, it became easy for everyone to reach customers, miles away from the brand’s office. This accessibility, even so post covid, has triggered growth in the overall E-Commerce industry and has also caused a rise in interest for the Direct To Consumer (DTC) beauty brands.

Here are some related stats that will help you understand this:

  • According to a NPD survey conducted in 2020, 22% women accepted that they have changed their skincare routine because of COVID-19. Of which 1/3rd women have expanded their routine to include more products and are washing or moisturizing their face more often than pre-pandemic.
  • According to a Harvard Business School survey, 82% of skincare and beauty shoppers use Instagram at least once per day.
  • While in the same Harvard survey, 67% of skincare and beauty shoppers accepted that they are highly dependent on product recommendation by Influencers on the social media platform.
  • A CB Insights survey revealed that 65% of beauty retailers provide interactive quizzes on their website to help customers choose the right products

The DTC beauty brands are most popular among the younger shoppers because 1) they are conscious about the product’s effect on their skin, 2) they spend a lot of time on the internet, and prefer online shopping 3) they follow makeup artists and celebrities. Hence there’s a huge influx of new-age, direct-to-consumer brands as well as online marketplaces.

Here are 9 examples of DTC beauty brands who are popular in the digital skincare and makeup shopping world.

Tier one: Celebrity endorsed, very popular brands

#1. Kylie Cosmetics

After acquiring a majority stake in Kylie Cosmetics, Coty Inc launched their Vegan DTC line in 2021, keeping the name Kylie Cosmetics.

The early version of Kylie Cosmetics was launched in 2015 by the celebrity entrepreneur Kylie Jenner with Kylie Lip Kits, a collection of three liquid lipsticks with corresponding lip liners in one ready-to-go kit. Kylie Jenner still holds 49% of the company and is very active and vocal about the new DTC line.

After acquisition, there were a good deal of PR campaigns and a few controversies which led to the fast growth of their DCT line apart from the celebrity image of Kylie Jenner herself.

#2. Fenty Beauty

The much popular DTC brand, Fenty Beauty is owned by the music superstar Robyn Rihanna Fenty (popularly known as Rihanna). In 2017, she launched Fenty Beauty in collaboration with the well known LVMH who also owns Sephora.

In an interview Rihana told The New York Times Style Magazine, “They extended the offer to me and it was a no-brainer because LVMH is a machine and Bernard Arnault was so enthusiastic; he trusted me and my vision”. According to Forbes, LVMH owns an estimated 50% of the company’s share while Rihana owns 15% and the rest of shares are held by other investors.

Fenty Beauty has positioned itself as Beauty For All brand. Based on this philosophy they launched a 40 shade foundation for ‘everyone’ in the initial offering which no one had attempted before. Because the brand was backed by a celebrity, it was quickly picked up by news portals. LVMH then did additional PRs and Rihana’s interviews which was shared on her social media to her fans.

This all led to Fenty Beauty selling a record $100 million in sales within the first few weeks of their launch. The company is now worth $17B.

They also focus on product personalisation by providing a product recommendation shade finder quiz on their website. The beauty of this feature is that you get the Zero Party Data of your customers and then recommend products based on their needs.

A sample screenshot of Tangent’s product personalization quiz

#3. Augustinus Bader

Professor Augustinus Bader is a globally recognized biomedical scientist and physician and one of the foremost experts in the field of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. He started the DTC beauty brand in 2018 with his own name.

Augustinus Bader received praise from many celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell for his beauty products which he had developed in his labs. He later turned it into a $70m beauty business winning 40+ beauty and skincare awards worldwide.

Post developing the research backed products, Augustinus Bader worked immensely on brand positioning and target audience. With help of a few agencies and being a researcher himself, they concluded to position themselves as a Scientific product line for women in their late 30’s to early 50’s. This can be seen all through their content whether it’s on social media or website.

To further increase the customer lifetime value, they also launched a loyalty subscription program which has added immense value in furthering their brand likeness among their existing clients.

Tier Two: Moderately Popular Brands

#4. ColourPop Cosmetics

ColourPop was launched in 2014 as an indie eCommerce setup by Laura and John Nelson to deliver high quality, affordable, vegan, beauty products. They slowly developed their brand identity for a wide range of popping colors.

ColourPop owes its success to social media marketing.

“The biggest contributor to success lay in our ability to make ColourPop stand out in a competitive market, without blatantly calling out the price of the product on the ad level. Instead, we opted to show the product in use, so that you can really see the quality and color payoff of the products.” says Michelle Luo, growth consultant for ColourPop.

Their social media marketing is largely divided into two parts:

1- Paid social media ads: Although the brand started out with organic growth on facebook and they did it pretty well but after some time the growth plateaued. Their growth consultant then recommended to opt for facebook ads, “In order to grow and scale digitally, paid ads were the necessary next-step in its maturity”, she said. The facebook ads worked out well for them.

2- Influencer marketing: ColourPop from their initial days were doing brand collaboration with micro to medium size influencers which were mostly barter based collaboration. But later they exposed their brand to large size influencers both on youtube and Instagram having 1m+ subscribers. This gave them a huge success in building a strong brand presence in the beauty D2C segment.

#5. Glossier

Glossier was launched in 2014 by Emily Weiss who used to be a blogger at Into the Gloss. She later started her DTC brand Glossier, as an extension of her blog initiating with only four beauty products.

Glossier has the first motto of being a truly skin-care brand rather than a makeup brand. Their team ‘work for customer experience not for customer service’.

Emily Weiss in an interview with re/code in 2019 said that we wanted to establish a personalized and more conversational relationship with her audience who were mostly millennials.

Reason behind Glossier’s success as a DTC brand:

Obviously Glossier was early in the game but beyond that they have successfully built a community based brand and have persistently maintained the user experience through and through.

This can be easily found on their website and social profiles where they keep a blend of customer stories and reviews, situational memes and influencer content all complementing what Emily Weiss said earlier that “I’d much rather have a 22 year girl hear about Glossier from her friend than in a Google remnant ad or something like that and if it takes her a little bit longer, I think that’s fine”.


MAELOVE is a vegan DTC beauty and skincare brand founded by a team of MIT graduates in 2018. It is the best example of using AI in the beauty industry. The founders used artificial intelligence to analyze 3m+ online product reviews to understand the needs of their customers and to create, produce and market their products accordingly.

The brand has taken influencer marketing to another level by involving experts instead of celebrities as social media influencers. Their experts are doctors and medical aestheticians who share MAELOVE products review and recommendation videos to their patients or fan following on social media. And because the brand is open about ingredients, no one has any doubt about their credibility and the product sells.

They also offer a 100-day refund on their products which is another marketing tactic to stand out in the competition.

Tier three: Budding but doing well

#7. Versed Skin

Versed Skin has a unique brick and mortar business to online market takeover story. Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur Katherine Power, Versed has one simple goal: to make clean beauty less about price tags and aspiration.

“Our mission has always been to make good skin and clean products accessible for everyone, not just for those with high income, in major cities, or willing to Google ingredients for hours on end. We felt passionate that good skin, clean ingredients, and sustainable practices are for everyone, and that became the mission.” says Melanie Bender, president of Versed.

The beauty brand got immense traction when they launched their DTC line on Target dot com. The largest contributing factor for their early success was their sister brand Who What Wear which is a community of Gen Z and Millennia women from all over the US. Based on their research and learning from the WhoWhat Wear community, they launched beauty products for everyone.

“What we heard so much is there is amazing clean skincare but it’s not for me because the number of people who can drop $200 on a regimen at Sephora is a minority in the US,” explains Melanie Bender, President of Versed.

#8. Viori Beauty

Viori Beauty was launched in 2014. They manufacture shampoo, conditioner, and body wash using traditional, natural ingredients sourced from the Red Yao tribe in Longsheng, China. Viori is known to source Longsheng rice from the Red Yao women in China and claim that they give back to the tribe in terms of money, sustainability and much more.

The two major contributing factor of their brand’s success are

A- A community of loyal customers who help them grow through word of mouth.

B- A subscription program designed in a way to help them sustain the customer lifecycle value.