A personalized approach to makeup has always been at the core of Shespoke, the Soho-based makeup brand and store created by “Law and Order: SVU” actress Stephanie March and makeup artist Rebecca Perkins. But when the pandemic hit, they were faced with a double wallop: The closure of their service-oriented studio, as well as a sharp decline in makeup sales.
But March and Perkins quickly regrouped: They brought in Kelsey Groome, formerly with Traub and Associates, as partner and chief executive officer, and together, the trio has outlined a strategic plan that revolves around a proprietary color-matching technology that they developed in conjunction with Pantone that enables them to manufacture customized lipsticks at scale.
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“Customization has always been at the core of our brand, since our launch two years ago,” said Groome. “But what’s happened over the last year on the backend is our ability to make customization scalable.”
Right now, Shespoke is using the technology to create customized lipsticks, but moving forward, it has plans to expand into other product categories, especially foundation and concealer.
The platform launched online on Black Friday last year and has been a success. Sales are up 130 percent year-over-year, with a new customer conversation rate of 5 to 6 percent, according to the brand.
“We think of the experience as ‘beautytainment,’” said March, “because it’s a fun thing for people to do at home. It’s an affordable luxury and we’ve found that people are creating them together online.”
The software that Shespoke developed enables the company to manufacture as few — or as many — lipsticks at a time, a model much like the one that Le Labo created for fine fragrance, where the final product isn’t made until the customer actually creates or orders it.
“We can do one tube of lipstick just as easily as 15,000 and we are not sitting on finished goods inventory,” said Groome.
In addition to making customized shades, the company is also creating its sets, such as I’m Speaking, a politically inspired series that launched with a trio of lipsticks named after the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Vice President Kamala Harris and politician Stacey Abrams.
Ruth was a color created by a customer (who gave her permission to use it) and Perkins created the other two. The collection, $85, has become the bestselling set in the line. “Our essence is she spoke — give beauty your voice,” said March. “We are doing a huge amount of storytelling in this way and it is really resonating with customers on an emotional level.”
Going forward, Shespoke plans to collaborate with like-minded brands, and is also looking to expand its retail presence via its software. “Customers wants to engage directly on their phones, they want to see you in a physical format, they want to see you in a multibrand format,” said Groome. Digitally, they’ve created a widget that other retailers could use to tap into the customization capabilities by integrating it seamlessly onto their websites.
“Scalability is core to our business,” said Groome. “This lends itself to turning on collaborations within days at any scale — whether with a cause we are aligned with or an individual or a brand. It is lipstick on demand.”
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