With over 100 million monthly TikTok users in the U.S., beauty brands are using the social platform as their entry to cracking an ultra-competitive market.
Gen-Z makeup brand Lottie London — the sister brand to nail-care and beauty brand Ciaté London and skin-care brand Skin Proud – launched its TikTok account in April ahead of a wide-scale expansion into Ulta doors, Asos.com, Urban Outfitters and Target, among others, between April and October. The 5-year-old brand first made its foray into the U.S. in 2017 when it began selling through Ulta.com. From 2017-2020, it experienced an average 85% year-over-year sales growth at Ulta, according to Nora Zukauskaite, Lottie London head of global marketing. But 2020 represents the Lottie London’s largest expansion into the U.S. to-date. Furthermore, in 2021, it plans to expand to 1,000 U.S. brick-and-mortar and online distribution points in the mass and specialty channels.
With its current momentum among Gen Z, and its capacity to make people, places and things go viral, TikTok is the go-to channel for achieving brand awareness among these consumers. Lottie London’s core demographic is 16- to 29-year-olds; they represent over 80% of customers.
“Gen Zers are much more [cautious] about where they spend their dollars, because there are so many choices. They do the extra research on ingredients and packaging — more than millennials or any other age bracket,” said Zukauskaite. “But their attention spans are also shorter; they are very digitally focused, but prefer physical interactions. Fundamentally, they’re a different kind of consumer, which brings different challenges for the brand to build loyal followers and consumers.”
In the U.K., Lottie London is distributed at Feelunique, Missguided and Primark, among others. Zukauskaite declined to cite overall 2020 revenue, but Charlotte Knight, Ciaté London founder and CEO, forecasted a 25% decline in annual sales for both Lottie and Ciaté in May.
Over the last seven months, the brand has gained over 129,000 followers on TikTok. Lottie London’s strategy has centered on paid partnerships with 12 TikTok influencers, including Kaci Shiers (805,200 TikTok followers) and Sara Carstens (1.3 million followers). Zukauskaite declined to detail the brand’s influencer investment.
The 12 TikTok creator sponsored videos, which featured makeup brushes and an Ombre Blush product, had a collective 1.5 million views. In these partnerships, Lottie London asks for its products to naturally be integrated into a TikTok user’s typical content, like in makeup tutorials. The brand would rather not have its video or campaign dictating the content, said Zukauskaite. Outside of sponsored posts, products like Lottie London’s Freckle Tint product have frequently appeared in unpaid videos, like the popular faux freckles makeup tutorial.
Lottie London also plans to work with TikTok creators to collaborate on future products, though those plans are still in its early stages, said Zukauskaite. But this points to uncertainties for both Lottie London and other brands that have begun to capitalize on TikTok creators, given the newness of TikTok’s popularity and untested ability as a long-term conversion tactic. Recently, Morphe 2 (which works with Charli and Dixie D’Amelio) and Item Beauty (Addison Rae’s new brand) have banked on TikTok stars and their power.
“What’s interesting is that there are very young people on TikTok, and therefore, there is not enough data yet to understand the purchasing power of that community,” said Zukauskaite. “As a brand, we look at TikTok as a way to reach and grow [with] our future customers versus a direct conversion tactic.”
Lottie’s London’s own branded account showcases groups of products together, Freckle Tint tutorials and makeup artistry. Trina Albus, the founder of social and influencer marketing company Magenta Agency, pointed out that despite the “impressive following,” the relative average engagement is low. She said brands that appear to use TikTok as a sales opportunity have leaned into duets, referenced and linked to specific retail partners, gamified content and created specific posts that drive viewers to the brand’s TikTok bio. At present, the Instagram icon on Lottie London’s TikTok page leads to a former, and now inactive, Instagram account.
“The account seems to do a good job with brand awareness, but if they want to maximize the opportunity for sales as they move into the U.S. market, [they need to do more],” said Albus.