If any brand was ready to take on a pandemic, it was e.l.f. Cosmetics. In 2019, e.l.f. made the decision to close down all of its stores to focus on growing its digital presence. When the pandemic hit, the e.l.f. team didn’t have to worry about shutting down stores or transitioning to online-only. They already had the infrastructure and internal processes in place to quickly pivot and capitalize on a new surge in digital traffic.

Being a digitally native brand, they already had quite a few initiatives going strong to connect with their customers and give them the confidence to shop online. From leveraging TikTok and user-generated content (UGC) to adopting virtual reality, Kritika Pande, a Digital Marketing Data Manager at e.l.f. Cosmetics, shares the strategies her team is using to prepare for the holiday season. 

Here’s what she had to share about the changing Bringing the In-Store Experience Online:


Many beauty brands saw a big jump in skin care. We had three new skin care lines already in the pipeline, so it was great timing for us. People are home, they’re stressed, and they want to take care of themselves. Investing in skin care was a great way to invest in self-care for many people. While we saw a big push for skincare initially, our most popular products kept changing throughout COVID. Everything we do is driven by data and we then saw insights that people wanted to take care of their eyebrows because no one was leaving their house to get them done in a salon. We used those insights to pivot our site and story to cater to that audience. Then, eyeshadow was back because people wanted to feel pretty even when wearing a mask. 

e.l.f. cosmetics Skin Care Finder survey results

Results from e.l.f.’s Skin Care Finder survey

The top behavior trend that I’ve seen happening is social shopping. People are looking at what’s being sold on TikTok and Instagram. They love the cool, snackable content. I think in the coming year, it’s going to be more important to bridge social media and your own shopping experience to make it seamless for the user. 

I think in the coming year, it’s going to be more important to bridge social media and your own shopping experience to make it seamless for the user. 

What are some interesting and unique ways you’ve seen brands pivot to connect with customers this year?

Customers no longer just care about a brand’s products. They want to know about the brand and what it stands for. When they come to your site, they want to know: Who is e.l.f.? What does it stand for? What does it believe in? And am I connecting with the brand? If they do connect with your brand, they are going to be loyal to you, and then they’re yours to keep.

If they do connect with your brand, they are going to be loyal to you and then they’re yours to keep.

When COVID hit, our data insights showed that people wanted to know what we were doing during the pandemic. They wanted answers to questions like: Are you having shipping delays? Are you not taking orders? Are your stores not open? 

We launched a page called e.l.f. Cares. Its initial purpose was to be our COVID information hub, but now it’s grown to be everything about us. It has everything we stand for, the fact that we’re cruelty-free and vegan, our commitment to embracing diversity and inclusion, and anything else we believe in as a brand. 

Screenshot of the e.l.f. cares page The e.l.f. Cares page, featuring e.l.f’s commitment to creating cruelty-free products, embracing diversity and inclusion, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and more. 

We’ve seen stats that users who actually visit that page during their session have an almost 100% higher chance of converting than someone who hasn’t. It just proves the fact that the user is connecting with our brand. This page was just a test for us, but it’s proved it’s working. Our customers want to understand our brand in a deeper way and that’s a way we’ve connected with them at e.l.f.


How have you noticed brand content strategies evolve this year?

Education has taken such a big step up recently. People want to know what is in a product, how to apply it, how to wear a specific shade, whether they can pair it with another product, etc. People want to know more about the products they’re browsing. Quick, snackable how-to videos are fun, educational, and relatable. People are on the move and they want to know how things work quickly. 

Storytelling has also become very important. All your channels need to speak the same language and have the same look and feel. You need one cohesive experience. The same stories you feature on Instagram should also be on your site for people to instantly connect with. 

All your channels need to speak the same language and have the same look and feel.

Lastly, UGC has become really big. Everyone believes other people and they want to know what other people think. It’s about letting your customers relate to people like them and building a community. People connect to it because it’s more relatable. As a beauty brand, we have a very intimate relationship with our customers and UGC is a great way to match that. 

How are brands approaching this holiday season differently?

The biggest thing is the holidays started with Prime Day. Everyone knows that. Prime Day used to be in July or August so there used to be a big gap between that and the holiday season. Now, there’s not. It’s going to be a prolonged holiday season, which is great for brands. You have more days for people to shop, but it also means it’s not just limited to those two days. People are going to be expecting great stuff from now on. It’s a longer season and it’s going to continue until Cyber Monday. 

There has to be a great way to handle shipping delays. The consumer knows that there will be delays this year, but it’s important to set expectations and inform them through email, on your site, in their order confirmation email, etc. This is also a great way to encourage them to order ahead of time: “Shop now because there will be delays in November and December.” Another reason you should be upfront about your estimated shipping times is if you offer expedited shipping, a customer might be willing to pay the extra money to have their purchase delivered on time. On the other hand, if a customer is not willing to pay that extra money, they need to know that their order won’t come in time. We need to give customers more information so they can make informed decisions.

We need to give customers more information so they can make informed decisions.

We’ve already talked about how important it is to help the consumer holiday shop on your website because that’s where they’re taking their business this year. But there’s still time to pivot your website, change navigation, talk about holiday products and promotions, figure out what your consumer is looking to do that they can no longer do in-store. Make your website reflect your in-store experience and help your customers convert and buy. It’s also important from a channel standpoint if this consumer is coming from email or search, knowing how the intent is different. Someone coming from search was probably looking for you and they have intent to shop and are lower down the funnel. Help them convert and that can only happen on-site. It’s really going to be important and it’s a big challenge that everyone is facing, but I do think there’s still time. There are some quick fixes that can happen that can help achieve that.


How should businesses be using data leading up to the holidays?

Data is super crucial right now. It always was, but now, digital and online data is even more important than before. In terms of site metrics and behaviors you should be measuring, measure bounce rate, and conversion rate. Really look at specific pages in more detail, like your product and category pages, as well as your checkout funnel. Is someone bouncing unnecessarily on a checkout page? Why could that be happening? You want to dig deeper and the deeper you go, the more you will find issues that you want to fix as soon as you can.

For conversion rate, you want to look at whether you’re sending all your traffic to a page that’s not converting the way you expected it to. A weekly or quarterly data report isn’t going to cut it anymore. It should be part of your daily conversations. You want to have open communication between your data people and the business. “Here’s what’s working” or “Here’s what’s not.” You need to think on your feet. Data is not just a report, it’s a discussion. 

A weekly or quarterly data report isn’t going to cut it anymore. It should be part of your daily conversations.

In terms of UX, which is what we use Contentsquare for, we look at engagement with content. Say you’ve got a new promo banner, how are people engaging with that? Are they attracted to the banner? Are they trying to click it, but it’s not working? Are they not converting when they click on it? Content is so important now. At e.l.f., we A/B test everything. Say we see that a banner is not doing what our average banners do, we always have creative backups we can swap out and test to see if they do any better. It’s important for people to get this vision of data that’s more than a report, it needs to be a discussion and dialogue. What I love about e.l.f. is that data is a dialogue. It lets us make a lot of data-informed decisions.


How is e.l.f. helping customers get that in-person experience online?

There are a couple of things that will be important. The first is quick how-to videos that are real. They don’t have to use a model, it should just show someone wearing the product, show product swatches on different skin colors, show the product’s texture, the different sizes it comes in, and the color options. Try to be real in those videos. You don’t want them to come off as super fabricated, fancy videos. Make them realistic and more visual for the consumer. You can do this with product images too. If a customer is thinking of buying a sweater, show the image as close as you can, so they can see the product’s texture. In a store, you can feel a product and see how amazing it is for yourself. Brands need to figure out how to bring that online. 

The second thing is AR. We’ve had Virtual Try-On on our site for a while and it’s now on our mobile app. We want to make it easy for our customers to try our products. You can use a picture, a model, or a live camera to try a product on. That’s as close as customers can get to trying on a product in-store. 

e.l.f. cosmetics' Virtual Try On tool

e.l.f Cosmetics’ Virtual Try On tool that lets customers choose a model, upload a photo of themselves, or use a live camera to try a product on.

Lastly, think of when you enter a store around the holidays. There are always pre-packaged holiday gift sets or a curated collection of products ready for you to buy. But, if customers aren’t going to stores, they might not think to look for those sets. We need to make holiday gifts readily available on-site via gift guides and look books. Then, develop a content strategy around those sets too. Think, “If you’re buying this bundle, here are the looks you can create with it, and here’s how to use the product.” That’s another way to bring that in-person experience online.


This interview is an excerpt from Contentsquare’s ongoing Fall Semester webinar series. In addition to e.l.f. cosmetics, we’ve spoken with digital experts from leading brands like Orvis, VF Corporation, and Nespresso.

Click here to register for the next Fall Semester session or watch the full recording of “Bringing the In-Store Experience Online” with Kritika Pande of e.l.f. Cosmetics.