‘Cult Conscious’: Launching a transparency edit with Cult Beauty

Published on
June 18, 2020

Spearheading innovation and going beyond your typical ‘sustainable’ collection, Cult Beauty is using Provenance technology to back up the claims made by beauty brands with factual information and verified data. This month they’ve debuted their “Cult Conscious” edit, which rounds up brands leading with transparency, in a continued response to what their shoppers care about…

“Transparency isn’t about being perfect, ethical or even perfectly ethical! it’s about being honest about your business practices, flaws and all.” – Sarah Brown, Pai Skincare

The background

Mara on Cult Beauty with Provenance

Last May, we started working with Cult Beauty, one of the UK's fastest-growing online beauty businesses, selling more than 300 brands and operating internationally with a reputation for curated products that work. Together, we set out on the ambitious goal of addressing transparency (or lack thereof) in the beauty industry. This included supporting their team on:

  • The shopper need: Analysis and a strategic response to the increasing expectation for transparency in beauty.
  • A transparency roadmap: A route forward for them as a retailer on how to become more transparent.
  • Enabling transparency at scale: How they could facilitate brands that are willing to be more transparent to take action.

Led by founder, Alexis Inge, and Chairwoman, Bettina Wonsag, we had a vision – not just for a new way of marketing truly sustainable brands – but also determining how to bring a new kind of information into the online retail environment. The purpose was to enable brands to share their values and sustainability efforts in a way that has meaning and integrity.We had 23,000+ Cult Beauty shoppers respond to our survey expressing the importance of transparency in how they trust and purchase brands. Some obvious and some unexpected key themes emerged:

  • Loyalty demands even more information from brands
  • There’s appetite to learn more about brands’ commitments to environmental and social causes
  • Skincare shoppers are demanding; they are looking for proof behind the credentials of a brand or product before they buy
  • When comparing products, make-up shoppers are nudged to choose brands that share more proof and display clear values versus those that don’t

This established that our response had to go beyond baseline transparency. Sustainability ‘one-liners’ felt weak and at risk of becoming a vague ‘clean’, ‘green’-washed space. There’s already huge shopper confusion in the industry, and Cult Beauty didn't want to jump on the bandwagon; they wanted to champion the customer.Our solution was to give shoppers the information they want, make sure it is true, and make sure it is easily found and digestible within the Cult Beauty retail environment. You can learn more about what we did in the first phase of the project to enable transparency with integrity in our recent case study.

The outcome

Today we have more than 800 Proof Points, across 428 products and 36 brands. And growing. We now bring transparent information to the forefront of their shopping experience in the form of our Proof Points tool. This allows shoppers to see, at a glance, if products and brands are aligned to their values on core issues, such as cruelty-free, female-owned or coral-reef safe.

What is a Proof Point? An interactive icon representing a claim about a brand or product that connects what a brand says to real data from their supply chain. Each one is part of a framework designed for shoppers to easily compare and trust what is said at the point of sale.

“Through the Cult Conscious movement, complex and hard to understand facts are boiled down in a simple, digestible way and made instantly accessible at the point of sale. This is the future of how beauty (and many other industries) will need to evolve as the consumer demands more transparency across every moment of purchase. The more brands join, the more will be inspired to, to push the sustainability agenda forward.” – Namrata Kamdar, founder of Plenaire

This accountability that comes from the level of proof has led to the confidence to put forward their ‘Cult Conscious’ edit. Knowing that proof is backing up the claims made by brands, and creating a line in the sand for open brands to cross over, it’s established a new standard for curating a ‘sustainable’ collection.

The insights

Insights from work with Cult Beauty

Proof Points around packaging, clinical testing and supporting the local community stand out with the highest click-through rates. We’ve found that social impact is very powerful at a point of sale. Bringing those stories out of an editorial environment and using Proof Points to consistently and succinctly share the actual impact details as a part of the shopper journey sets you up for much stronger brand sentiment from the get-go. Similarly, with packaging information, sharing the impact and what it means for the shopper as they’re deciding on which product to buy allows for a level of engagement that isn’t happening on-pack for most brands. Without connecting the physical to digital, you just can’t explain and prove the work you’ve put into selecting the right materials.

The benefits

Increasing brand sentiment: Across the group, shoppers in our survey moved from 'like' to 'LOVE' after Provenance was activated with a 5% increase in sentiment.

An engaged community: As a victory for integrity across the industry, the edit’s debut garnered an increased engagement rate at 25% above their average on Instagram – showing a keen interest from their community of shoppers and brands alike.

Insights on what matters to shoppers: Our software analytics are helping frame conversations with Cult Beauty and brands on the issues at hand and spot trends, like those stated above.

More accountable brands: Our proof model makes everyone more accountable as claims have to be backed up. In some instances, it makes brands reconsider their own marketing statements. This gives the Cult Beauty team the confidence (through data) to bring a campaign like ‘Cult Conscious’ to their community knowing that the brands they are choosing are open and sharing proof.

Clarity for shoppers: Proof Points are helping many brands navigate the sustainability and ethical space, supporting them to communicate and promote their values and impact in a digestible format for online retail.

A smarter team: For Cult Beauty’s marketing team, they have insights and confirmation of the core messages that their community responds to. For their buyers, they now have more criteria and a new expectation around the important issues and what’s required to achieve that. And for all of us, this is a tremendous step forward in knowing what we’re actually buying. It helps ensure we’re supporting businesses that better align with our values and understand our own impact from the things we buy.  But we also know there’s loads more to do, particularly around ingredients as it’s something people really care about. Watch this space and check out the Cult Conscious edit to see how we will continue to address full transparency across the beauty industry.

Discover more our on work with Cult Beauty – see our case study.

Do you want to communicate your sustainability initiatives? Get in touch to talk about how our team and tools can support your journey.

Find eco-conscious partners for your next social campaign

Read our curated list of sustainability-focused social media personalities in beauty and well-being, household and food and drink.