#18 What do customers want?
I think about this question a lot.
Most days I’m listening. Other days it’s the last thing on my mind.
Overall, I am happy with our customer feedback. I can count on two hands the number of serious complaints.
Customers love the simplicity of our products — not just the SKU amount but the approach to routine, and formulation basics like being vegan, cruelty-free, and committed to Palm Oil-free. They love that we have introduced refills to both our glass skincare bottles and cosmetics compacts.
Customers love our packaging, and our journey to figuring out what’s best, next. We don’t have all the answers — if we did, everyone would be doing this — but we’re trialing stuff, and we’re happy to talk about when we trip up.
Customers love our message. “I’m Prettier Now That I Don’t Care” and “Beauty is More Than Makeup” are repeated so many times in DMs and emails, and now we’re starting to see it pop up in other brands’ messaging, too. We’re committed to conversations that aren’t happening elsewhere — even when it feels like we’re talking to an empty room.
But customers and consumers don’t always love us. As I said, we’ve had concerns and complaints. I’ve been lucky enough to have direct dialogue with anyone who has written in with something to say. Sometimes, when it permits, I go for walks or get coffee with the people who write to us. It’s weird for both of us — I don’t think anyone expects it. But I love listening.
When I listen I have three choices:
- Park it. (Take it onboard)
2. Action it.
3. Discard it.
And I’m learning (slowly) where each is applicable.
“The customer is always right.”
I agree with this statement, to the extent that the customer’s thoughts are their own — their ‘right’. What I do with their feedback needs to then be based on the following:
- Is it possible?
- Is it in the best interests of our customers?
- Is it in the best interests of our business?
The first point saves a lot of time. When a customer asks us to create more products, I want to give them more, but it might not be possible due to funding, or the fact that a Face Oil that removes wrinkles just does not exist. (Sorry, beauty industry.) In this case, I can park or discard a lot of requests.
If it is possible, say for example — a Face Oil that targets dehydrated skin, and we can afford to do it, I have to ask myself if it’s in the best interests of our customers, our business, or both.
If yes, great.
But sometimes I’ve made decisions that are in the best interest of our business, and not our customers. Like paying for a storefront for 12 months, because my ego wanted our brand to launch big, when that money could have been used elsewhere, on the products my customers were asking for.
And sometimes I’ve made decisions that are in the best interest of our customers, and not our business. Like creating beanies because people were asking for them repeatedly, and exhausting our cashflow only to have our stock arrive late, and not have as many people purchase as we expected.
Other times, I have to concede that the line can be blurry. Expanding our shade range of our Bronzing Powder was crucial for our commitment to inclusivity yet it limited our financial capacity going forward. Is this something we just have to wear? I think so. (Pardon the pun)
Last November we updated our brand and website. Was it what our customers wanted? We had a few emails saying our site was confusing and our brand felt young — but was that enough? Or was the update what I wanted instead? Had I outgrown Fluff, 3 years after launch? Was this really only satisfying my own request?
I’ll never really know, but here we are, new site, new products and all. Still wondering, what do our customers really want?
Just the other day I was having a conversation with Nick as to whether consumers (myself included) actually know what we want. Or, are we all struggling to express exactly what it is? When I receive a DM from someone asking for shade expansion: do they want more products specifically? Or if I drill down, is what they’re actually asking for, is to feel a part of an industry that values equality and inclusivity over profitability? And how else might I service that?
But is this the answer? If we acted on every email and every DM, we’d be a different business and brand, every day.
“What does that mean for us? Well, it doesn’t mean we stop improving the product. But it does help me see how we should focus. We need to keep our eyes set on the basics we already do well and polish any rough edges that still stick out. To get those answers we can’t just ask surface questions, we have to keep digging back behind the answers to find out what really happened.”
I’m guilty of too often thinking about what Fluff might not be getting right or needs to do next, searching for the silver bullet, as opposed to focusing on what we are doing right and doubling down on that. Bird by bird, mushroom by mushroom.
Instead of worrying that there might be a problem, I often need to remember that Fluff is providing a solution. We have everything we need in front of us, we just have to do our job.
We’re smaller than most people think but we’re perceived (and held accountable) as big as the rest. I figured as an exercise for myself, and insight for anyone interested, I’d list our most frequently asked questions here, and our answers, if we have them.
Consumer: You’re too expensive.
Also Consumer: You’re so cheap! It makes me think your products won’t work.
Me: Right now we’re working with a 60–90% margin on our products, which is pretty standard for the industry, especially when you’re creating anything of value. We’ve had to factor in these prices (which sit alongside many of our competitors) to accommodate any future wholesaling opportunities too — given that a retailer can take anywhere between 40–75% of your RRP, leaving you with little to nothing left for reordering or further product development/marketing/wages/expensive storefronts, etc.
Consumer: I’m not ready to buy — I’m still getting through my other products.
Me: I’m genuinely happy to see the movement away from over-consumption whereby consumers are waiting until they finish one product before buying another.
Consumer: Grow up.
Me: Fine. Here’s a brand refresh.
Also me: When we started building the brand for Fluff, we were specifically interested in speaking to a younger audience, anywhere between the ages of 16–23. We felt this audience was undervalued and overlooked. They were either being ignored, spoken down to (tween marketing’), or over-sexualised (Better than Sex Mascara). We felt there were enough brands targeting Millenials, and quite honestly, found their approach boring. Four years on, our product appeals to anyone between the ages of 17–45 (and maybe higher), so we’ve been trying to find the balance of respecting the brand and tone of voice we originally created, and not losing our initial customer and audience base, and widening our appeal to the people who say they feel on the outside of our comms.
Consumer: I want more products.
Me: I want to create products that will replace what I’m currently using. If there’s a good sunscreen already on the market I’ll tell you to buy that. That is, until we can make one that’s better.
Consumer: will your products suit my skin?
Me: I’ve tried to create products that suit most skin types. I can’t say all, because I don’t know exactly everyone’s skin type. But from day one we’ve also tried to remove any polarising ingredients from our formulas. Nothing unnecessary, nothing astringent or drying or peeling because why? Do we really need that? Did we have it right generations ago when we just needed more moisture?
Consumer: When will you ship overseas?
Me: When we can afford to set up a 3PL and enough product to meet the demands and marketing to create and sustain the demand.
Consumer: I don’t see myself in Fluff.
Me: I don’t always, either. It’s hard to be something for everyone. An ongoing battle, in fact. I change my mind about who I think I am and what I want (including from brands) (sometimes daily), and I can only imagine other people do too. What I can do is listen, and try and build a brand or conversation in which people feel seen and heard. This doesn’t mean we agree or promote everything and anything) it just means we accept that the world is constantly changing, and people are too — so our comms need to reflect that. We need to embrace nuance and ask consumers to do that too. If we can, I’m sure that together, we’ll all grow a lot.
What I’ve realised is that underneath it all — when I ask you five times, “Why?”, that what everyone seems to want, is connection. Including me.
It’s what philosophers have been saying all along — we all want to be happy, to know what the meaning of life is, whether this dress or that bronzing powder will make us feel better about ourselves, or if in fact, the conversation that’s waiting for us when we walk out of getting ready in the bathroom, or once we put our phone down at the dinner table, will be more rewarding, more fulfilling, more meaningful.
How then do we create connections with customers? And the ongoing connection? And is it wrong to sell it? Or is it priceless? Can we return it if we’re not satisfied?
Or do we accept that someone listened, and tried, and maybe got it wrong, or maybe they didn’t, but they’ll keep trying again.
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