2017 saw independent brands on the rise in the beauty space. This indie acceleration was enabled by specialty retailers Sephora and Ulta, which both pushed consumers to shop by category rather than by searching for familiar brands. As a result, around half of each site’s users shop by category, according to L2 researchers.

As Sephora and Ulta user paths remain oriented for top-of-funnel discovery, emerging buying guides and category landing pages will become increasingly valuable real estate. This is where independent brands are benefiting from e-tailer favoritism. Sephora in particular grants indies top visibility across discovery touchpoints like sampling, buying guides, and social media.

Ulta shopping

While many incumbent brands are missing these visibility opportunities, Clinique re-invigorated efforts on Sephora in Q3, resulting in leading ownership of loyalty and Play! Box samples and more appearances on Sephora How-To content than 87% of skincare brands.

Partnership with e-tailers across discovery touchpoints can also generate visibility on site. Increases in Sephora organic visibility from Q2 to Q3 map to keywords gained from new investments in guided selling content. As Sephora and Ulta continue to compound search engine authority from content investments, brands should consider the potential of downstream SEO and SEM gains from visibility.

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