Is it possible to promote an e-commerce business almost exclusively through YouTube and social media? Well yes, just ask Sigma Beauty. The cosmetics company was founded just five years ago, yet grew to $25 million in sales last year.
How did Sigma come so far, so fast, in such a competitive field? Well, they did it by creating innovative products and then marketing them in an innovative way - via YouTube and social media.
YouTube and Influencers: How it Works for Sigma Beauty
The couple that founded the company had originally worked in science and engineering, and had no experience in the beauty, style or fashion industries. So perhaps it's not surprising that they chose to promote their brand using a novel approach. In lieu of traditional marketing, they sent out their unique brushes, brush cleaning gloves, and makeup to YouTubers and other online influencers, offering these video creators 10% for any sales they brought in through affiliate links. The company has a special section of their website dedicated to YouTube affiliates.
The program took off, and now has has well over 13,000 affiliates. But Sigma chose not to market primarily through their own YouTube channel, instead activating YouTube vloggers who were using the products to promote them. The graph above shows how earned media is generating an enormous amount of interest for the brand.
In fact, while Sigma YouTube channel itself has only 90,000 views, influencer videos about Sigma have more than 16.2 million views. That means that influencers are driving 99.4% of all views on YouTube (essentially 179X).
Earned Media and the Beauty Industry on YouTube
It's interesting to note that another recent runaway success in cosmetics, NYX (rhymes with "fix"), which is being acquired by L'Oréal, has similarly high rates of user-generated content. We studied NYX in a recent ReelSEO article "How Cosmetics Brand NYX Became a YouTube Leader in User-generated Videos," and according to our research using the Octoly system, NYX has 99.9% of its views generated by YouTube influencers - 1.5 million views on their own channel vs. 2.1 billion views from the YouTube community. Both NYX and Sigma have developed ways to work with influencers at scale that have proven very effective in amplifying each of their brand footprints in a highly fragmented market.
YouTuber "Lipstick and Lithium" made a video review called "Sigma Brushes - Fact or Crap???" which has more than 28,000 organic views. She is apparently not an affiliate, but said that some of the brushes were extremely good, including the popular F80 Flat Top Kabuki. Some other products she did not like, and said so very clearly. But overall, without even being an affiliate, her frank review probably gained positive feedback for Sigma. So in this case, the affiliate buzz spilled over into non-affiliate attention for the brand.
YouTube "ThatGirlShaeXo" is a little more effusive about Sigma in "Must Have Sigma Brushes!!!" which has 14,000 organic views.
While Sigma's approach to YouTube is very good, they have some areas where they could improve on the platform. Their most-viewed video, "Official Sigma Beauty - NEW Sigma Spa™ Brush Cleaning Glove," has 78,000 views of their total 90,000 views, and yet the audio is awkward and hard to listen to. This video likely only received these views because interested YouTubers had come to the channel searching for more info on the company, and this video served as the auto-play channel trailer on a very lightly-populated channel.
Hero, Hub, Hygiene: Best Content Practice on YouTube
Sigma could improve by better utilizing YouTube's integrated "Hero, Hub, Hygiene" best practices approach for brands.
Hero: Highly Advertised, Highly Produced
YouTube's "Hero" videos generally refers more to highly-advertised, highly produced videos that come out a couple of times a year. But Sigma doesn't really need this - their fans are their heroes. Rather, they might coordinate with influencers to make a "greatest hits" of reviews. They might even use pieces from videos that say the product is expensive, like the following video "3 Min Review: Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Glove" by Jen on the channel "From Head To Toe," with 86,000 organic views:
Jen's review of the company's $40 brush cleaning glove starts out negative:
This is so expensive for something that's used just to clean your brushes." Later on, however, she said that "It does work amazingly well. Shockingly cut my brush cleaning time to, I would say, a third of the time it usually takes me... And there was definitely a point where I thought to myself, 'this might change my life'" because it takes her an hour or two to clean all her brushes.
There are many such frank reviews, and Sigma could license these from the creators to make their own YouTube commercials to use in TrueView promotions. These authentic, un-coached reviews by real people have very high value and can be another significant tool to increase sales.
Hub: Regular Content for Primary Customers
Hub content is regular videos for your primary customers. Sigma has a number of non-YouTube videos embedded on their website that offer tips on what their products are and how to use them, such as this one on how to use their new double-sided glove. These are conspicuously absent on their YouTube channel but it's just the thing their viewers want more of - instructions on how to use their products better.
Hygiene: Regular Content for Prospective Customers
Hygiene content is regular videos for your prospective customers. Sigma could use YouTube's playlist functionality to build curated playlists around searchable topics of interest to customers, from how-tos to reviews. These playlists don't have to be of their own videos, in fact since their influencer content is so extensive, Sigma should become the primary promoter and archivist of these fan-made videos on their own channel.
Overall, Sigma Beauty is doing an incredible job in creating YouTube communities that help promote its brand. And yet while Sigma is doing well on YouTube, they could still improve their footprint by making use of best practices and following a strategy which touches each area of potential audience growth.