Customer Engagement


Create Inclusive Beauty Communities By Knowing Your Audience: Insights from SXSW with Braze, e.l.f. Beauty, Glossy, and Pinterest

Lindsey Silverman By Lindsey Silverman Apr 15, 2024

In an era where consumer expectations are constantly evolving, brands must do more than just talk the talk. They must walk the walk, and embody the values they advocate for if they want to foster inclusive, authentic communities where consumers feel seen and valued.

At this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW), Astha Malik, Chief Business Officer at Braze, took to the stage alongside Ekta Chopra, Chief Digital Officer at e.l.f. Beauty, Judy Lee, Senior Director of Global Brand Experiences at Pinterest, and moderator Emma Sandler, Beauty & Wellness Editor at Glossy for the panel “Create Inclusive Beauty Communities By Knowing Your Audience.” As brands strive to meet evolving consumer expectations, the insights from this panel serve as a valuable guide for creating inclusive communities across any industry.

The authenticity imperative

Authenticity is not a mere buzzword to be thrown around, but rather a core value deeply ingrained in a brand's DNA. This dynamic was present in all the brands on the panel, but came through in unique but interconnected ways.

At Braze, authenticity means using data to understand customers better and to provide more personalized experiences. Before you can build strong, sustainable relationships with your users, you need to understand them and their engagement in a holistic way. “We believe authenticity comes from treating customers not as IDs in a system,” Astha told attendees, “but as humans with unique needs and preferences.”

e.l.f. Beauty prioritizes authenticity by embracing its community's values across all aspects of the company, from its organizational diversity to hyper-personalization on mobile and website platforms, to the in-store experience across the different retailers who carry their products. It's not a guideline written on paper, but a living, breathing ethos. As Ekta said, the goal is “to make the best of beauty accessible to every eye, lip, face and skin concern.This comes to life through their recent global “express your e.l.f.” campaign that celebrates individuality and the esteemed Beauty Squad loyalty program which is known for driving >80% of the sales on elfcosmetics.com.

Pinterest sees authenticity as a catalyst for inspiration. “It’s hard to feel inspired if you don’t feel included,” Judy noted. “Inspiration has to begin with inclusion." This is especially important in a digital world where users often feel isolated or unrepresented. In a new release, Pinterest launched an innovative new tool—body type ranges—which gives users the ability to self-select what body types are featured in their search results for women’s fashion and wedding ideas.

When creating a brand and culture based on authenticity, the panelists agreed on the importance of collaboration between marketing, product, and technical teams in order to create meaningful campaigns. While many know this is important, the 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review showed that only 3% of companies say they continuously collaborate across teams on customer engagement programs and, similarly, only 1% say cross-functional teams own customer engagement at their company. These findings are a call to action for brands, encouraging them to lean into this opportunity and prioritize more regular syncs to support an aligned approach to customer engagement—especially on the topics of performance, data needs, and customer insights.

The role of AI in creating authentic communities

There is no doubt the hottest topic of SXSW 2024 was AI—and this panel was no exception. Both Braze and e.l.f. Beauty championed the potential of AI to leverage data effectively for hyper-personalization, but also recognized the value of human creativity. By automating routine tasks with Sage AI by Braze™, marketers can free up time for more brainstorming and collaboration, thereby enhancing the creative process. The panelists spotlighted the role of AI in experimentation and testing, suggesting that brands use AI here to align with their values and connect with their community authentically.

This data-driven approach gives brands the confidence to follow consumers on their journeys, making recommendations based on solid data. As Astha said, “Your AI initiatives are only as good as the data you have."

For e.l.f. Beauty, this journey spans multiple channels. It's not confined to the digital realm but also includes physical stores, all underpinned by a comprehensive loyalty program. Braze, in turn, sees loyalty as a series of ongoing meaningful moments between customers and brands and has created a three-step framework to help companies make the most of their loyalty engagement strategies.

Judy noted that diversity is particularly crucial when building AI algorithms, as it ensures that the algorithms represent and serve the community properly. One example of this: Pinterest created its hair pattern search feature in collaboration with Naeemah LaFond to empower users to search for hair inspiration across hair types.

The journey ahead

The panelists close out with reflections on their journeys and predictions for the future. For Ekta, “Our younger generations are looking to be part of communities where they see themselves represented.” As brands navigate the path forward in the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, it's clear that authenticity, inclusivity, and understanding their audiences will be the guiding principles.

Want to check out what else we got up to at SXSW? Follow us on Instagram @Braze and LinkedIn @Braze.

To learn more about Lindsey Silverman and the 427° Innovation Lab, download Melting Points.


Lindsey Silverman

Lindsey Silverman

Lindsey Silverman is a Senior Creative Strategist at Braze.

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