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March 14, 2018 - Cos Bar, the luxury beauty retailer that has 20 locations across the United States, is refocusing its social media strategy to get closer to customers, at a time when the most successful leaders in beauty are those that get personal.

On Instagram and Facebook, the retailer has started relying on localized and user-generated content, customer crowdsourcing and a new video tutorial series featuring knowledgeable store employees A weekly blog on its website also contributes to the conversation, with posts promoted on both platforms.

The goal is to bring the brand, which carries high-end products selling for hundreds of dollars, down to earth. Although Cos Bar does strive to convey an "elevated image" that's appealing to its luxury consumer, it tries not to be "seen as unapproachable or intimidating," said Mimi Slater, Cos Bar's vice president of marketing. "We want to reflect our in-store experience of being friendly and warm."

It's better late than never. Luxury brands have historically operated at arm's length from their consumers, and as a result, they've been slower than most to adapt to the digital requirements of today, whether that's an e-commerce presence or the savvy use of social media, both of which deliver a level of unprecedented brand intimacy. For Cos Bar, its elite store locations in areas like Aspen and Brentwood contributed to its inaccessible luxury image.

The new strategy was put forth by the company's dedicated social media manager, who also works with managers at each store to develop localized content. Those store managers also help to keep separate Facebook pages for each store active, promoting local in-store events and favored brands, or fielding product questions via messenger. On Instagram, there's only one main Cos Bar account, but many of its store associates rely on their personal accounts to clientele with local customers, which the brand encourages.

"We want to connect with the customer however she prefers — whether that's a text message, phone call or via social," said Slater.

Compared to retailers like Sephora and Ulta, which have full teams dedicated to social media, it's a tiny operation, though with only 23,400 followers on Instagram, Cos Bar is also catering to a much smaller audience. ( Sephora has 13.9 million followers.) As such, Slater believes the current setup works in Cos Bar's favor.

"It allows the company to be more reactive and nimble on each platform," she said.

That size plays into the company's new social tactics, including UGC, which cuts down on marketing costs, and also crowdsourcing. With a small audience pool, the retailer can reach out directly to customers for feedback.

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Using the method, Cos Bar has found that shoppers are asking for more skin-care content, which is not surprising, given the sector's recent surge. They also regularly weigh in on where the retailer should open its next store, which Slater said has been legitimately helpful in making those decisions.

But more resources are going into video. A new series of beauty tutorials includes 20 videos that were filmed this past fall at the company's annual all-hands meeting and features store employees. Two to three of them will be rolling out each month for the coming year.

"We know that the most important element of our high-touch luxury service is the people who execute on that vision every day — our managers and beauty specialists — and we are always looking for ways to strengthen that in-store connection [in the online space, as well]," said Cos Bar CEO, David Olsen, who was particularly passionate about the project.

The products featured in these videos were totally up to the store managers' discretion, as Cos Bar does not offer any paid placements on its social accounts. Managers are also responsible for curating their favorite products every week on the brand's blog, which also features in-store event recaps, like one focused on a recent Beauty and Wellness panel at the Dallas location.

As for how the brand decides what else to feature, product-wise, on platforms like Instagram, Slater said they look to which items are currently top sellers, what's trending on social media and anything that's relevant seasonally or because of a promotion. Recently, that's meant sheet masks from Patchology and a slew of new cosmetics from Dior.