The word Tula means balance in Sanskrit, and finding the sweet spot between wellness and beauty, inner health and outer appearance, online sales and offline presence, has been crucial to the growth of the skin care brand of the same name.
Founded by gastroenterologist Roshini Raj seven years ago, today Tula is the fastest-growing prestige brand at Ulta Beauty and also a direct-to-consumer powerhouse, with about half of sales coming from that channel.
Millennials form its core consumer — the average age of a customer on Tula.com is 32 and 75 percent of customers are below the age of 35. Texas, Illinois and California are its top markets.
But those aren’t the numbers that really matter, said CEO Savannah Sachs, during a wide-ranging conversation with moderator Emily Dougherty. The secret to the brand’s success lies in the insights gleaned from a confidence survey with more than 10,000 participants. Especially eye-opening was the fact that more than 70 percent of women feel beauty advertisements degrade their self confidence, which has helped shape Tula’s approach to skin care and communications.
“We sit at the intersection of beauty and wellness,” Sachs said. “We believe that being purpose driven and the mission of inspiring confidence is critically important.
“We want to be a positive force for change,” she continued, noting that the vision is for Tula to promote skin positivity in much the same way the fashion retailer Aerie has promoted body positivity.
To that end, the brand committed to no skin retouching on any photography, created a weekly affirmation text program and also changed the language around skin. For example, a new line is called Ageless.
“We don’t believe there is anything anti about aging,” Sachs said. “Subtle but powerful ways can create positive change in the industry.”
Still, Tula has had to balance its message with its data-driven approach. For example, when deciding on the name Ageless, Sachs analyzed the impact of the name on SEO performance. “Being purpose driven means you have to take risks,” she said. “We were willing to do that, but we wanted to make it easy for customers to shop, so we made sure that the Ageless product names are self explanatory and speak to the benefits they are delivering.”
Sachs said a key brand value is being “right brain-left brain,” which is enabled by being digital-first.
“We are a data-driven analytical team, but we are building a brand and creating a community. It has to be emotional,” she said. “We bring those two worlds together through our digital experience.”
Examples include a skin quiz that gives consumers personalized routines. After the latest, mobile optimized version launched in December, Tula saw a 29 percent improvement in revenue per visit.
As for what’s next — Tula is going “headless” with its website, meaning it will keep its backend on Shopify, but has created a frontend from the ground up to better create an innovative digital experience and improve the speed.
Sachs is also focused on Amazon as a growth engine, calling it a “sister channel” to d-to-c. “We think of it as offense, not just defense,” she said. “We want to make it convenient to shop for Tula and we believer there is a value and valuable customer there.”
The brand is also actively exploring social selling and is deepening its relationship with the 1,500 influencers in its community. “The priority is to continue to deepen strategic relationships — whether product collabs or content creation moments, as well as scaling program,” Sachs said. “There is a big focus to broaden our community. We want everyone to see themselves represented in Tula.”