Facebook's genius isn't that it created a super-sticky social network with billions of users; it's that it created a super-sticky social network with billions of users that also collects tons of data on you. This is the nexus in which Poshly hopes to make its mark--to be a resource both for consumers and for the businesses looking to attract them.
"Its a win-win-win situation, for our consumers, brands, and partner publications," says Doreen Bloch, who co-founded the company in 2012 with Bradley Falk. "It's a win for consumers because they're able to discover the best product for them or discover new products on the website." She adds that, often, those products will be free. "Who doesn't want that?"
Poshly offers its users the opportunity to win targeted freebies in the beauty and lifestyle product realms. In exchange, the New York City-based company requests that users fill out online questionnaires--supplying personal information like skin and hair color, beauty routines, habits, and problem areas. To gain more traction, the company has partnered with publications such as People to offer giveaways to its readers. After "anonymizing" that information--that is, stripping out identifiers like email addresses and names--Poshly packages users' information for its beauty-brand clients.
Brands then use that information to craft better product-development proposals, uncover new retail channels, improve sales tactics, and target product sampling. Poshly's goal is to shift the moment of data-driven insight to the brand's planning stage, making it an active process instead of a reactive one. Bloch adds that the global beauty industry--which could reach $265 billion by 2017--is ripe for innovation.
"This is a massive industry that--before Poshly--got little love from data technology," says Bloch. "Brands are hungry for better and faster consumer insights."
They also like the idea of saving money, says Karen Grant, global beauty industry analyst at NPD Group. "The approach used by Poshly may be significantly lower in cost than trying to send out thousands upon thousands of surveys to get at the key audience a brand is looking to reach," she says. "These highly data-driven insights help product development and marketing, which are both an art and a science."
As you might expect, brands have glommed onto the concept. Between offering targeted samples and targeted giveaways, Poshly boasts a client roster of 38 brands, including Caress, SkinFix, Colorescience, and Cutex.
Bloch credits much of Poshly's success to a series of early big breaks. The company was featured on InStyle's 2012 "Best of the Web" list. And a meeting at L'Oreal's Women in Digital Next Generation Awards proved provident for Poshly. By meeting with Rachel Weiss, the consumer product giant's U.S. vice president of digital strategy and innovation, Bloch was able to cultivate L'Oreal as a partner. That helped attract others, including Unilever and Time Inc. "Once you have a big name, the others just come to you," she says.
With bigger brands onboard, the giveaways increased, and so did Poshly's membership. Today, the company cites an active community of more than 250,000 members who have collectively answered 5 million questions about themselves. And while the company--which refuses to disclose exact revenue figures--caters to just U.S. customers at present, Bloch expects it to reel in approximately $1 million by the end of 2015. As of the first quarter of this year, Poshly has already tripled its 2014 revenue, according to Bloch. The company has also attracted $3 million in venture capital funding from investors such as Frontier Equities and Corigin Ventures.
Not bad for a 27-year-old, who was inspired to start up after a fateful happy hour with a friend. At the time, Bloch was working as a strategy analyst for investment software provider SecondMarket. Bloch lamented the difficulty she'd had researching beauty care products. She really wanted a service that could help her discover which beauty products fellow fair-skinned redheads preferred. She figured other women would feel the same way.
How right she was.