Lush is stepping away from social channels in the UK. It will instead direct customers to its website, email, and phoneline for one-on-one conversations while also increasing its emphasis on influencer marketing over social.
The cosmetics company has announced that it is ‘switching up social’ and will talk directly to its customers via live chat on its own platforms rather than social media as of next week.
Lush UK has 569,000 followers on Instagram, 423,143 on Facebook (complete with chatbot) and 202,000 on Twitter – followings many brands would covet. But it will now shutter the Lush UK, Lush Kitchen, Lush Times, Lush Life, Soapbox and Gorilla accounts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
However, its North American accounts will continue to post.
The UK move marks a significant change of pace from a company that once had a marketing strategy steeped in social media.
Tubular Labs told The Drum that in 2018, Lush's Facebook and Instagram channels garnered more than 10m video views. Furthermore, it found that these accounts had an average of 42% growth, month on month, indicating success in reaching audiences with its content on the surface.
A senior Lush spokesperson hinted at an increased emphasis on influencer marketing in place of the social platforms, telling The Drum: "You’ll start to see the rise of Lush personalities online. This isn’t a replacement for the brand channels but an opportunity for our customers to connect one-on-one with people within Lush based on the various categories."
The company's statement read:
"Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our brand social channels - Lush UK, Lush Kitchen, Lush Times, Lush Life, Soapbox and Gorilla across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - and open up the conversation between the Lush Community and us instead.
"Lush has always been made up of many voices, and it’s time for all of them to be heard. We don’t want to limit ourselves to holding conversations in one place, we want social to be placed back in the hands of our communities - from our founders to our friends.
"We believe we can make more noise using all of our voices across the globe, because when we do we drive change, challenge norms and create a cosmetic revolution. We want social to be more about passions and less about likes.
"This is the first, exploratory step in Lush UK cutting out the middleman between ourselves and the Lush Community. However, we understand that this isn’t an action that can be supported just yet in all markets.
"This isn't the end, it's just the start of something new."
Why is Lush abandoning social media?
Mikael Lemberg, director of product ecosystem at social management app Falcon, said Lush's content was likely to blame for its difficulty reaching customers, while Mediaczar's Mat Morrison noted its social fragmentaton would also have been an obstacle.
If you're struggling with algorithms, it's because your content is boring and irrelevant.
If you don't want to pay for my attention, it shows how little you care about me.
♂️— Mikael Lemberg (@Lemberg) April 9, 2019
There was an animated discussion about the move on Twitter from marketers.
In 2015 I carried out an initial audit for a response to a brief from Lush. There were more than 80 distinct FB presences, 170 Twitter presences. No consistency, no central control. Lush keen (at the time) to let individual stores "express themselves."
Mutual walk-away, IIRC.
— Mat Morrison (@mediaczar) April 9, 2019
Oliver Yonchev, Social Chain's US managing director, noted that, while social media shouldn't be seen as an imperative for every brand, "given the size of the beauty and wellbeing space, the richness of social data, and the actual output of Lush, I find this a bemusing move".
He said he did not agree with the strategy, which he deems "a protest move reflective of a general industry sentiment against Facebook algorithms".
"Organic reach has been dying for years and businesses that invested a lot of time and resource growing their audiences are now left feeling letdown by the limiting organic opportunities," he added. "Most social successes are no longer found on the feeds of brands but the general activity across social media.
"How other people are talking about your brand matters far more than how a brand talks about themselves."
Tamara Littleton, founder and chief executive of The Social Element, commented: "By moving customer experience onto its own channels and using influencers to personify the brand, Lush is clearly trying to move from communicating as a brand to communicating through ‘personalities’ of the brand, which in some ways makes sense. However, these influencers won’t be able to engage and respond to customer queries and most 16-30-year-olds are unlikely to use such ‘traditional’ methods of contact when conversing with a brand.
"Brands that do well keep a presence on social using paid and relevant content as a strategy, because if they don’t have a voice on social, not only do they risk losing their competitive advantage, but they will also be on the back-foot during a crisis. Retail is continually under threat so why cut off the opportunity to stay present and relevant?"
Sally Rushton, head of digital engagement at Jaywing, said that the brand’s “move away from digital connections could be a great approach to striving for a more real-life, personal experience that is even more one-to-one, rather than one-to-many.
“For starters, the move would pose an opportunity for brands like Lush to get involved in more ‘grass roots’ marketing, engaging at a local level – perhaps through events, PR and other similar community initiatives. This activity can improve brand engagement however it may incur more cost than paid social if Lush is operating at such a micro level.”
This new focus could see it put a renewed focus on its physical stores.
Rushton added: “Lush is an inherently social brand and customers like sharing pictures and content relating to products in addition to or as much as they enjoy being able to join with Lush in campaigning on different issues. As such, it will need to explore new ways to bring customer content to the fore.”
Reflecting on Lush's new focus on influencing, she concluded: “It has already started this by promoting the use of #LushCommunity in the hope that it will continue the conversation online in the absence of active tweeting. There are already lots of Lush fans online who review the products and have become influencers in this space. This could well be the start of a bold and brilliant move for Lush if it has recognised a way to ride on the coattails of influencer content, while engagement with their own content starts to dwindle.”