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Meet Poshly, the Startup Hoping to Become the Go-To Resource for Beauty Data

Since launching in 2012, Poshly has been gathering a lot of data on consumers' beauty habits. Here's how it's putting that information to work for brands like L'Oreal and Teen Vogue.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that people like talking about their beauty routines in-depth, even to strangers. It's the reason why Into the Gloss has become such a great resource for must-read interviews, and it's also the basis of the startup Poshly, which gathers data on consumers' beauty habits and turns it into actionable information for brands.

The startup has been especially busy lately. Poshly announced earlier this week that it scored its first big deal with a publication: Helping Teen Vogue cull reader responses for its annual Beauty Awards through online surveys. And that's not all: From signing a deal with L'Oreal to closing a seed round of financing, the startup has been making leaps and bounds in the last year in its effort to become the industry's go-to for beauty data.

Poshly's method of collecting this information is pretty simple. Users sign up on the platform and answer questions about themselves and their beauty routines -- "Do you use hair primer?" for instance -- in exchange for free product samples targeted to their needs. In doing so, Poshly is able to gather data on very specific slices of the population, like Caucasian women who use mascara and like whitening toothpaste.

The site has various methods of getting its users hooked -- from incentivizing sharing with giveaways to simply leveraging people's natural inclination to share the nitty gritties of their medicine cabinets -- and they work. Poshly founder Doreen Bloch says that, on average, people spend six minutes on the site during each visit, answer 50 questions and visit nine different giveaway pages.

Compare that to readers' time spent on a fashion or beauty magazine's website -- an average one and a half minutes on one to three pages, according to Bloch -- and it starts to become clear why publications might be interested in working with Poshly. By putting a Poshly quiz on its site, a magazine stands a better chance of increasing the time a reader spends on any given page. And the startup has made its API customizable, so that it blends into the publication's overall aesthetic.

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Poshly also offers publications an advantage when it comes to booking advertisers. If a fashion publication is able to definitively say that a certain percentage of its readers use whitening toothpaste, closing a deal with Crest is going to be a lot easier.

Then there's the fact that editors are better able to target content to readers' actual needs. Teen Vogue, for instance, found that acne is its readers' biggest skin concern and that they most admired Selena Gomez's hair. Hard data is better than an educated guess, even when it comes to editorial content.

Poshly's data is equally valuable to brands. Over the summer, Poshly started monetizing on its information, offering brands three different data packages. The first is just the raw data, giving the beauty company the option to slice and dice it as they see fit. The next step up is a presentation showing the data in graphs and tables. The third, most expensive deliverable instructs the brand on key takeaways, serving as a recommendation for how to interpret the data.

In working with L'Oreal -- a big score given how many beauty brands the company owns (Lancôme, Kérastase) -- Bloch says her team realized that it would be helpful to give brands access to Poshly's backend system. An easy-to-read, real-time dashboard that shows industry insiders what is trending in beauty at any given moment would function as a Bloomberg Terminal of sorts.

The goal, Bloch says, is to be able to offer brands a version of Poshly's backend by the end of 2014 -- it just needs to look a bit prettier than it does now. This is the beauty industry, after all.