Taking a Beloved Brand Beyond the Cosmetics Counter

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Stephanie Urban has been on the forefront of digital customer acquisition strategy since she introduced then-unknown LinkedIn as a scouting tool to the CEO of an NYC recruitment firm in 2008. He was sold and she was soon training the entire agency on how to use it.

Fast forward a decade and Stephanie’s affinity for finding new, one-to-one ways to connect with customers has not changed. Today, she’s leading eCommerce and Digital for Tarte, a cosmetics company that started in 1999 with their instantly ubiquitous cheek stain and continues to pioneer the industry with high-performance, naturally-derived products. (Side note: I fell in love with Tarte’s cheek stain in high school. It was the first blush product I owned and I had no idea how to use it so, in retrospect, I ended up looking like Howdy Doody my entire senior year. I still love that product.)

By combining cutting edge digital tactics with classic marketing technique and a natural instinct for what customers want, Stephanie is breathing new life into the Tarte brand and attracting a whole new generation of customers. Read on to learn more.

The Innovator: Stephanie Urban, Executive Director, Digital Marketing & eCommerce at Tarte Cosmetics

Innovation Superpower: Combining newer digital tactics (like behavioral web push) with the tried and true (constant A/B testing) to get back to the real heart of marketing - creating lasting relationships with customers.

You probably didn’t know that Stephanie is a passionate leader who believes in hiring for cultural fit over skillset.

Tell us about your current role and responsibilities. Why did you choose to join your current company?

I joined Tarte Cosmetics three years ago to help develop our eCommerce strategy and build out the digital marketing team. We have scaled very quickly and my team is now 16 strong. We did a full redesign and replatform last year for tarte.com and also recently launched a digital sister brand, AwakeBeauty.com.     

I joined Tarte because I love our products and brand story. Maureen Kelly, our CEO, founded Tarte out of her New York City apartment with a vision of combining glamorous makeup and good-for-you ingredients. We were one of the first makeup brands to really care about what we put into (or leave out of) our cosmetics and we are continually innovating to bring new products and experiences to our Tartelettes (our customers). 

What current developments in marketing are most inspiring to you? How will they affect the future of marketing?

I love that marketing is starting to turn back to the basics - building real relationships and honing in on customer experience. For years in eCommerce we have all been talking about "one to one" personalization via digital channels - but at the end of the day, you can't replicate a human interaction. Especially in beauty, I think brands are beginning to learn to listen to their customers and work with them to help develop products, content, and stories. It's a win-win for those brands and their customers.

What are you working on now that you think is innovative?

This sounds basic, but I’m a huge advocate of A/B testing across all of our channels. We spend a lot of time building out our content and testing strategies to ensure we are always learning and leveraging wins. 

We are rolling out behavioral Web Push soon, which we are very excited about. We are also focused on developing localized acquisition campaigns for key international markets and doing some really creative things there. This sounds basic, but I'm a huge advocate of A/B testing across all of our channels. We spend a lot of time building out our content and testing strategies to ensure we are always learning and leveraging wins. 

Tell us about your career path and how you ended up where you are right now: What big learning moments have you had in your journey? Did you have any notable mentors?

I moved to New York City without a job in the middle of the recession in 2008. I did temp work until I received a full time offer at The Execu|Search Group, a recruitment firm in midtown. I was responsible for the website, email, and social media there and learned a lot in my 2 years there. I helped launch all of the firm’s social channels- posting jobs to twitter and training the whole agency on LinkedIn and how to do Boolean search. I remember at the time, the recruiters thought it was a waste of time and they wanted to get back to their phone calls – now LinkedIn is such a huge tool! Ed Fleischman, the CEO, saw the value in those digital tools and wanted to stay on top of all those trends. He really took me under his wing and I consider him one of my mentors to this day.  

I knew I eventually wanted to work in eCommerce vs B2B, so I was also fashion blogging at night and using that as a networking opportunity. I was actually one of the first bloggers to get credentials to attend fashion week, which was a dream and so exciting at the time! The networking that I did in the fashion community eventually landed me an interview at Ann Taylor. I spent 5 years at Ann Taylor, working my way up from Coordinator to Senior Manager running campaigns across a variety of digital channels. We had an amazing eCommerce leadership team to look up to and learn from. We were always moving quickly and thinking forward – I got to work on projects that were “new” at the time like eReceipts for stores and programmatic advertising leveraging our CRM data. I also launched our triggered email program, which gave me a lot of executive-level visibility and led to a lot of my growth at Ann.  

Tell us about your teams. How do you pick and develop the talent on your team? How do you ensure there is collaboration?

When we are hiring, we don’t just hire for skillset – we want to make sure our values align.

Hiring has been such a big part of my role here at Tarte and is something that I take very seriously. We have a really close-knit team and I think that has helped drive our success. Last year I read the book Radical Candor and it really resonated with me and the way that we run our team. It’s all about having open and honest communication while also showing that you care personally.

When we are hiring, we don’t just hire for skillset – we want to make sure our values align. We recently did a team exercise that Miki Berardelli presented at the Behave conference this summer to help define our team culture. Every team member brought 4-5 post-it notes with adjectives for how they would like to be thought of from a professional standpoint. We then narrowed that full list down to 6 words which we feel best describe our team and how we want to be thought of as a group. We landed with: Passionate, Reliable, Real, Collaborative, Critical Thinking, and Innovative. It was a really great team effort and we are now using those words as pillars for hiring, as well. 

What one thing do you need from your CMO to help you be successful?

I think goal-setting is very important. Whether it is an organization, team, or campaign-level goal, having a clear vision of what we want to achieve is a must. 

What advice would you give to marketers who are just starting their careers?

The best marketers have a strong analytical skillset combined with a creative mindset. Spend time learning the KPIs that matter and how to pull the data (Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.). There are so many free courses and YouTube videos for this now! 

Bonus Questions: 

  • Favorite place to vacation? Scuba diving in the Maldives

  • If you were a superhero, what would your special skill be? Teleporting 

  • Name something that most people don't know about you. I find four leaf clovers all the time

  • If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be? I'd own my own dress boutique

  • What's the best thing you've read/listened to/watched recently? The Difference: When Good Enough Isn't Enough (by: Subir Chowdhury)