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The Beautiful and the Geek: From Mascara to Managing Data

Shamanth Shankar

By Shamanth Shankar

On May 26, 2017

As I watched my wife get ready to head to the office, the geek in me wondered about the history of the mascara she uses and how there is so much more to it than what meets the eyes. For a major makeup brand, it all began a few years before the Roaring Twenties in Chicago, with a 19-year-old chemist, his older sister, and some petroleum jelly. He added carbon dust to the jelly in order to enhance its effects on her lashes and eyebrows. Four years later, the major brand’s Cake Mascara was born.

MascaraThese cake mascaras in the first half of the 20th century were composed of a few soaps and carbon black. Over the years it has changed from a tube of mascara today to a motley of waxes, oils, vitamins, and preservatives. Moreover, there are dozens of brands and types to choose from. Cake Mascaras were originally sold through mail orders or drug stores which worked just fine for a single product with localized demand. However, producers and suppliers in the makeup industry today face a larger problem in handling data for the multitude of differentiated products that they sell to multinational consumer bases via a variety of channels.

What starts off as an innovation focussed product company evolves into a global business that relies on effective data management to win the customer. From aligning with business agility, managing the supply chain of the ingredients that go into making new products to meeting the changing preferences of consumers, data management becomes the foundation of these enterprises.

How do beauty and cosmetics companies use data management to win new customers, retain loyal customers, bring new products to the market and maintain profitability?

  • New Product Introductions: Makeup brands are constantly adding new products and lines to match shifting trends and customers’ seasonal and occasional preferences. Effective data management can cut NPI timelines, speeding the time between the inception of an idea and a complete product in the customer’s hands.
  • Streamlined Supply Chain Management: Large retailers sell as many as 52 different mascara brands, each having different products with around 20 relevant attributes for the average shopper per product (more if they’re sold online). Product attributes significantly affect each step that a product takes up until its sale, from manufacturing and supply chain to the customer, and accurate data throughout this process is crucial.
  • Multi-Channel Content Management: Product data is better managed on a centralized platform that branches out to eCommerce, stores, marketplaces, for sales and also to marketing outlets such as e-mail newsletters, magazines, so that customers viewing those channels receive consistent, up-to-date, and relevant information.
  • Federal Regulation and Inspection: Cosmetics in the USA are expected to comply with FDA regulations to ensure customer safety and accurate labeling of products. In the EU, cosmetics must be registered in the Cosmetic Products Notification Portal (CPNP) before going on the market.
  • Data Analytics: For a company that offers multiple products, predictive analysis breaks down customers’ spending, usage, and other behavior, leading to efficient cross sales, or selling additional products to current customers. This directly leads to higher profitability per customer and stronger customer relationships.


A Product Information Management (PIM) solution integrated with a Vendor Portal solution can substantially simplify the task of handling data complexities. PIM integrates and feeds accurate product data into enterprise systems. It also enables product search, personalized product bundles and promotions, and a differentiated customer experience both pre and post-purchase. The Vendor portal automates the product onboarding process and significantly cuts down operating costs by allowing Vendors to upload complete and curated product data, in bulk, into the system.

While the eyes are the windows to the soul, effective data management is the heart of a makeup brand manufacturer. Waxes, vitamins, and preservatives aren’t all that go into those sleek tubes of mascara from the time it is manufactured to the when a customer uses it.

image credit: @unsplash, @seteales, @willpower