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Merch Process Q&A

The Art of the Curation: Sitting Down with a K-Beauty Merchandising Team

Ever think about working in skin care merchandising? I do. As someone who is absolutely obsessed with decoding product labels and ingredients, the process of determining which products to curate seems both exciting and daunting. I’ll admit it – it can be hard to decipher good branding from an effective product. We chatted with two merchandising experts from skin care retailer Soko Glam, Eunyoung and Ji Yeong, to understand how they predict which trends are fleeting, and which will become instant classics. Read on for their expert take. 

I’m so excited to chat with you both! I’ve long been curious about this part of skin care. Can you tell me about what the process is like for deciding which products to curate onto Soko Glam?
Eunyoung: There’s a lot that goes into it! Sometimes brands will reach out to us, but we are also always keeping track of what is trending in Korea so we can provide innovative products to our customers. We stay up-to-date on what the beauty industry is innovating around, and tend to reference Korean beauty articles – for instance, that’s how we saw that many people were writing about the Mediheal Peelosoft Eyes and Lip Cleansing Duo for example, or that so many people were impressed with the results from the Saturday Skin Pore Clarifying Toner 10% Glycolic Acid.
Ji: Yes! We try to stay close to what’s up-and-coming in Korea. One brand that comes to mind is Juice to Cleanse. This is a newer brand in Korea, and when we found them, we were very intrigued by the fresh-pressed ingredients. The team tried their products and loved them. Their formulations felt very unique, so we brought it to Soko Glam. My favorite is the Water Wash Balm.
Eunyoung: Once we determine what’s trending, we’ll choose which products to test based on what our customers tend to like. We pay very close attention to community reviews on Soko Glam, so this always weighs a lot into our decisions on what types of products, brands and ingredients to bring into our curation. 
Multiple team members, including co-founder Charlotte Cho, will try the product for several weeks and provide various rounds of feedback. After completing the full process and being vetted in this way, we’ll determine whether or not it’s the right curation for us.
That sounds like a very involved process! Have any products taken off with Soko Glam’s community that ended up being surprising to you?
Eunyoung: The Soko Glam team fell in love with the Licorice pH Balancing line from Acwell as soon as we tried it. At that time, both the licorice ingredient and the product line actually had not become super popular yet in Korea, but it ended up being one of our top-selling lines – our community loves it – and then it became very popular in Korea as a result, which was incredibly cool to see. 
What product(s) or product categories are trending in Korea right now?
Eunyoung: In Korea, treatments as a category have been really popular. This is true on Soko Glam too. People love serums! Once we launched the trio of Beauty of Joseon serums, we sold out almost immediately. The serum and essence category is growing fast, and there’s so many great serums and essences out there to treat a variety of skin concerns. Vitamin C also continues to be a staple in Korea because it’s proven to be effective. We’ll be curating more in this category too, because there are a lot of new vitamin C products on the market in Korea that we’re excited to bring stateside. And, you can’t forget sunscreen, which is always trending in Korea and on Soko Glam as new innovations arise. It’s essential!
Vitamin C and SPF… yes. I can attest that I use both and don’t think I could live without either in my routine. What’s been your favorite skin care trend of 2020 so far?
Eunyoung: I love vegan beauty as a trend, because it’s something that’s important to me. It’s been growing in Korea over the last few years for sure, and we’re doing the same here [at Soko Glam] because it’s something that matters to our community and team, and we want to be able to support and share effective vegan formulations, and show that vegan beauty does NOT mean that it’s not going to work for your skin. 
Ji: I’m a big fan of the multi-tasking product trend, which has been consistently innovated on but we’re seeing a lot of exciting new products on the market that are considered hybrid products. We recently curated the Thank You Farmer Rice Pure Clay Mask to Foam and the Gel to Cream, which both transform. Even last year, the Mamonde Petal Spa Oil to Foam Cleanser was a 2019 Best of K-Beauty Winner, so it’s definitely a trend that is only growing.
Is there a skin care trend that you’d rather leave behind in 2020? 
Eunyoung: Interestingly, despite such a focus on our environment and moving towards sustainable solutions, there is a huge trend for separately packaged serums and essences right now. We are trying our best to avoid products that generate a lot of waste, and I would love to see more brands embracing environmentally sustainable packaging, especially in 2021 and beyond. 
I want to get the inside scoop! If you had to choose, what’s your favorite K-beauty brand right now?
Ji: This is a tough one! I’m going to go with Olivarrier. Their products are manufactured to be vegan and their formulations are super clean and very thoughtful. They have multiple clean beauty certifications from worldwide organizations as well, and the products are very effective. I like knowing that the ingredients are so pure.
Eunyoung: Am I allowed to say Good (Skin) Days? I have to stick by it because the products and formulas are truly some of my favorites, especially having worked with the team to bring the brand to life on Soko Glam. I love that it’s based on direct customer feedback and I love that all of the products are clean, vegan and formulated to be gentle and safe for all skin types. My personal favorite product from the collection is the Prime Time Cleansing Toner, which uses maple leaf extract, an up-and-coming ingredient that I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of in the near future. A natural anti-inflammatory, it calms the skin, hydrates and plumps which is perfect for a cleansing toner.
What do you see on the horizon for skin care and K-beauty? Do you think that the industry is shifting in any way?
Ji: The biggest shifts that we’ve seen is that more and more, skin care is expanding to all people and being seen as less of a female-centric category, especially in Western skin care. This philosophy of skin care being gender agnostic is already big in Korea and I’m excited to see categories like skin care to address men’s concerns, and pregnancy-safe skin care and family skin care, become bigger in the U.S. 
Eunyoung: Yes, I absolutely agree that this is where we’re seeing a lot of change in the U.S. market. Skin care can be used by everyone, and we’re excited to continue to lead the charge for “Only Good (Skin) Days Ahead” for all!
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