With the ongoing success of firms like Ulta and Sephora, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Amazon jumped in the game with an entrant of its own. And, if reports are accurate, Amazon may be looking to open up just such an independent beauty retailer all its own as soon as this month.
Amazon, of course, already does beauty. There is a luxury shop on the marketplace — and has been since 2013 — and through it, some small brands have gained exposure. And that offering has done well, according to new data out of One Click Retail — as of Q1 2018, its total beauty sales grew by 30 percent, to $900 million.
“Indie beauty is definitely a big focus for us,” said Justin Boettcher, senior strategic business development leader at Amazon, at the BeautyX Retail Summit in May.
According to the data, Amazon brands that will be sold in the beauty shop must conform to certain rules: They must be 50 percent independently owned and cannot be sold at Ulta, Target or Walmart, according to Boettcher.
Amazon’s business has largely been built around fair prices and high speed. And while the experts agree that approach works well for most merchandise, it remains to be seen if Amazon’s version of independent beauty sales will go as well.
“I am curious to see how Amazon addresses the high level of personalization and customization beauty customers are looking for,” said Kathryn Murray Dickinson, founder of online beauty store Aillea. “There is a reason that in a retail downturn, beauty retailers are still thriving. Women still want to see, touch, feel and experience their makeup before they make a purchase.”
To bridge that divide, Amazon will literally be rolling out a “Treasure Truck” offering users a chance to physically interact with the product.
Amazon will also, according to the experts, need to take a more active role in promoting and curating beauty offerings — because consumers are doing more than merely buying when they hang out in an Ulta or Sephora, says Christopher Skinner, founder of creative brand agency School House.
“They’re brand builders and incubators. They invest time, energy and talent into giving advice, giving direction and providing updates to brands about what they’re hearing from customers,” he said. “Where is that personalization and connection to the customer [from Amazon]? [They should realize] it’s not always a replenishment purchase,” he said.