Who says Amazon is a category killer?
It’s not in beauty for InstaNatural, which has leveraged Amazon to ship 70,000 units a month, or about $1.4 million, to become one of the largest beauty resources on the online retailer in the U.S. and U.K. Now, the two-year-old Orlando-based company is aiming to accelerate its business outside of Amazon, and has brought on board Ethelbert Williams as chief marketing officer to help do so.
“I left my leadership role at large enterprises because a lot of the bigger players are having a harder time keeping up. They aren’t nimble enough to take advantage of consumers wanting to begin and sometimes end their shopping journey online,” said Williams. “InstaNatural has built a business that is insanely successful and takes advantage of the Amazon environment, but women shop across channels. It’s an omnichannel world. My role is to build out the multichannel strategy.”
Responding to soaring growth — as much as 300 percent annually — InstaNatural founder AJ Patel has been quickly assembling a management team. Prior to Williams joining the company, Dan Brenner, previously a partner at consulting firm SPRIM, was appointed chief executive officer, and John Starr, who was financial controller for North American distribution at Motorola and vice president of finance at Arsenal Venture Partners, started as vice president of finance and operations.
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Brenner described the workplace at InstaNatural as a stomping ground for Millennials where vacation days are unlimited, there’s an open-door policy at meetings and the mind-set is deeply imbedded in technology. “We are a group of Millennials that have figured out various technology platforms and understand algorithms really well, and we optimize customers at the point of sale,” he said. “We are definitely online entrepreneurs that sell beauty products and the long-term end game is to scale this across as many channels as possible.”
Williams, who earlier held positions at Kimberly-Clark, Total Beauty Media Group and Unilever, balances out the technological know-how with beauty-industry expertise. He detailed his initial priorities will be shoring up InstaNatural’s marketing organization, restaging the brand and evaluating retail outlets that could be a fit for it. “As we continue to tell our story and engage the shopper, what’s the most relevant place for her to discover the brand and shop? We are looking at players in specialty beauty and looking at an approach and assortment that makes sense for mass,” said Williams, adding, “We have some aggressive, aggressive-growth plans.”
InstaNatural has expanded to 60 stockkeeping units priced on average at around $20 from one product — 100% Pure Certified Organic Argan Oil — at its launch. Serums, eye products and masks are strong sellers for the brand. “We want to deliver a $150 experience for a product that costs a fraction of that,” said Brenner. “We might launch a prestige line with higher levels of expensive actives and harder-to-source ingredients, but right now the strategy is to keep a medium price point. We want price points that allow our customers to continue to buy every month.”
Brenner divulged that half of InstaNatural’s customers are under the age of 35 and 87 percent are women. The brand’s prototypical customer is also highly educated, earns more than $70,000 a year and has 1.3 kids. “She reads blogs. She knows what new lines and ingredients are coming out. When we did a survey of our customers, the biggest thing we saw is that our customers list themselves as the influencers in their group of friends,” he said. “They don’t necessarily look to experts to determine their beauty routine. They define that themselves.”