In a bid to build needed critical mass, the Luxe division of L’Oréal USA will expand the reach of its fledgling color cosmetics brand, em Michelle Phan, on Friday by introducing it on Amazon’s Luxury Beauty Store site.
This story first appeared in the July 16, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Carol Hamilton, president of the Luxe division, said the 11-month-old brand “continues to do well on our own e-commerce site.” She pointed out that em is the first brand the division has created from scratch, and admitted that the learning curve has been “dynamic” during the last year. “Right now it is still in the incubation stage,” she said.
Hamilton concluded that Amazon, with its 200 million customers, is the place to be when it comes to Internet shopping. “The reach of Amazon trumps any other reach,” she said, praising its “prowess in the digital channel.” She predicted that opening the store on Amazon will drive traffic to Phan’s own site. “We hope this will generate the next wave of consumer trial and take us to phase two,” Hamilton said, adding that Amazon’s global embrace is a big plus. When L’Oréal launched em last August, selling was restricted to the U.S., due to supply-chain limitations. In February, myus.com was added as an exporter and half the brand’s traffic developed outside the U.S. — driven by Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Phan’s native Vietnam.
Amazon is primed for the launch. Chance Wales, director of Beauty and Health & Personal Care for Amazon, said, “The brand is a natural fit for the Amazon Luxury Beauty Store. The beauty industry is ripe for innovation, especially in terms of digital and social integration on the Web.” Em will be the first L’Oréal Luxe brand to launch on Amazon’s luxury beauty channel, which has been assiduously pursuing prestige brands since it launched in October.
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Reached in Los Angeles, Phan said she buys her groceries on Amazon Fresh and shops on the channel once a week. “It’s a natural fit and makes shopping easy with its one-click buying,” she said, suggesting that Amazon will expand her consumer base by attracting “moms and dads and college students.” L’Oréal also expects Amazon to provide an older and wealthier clientele that will broaden the brand’s demographic range.
The target customer is aged 18 to 34, which includes Phan’s base of those 13 to 25. The company is aiming for beauty regulars as well as “makeup newbies” who are trying out cosmetics and could use the advice Phan offers on her YouTube tutorials.
Phan and L’Oréal are also tweaking the brand’s marketing. Phan said when the line was launched on the Internet last year, the audience embraced the makeup and the company responded by making the marketing more product-oriented. “It was more conceptual [when it was launched],” said Roseanne Fama, vice president of brand development for em. The cosmetics line, which consists of 315 stockkeeping units, includes makeup kits, or “life palettes,” that were designed for special moments — like job interviews, first dates and meeting a boyfriend’s mother. “We have evolved to be more transactional,” she said. She added that phase one of launching the Amazon store will emphasize selling product and include tutorials. In phase two, the company hopes to provide seasonal color stories.
Phan has built her immense online following by becoming the makeup queen of YouTube, and the em brand has its own channel, featuring 75 videos created by Phan to provide makeup tips. According to L’Oréal, the video channel has attracted 204,500 subscribers and 9.3 million viewers in the last year.
Executives declined to discuss volume numbers, but industry sources’ estimates for first-year retail sales remain at $10 million.