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Online Value Site Sells Beauty for a Buck

Fast-growing beauty web site plans more brick-and-mortar locations, too.

The dollar-store strategy apparently translates online, too., a three-year-old online beauty site, is hitting nearly $1 million in monthly sales.

The company was founded by Jean Baik, now 31, and her husband Kenneth Baik, who tapped their experience working in fashion, retail and imports to launch what they believe is the only dollar online beauty store. The site sells a mind-boggling 10,000 stockkeeping units including beauty, accessories and jewelry.

In just three years, Miss A expanded to three million site visitors per month and one million registered customers. Monthly sales soared from $8,000 in 2013 to almost $1 million in August. The company also operates a 3,000-square-foot brick-and-mortar store in Dallas with plans to open six to eight more by 2018.

Jean Baik Promises Quality Beauty for
Jean Baik

Baik credits influencers with kicking off the site. When it went live in 2013, the first few days there were no orders, she said. Then a YouTuber with the handle Platinum V broadcast a “Miss A” beauty haul and orders started clicking in — even crashing the site.

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At first the online assortment was 70 percent accessories and 30 percent beauty, a ratio that quickly changed, as beauty became the most popular purchase.

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Launched with brands such as L.A. Colors and E.l.f., Miss A added its own line called AOA Studio in 2016 to bring trends faster at the $1 price point. Among the on-trend items under AOA include makeup brushes, brush cleaning eggs, beauty blenders, makeup remover wipes and a jelly applicator sponge.

Most recently, the brand launched a2o Lab, a higher-end, affordable color cosmetic line focused on high-quality pigmentation that pushed price points into the $2 to $5 dollar range. The products are cruelty-free and Baik strives to ensure formulas are as natural as possible.

“Consumers are accustomed to spending a ton of money on beauty products, and believe that the more expensive a product, the better the quality. But the truth is, that is not the case. It’s true that natural ingredients and high pigmentation cost money, however they cost way less than what consumers are currently paying,” suggested Baik.

She added that expensive cosmetics brands pour money into marketing and advertising that’s reflected in price tags. To that end, she keeps her packaging minimal. “We have a unique business model that allows us to pass all of the savings on to the customer. What’s important for us is that customers understand that many of these well-known cosmetic brands with high price tags are made in the same factories as our products. A lipstick is a lipstick. You can make a lot happen for under a $1.”

Speed-to-market is crucial and the company can create and ship a new item within two months. “We try to bring in trends and stay in fashion as fast as we can and still provide for a $1 so it isn’t a big investment,” she said. Selling online gives Miss A real-time feedback on what’s hot.

Baik said most shoppers sign on weekly or every other week and the site is kept fresh with uploads of 20 new items a day under the new arrival banner.

Current bestsellers include the face and eye brushes (there are 40 styles of brushes offered), the brush cleaning egg, canvas pouches and the Wonder Blender. “And sheet masks sell like hot cakes,” said Baik. The sweet spot age group Miss A reaches is 18 to late 20s. The company is thinking of adding a subscription box service as well.

In addition to the U.S., Miss A has a broad worldwide customer base with the biggest orders outside of America coming from Canada, Australia and Brazil.