NEW YORK — Despite a home page featuring a smoldering fall makeup look and the Allure magazine banner, Amazon.com’s Beauty Store doesn’t gush glamour.
But maybe it’s better that way. Let all the glory go to the more than 20,000 beauty products the online store offers, a generous mix of fragrance, makeup and skin items from prestige and specialty brands including Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Dior and Tarte. The Beauty Store launched quietly in May 2004 — and to much fanfare again that October — with the goal of offering the time-pressed consumer a venue to find and buy beauty products online. In little more than a year, the Beauty Store has surpassed sales expectations, said Maria Renz, the director of Amazon.com’s Beauty and Health & Personal Care stores. While she wouldn’t comment on sales figures, industry sources estimate the Beauty Store generated $25 million in its first year. Beauty sales for 2006 could increase by more than 50 percent, Renz estimated, simply because beauty is such a new area for customers to peruse.
“More and more consumers are seeing that online shopping offers value, convenience and selection. In one simple account Amazon offers whatever they want, a book, a lip gloss, diapers, formula, a sweater from Nordstrom,” Renz said, adding that Amazon.com now boasts 50 million active customer accounts gained within the past 12 months worldwide.
Bestsellers on Amazon.com aren’t different from what sells best in stores. Lip plumpers are hot, such as Du Wop’s Lip Venom ($15) and The Hollywood Prescription ($29.95). In skin care, antiaging products sell best, such as Prevage ($85).
Expected in 2006 are new business relationships with publishers — branching off from its existing partnership with Condé Nast magazines, the publisher of Allure. The deal allowed Amazon customers to vote for Allure’s popular Best of Beauty awards. Voters got a free subscription to Allure if they purchased $50 worth of items from the Beauty Store. Condé Nast magazines, like Fairchild Publications — the publisher of WWD — operates under Condé Nast Publications.
Amazon.com serves as a marketing platform for both retailers and manufacturers, such as Sephora, Lush and L’Occitane, across a wide spectrum of brands. Sephora, for example, sends Renz a “data seed” containing what they’re interested in selling and for what price. In turn, a Sephora storefront is established on the Amazon.com site, complete with product information, which is integrated into the Web site’s “browse and search” function. Customers can shop from thousands of other Web sites, and Amazon.com processes the order, while Sephora fills it. Merchants and suppliers that use Amazon.com in this way pay Amazon.com a revenue share. Amazon.com hosts 32 different stores, with musical instruments being its most recent addition. Mass beauty consumers were targeted in December 2003 with the launch of the Health & Personal Care Store, which sells Dove, Revlon and CoverGirl products among its several hundred thousands of stockkeeping units, ranging from medical supplies to vitamins.
Renz said she is selective about which brands will be sold on the Web site. She asks herself which brands she wants to bring to her customers, as well as which brands will make the Beauty Store credible. She also heavily weighs customer feedback. For example, Renz found that many shoppers wanted a separate location for organic and cruelty-free products on the Beauty Store home page. Last week, a category was created exclusively for those items.
Promotions are a major way in which Amazon.com differentiates itself from other Web sites, as well as from brick-and-mortar retailers. In November and December, Amazon.com will give away $15 gift certificates for every $50 spent in the Beauty Store, and $30 gift certificates for every $100 spent on beauty items. The gift certificates can be used anywhere on the Amazon site.
Although it may seem 2004 was a bit late to get into the e-tailing game, Renz said they hit the market at just the right time.
“In 2001 and 2002 we started to see online sales of health, mind and body books become bestsellers from the Books Store on Amazon.com. Based on that, we think we are lucky to have been able to get into the mind of the customer and see what they are interested in,” Renz said.