Today San Francisco-based beauty content and review startup Beautylish is adding ecommerce Boutiques to its community, meaning readers can now buy the products they read about directly through the site. Beautylish connects readers with experts, including makeup artists and beauty professionals, to provide videos, product reviews, and advice. The company, which is backed by investors including Ron Conway, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, gets more than one million monthly unique visitors.
The first Boutique features products from Sugarpill Cosmetics, one of the top ten most popular brands on the site. While boutiques will feature regular products from their beauty lines, they will also offer an exclusive item that will be available for a limited time. In the case of Sugarpill Cosmetics, that’s a limited edition eyeshadow. The company will be adding new partners one at a time, and launching new boutiques every few weeks.
“We did everything except allow you to purchase the product [before today],” founder Nils Johnson said in an interview. “What we’re doing this week with the launch of Boutiques is partnering with the brands we know our community already loves, finding brands or products that we know are the types of things they’ll be interested in, and allowing people to transact on the site.”
Johnson has a background in retail, and has invested in several ecommerce companies including Warby Parker, Everlane and Minted. He said the inspiration for Beautylish, which launched its community in 2010, came from looking at how consumers find and eventually purchase beauty products. “If you think about how beauty purchasing decisions happen, it’s usually through consuming content or seeing something that’s aspirational in nature,” Johnson said in an interview.
He said they introduced the ecommerce aspect after building the community because they wanted to first establish a devoted audience of content creators. “We really thought starting with the community was like ground zero, and the community tells us a lot in terms of trends, [and] things they like, and they generate the majority of the content on our site,” he said, adding that most of the content on the site, including 100,000 videos and tens of thousands of photos, have been added by members. Member-driven content is supplemented by trend reports and other content from the Beautylish editorial team.
Rather than sending customers to a brand’s website to purchase a product, the company will maintain their own inventory, and package and ship each item. Johnson said they’re looking to be both a media and commerce partner to beauty brands though, and will focus on providing tutorials and other content to accompany products in the Boutiques.
The company has no shortage of competition in the ecommerce beauty products space, with companies like Birchbox already combining content, community and ecommerce, and in that company’s case, a thriving subscription business. While traditional retailers may not have the content and community Beautylish boasts, they do have a much wider variety of brands and products, and ultimately buying from a brand-agnostic department store, whether in person or online, may be more important to consumers than finding a community of like-minded beauty enthusiasts.