In November 2019, Kylie Jenner offloaded a 51% stake of her flagship makeup brand, Kylie Cosmetics, for $600m to beauty company Coty. Jenner is (was) the founder and sole owner of the makeup brand that she runs largely from her iPhone 11+.
“We are pleased to welcome Kylie into our organization and family,” said Coty CEO Pierre Laubies. “Combining Kylie’s creative vision and unparalleled consumer interest with Coty’s expertise and leadership in prestige beauty products is an exciting next step in our transformation and will leverage our core strengths around fragrances, cosmetics and skincare, allowing Kylie’s brands to reach their full potential.”
Earlier this year, the 22 year old was named the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, superseding Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who was 23 when he exceeded ten digits of wealth.
I’ll be the first to argue that the term “self-made” is slightly inappropriate to describe Jenner’s success. Self-made implies lack of aid. We all know she had immense publicity generated from her parents and siblings.
However, whatever you think of the youngest member of the Kardashian family, to grow a cosmetic brand (in an already saturated market) to $1 billion in three years is something worth studying and learning from. To surpass the follower count of her older sister Kim, speaks for itself.
The Archetypal Instagram Influencer
The majority of Kylie Cosmetics’ sales come directly from Jenners’ social media accounts, where she has accrued a massive 152 million followers on instagram alone (as of December 2019). Given that 77% of those followers are aged 18-24 really shows how much of an impact she has on younger followers, who are arguably more-easily influenced.
Kylie took full advantage of growing technology and changing consumer behaviour prior to the success of her company. I believe that the growth of technology and consequent birth of multiple social media platforms, has led to users becoming more insecure and self-conscious. Something imperative about Kylie’s story is that she understood exactly how that feels.
Beyond the camera crews and spotlight, she admits in interviews to being shy and insecure growing up. Marketing 101 says that you need to put yourself in your consumers shoes; she was already wearing them! Out of insecurity and deep knowledge of her target market, she created a brand that focused on helping young girls feel more confident and independent through makeup.
I think the lesson that can be learnt here is that you really need to understand your target market. Not only that, but you need to understand exactly where your target market consumes content.
A little bit off-topic: when I was working in the sales department for a tech company, we had to reach out and market to finance professionals who worked at some of the biggest companies in the world. I initially believed LinkedIn to be the best place for this. I was very wrong. I learned from my sales coach that in order to gain the attention of finance professionals, it had to be done outside of office hours. They’re busy people and don’t have time to speak to pesky sales people like me. I looked at some market research done by Gartner, and found to my surprise that finance professionals actually consume most of their content in Twitter. I immediately made a twitter account and started posting finance related content. I also learnt that finance professionals are normal people and love sports, especially football. By posting football related content, I was seen as more approachable and subsequently started many conversations over twitter with my target customers.
Kylie Cosmetics’ website, which is linked from all her social media platforms, provides a seamless and efficient customer experience. It’s colourful but not too colourful, and features bold fonts and text in the right places. It’s purpose is to get the customer to check-out as quickly as possible. It’s not a website designed for hours of browsing, like asos and other online retailers.
Jenner’s social media platforms are the place where customers’ consume product content; the website is merely there to facilitate the purchase. The website is an extension of her instagram presence and is powered by the leading ecommerce platform Shopify (no this is no sponsored; I’ve used Shopify in the past and found it to be great for online stores, big or small).
The website is built to be optimised for mobile with an uncomplicated homepage. To be honest, the website is quite poor on computer screens, demonstrating the developers understanding that nearly all traffic is coming from instagram (and thus mobile). The pictures on the homepage are large and square, very much imitating the instagram scrolling experience.
Like many optimised E-store’s, kyliecosmetics.com uses a range of apps and widgets to enhance customer experience, maximise add to carts, and minimise abandoned carts. Impulse purchases are encouraged, with add-to-cart buttons placed directly underneath product thumbnails, preventing the need for customers to click onto a product page before they can add a product to cart. A stick add-to-cart bar is used on every product page and like all successful e-commerce stores, there are “free delivery if you spend over $x” deals.
Furthermore, the website is very relevant with trends and seasonality. At time of writing, there are Black Friday and Christmas banners at the top of the home page. Once again these are kept very simple and relevant.
Offline Experiences and Pop-up Stores
In an extensive study on consumer decision making, McKinsey found that modern consumers prefer an interactive marketing experience with brands.
”If marketing has one goal, it’s to reach consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions. That’s why consumer electronics companies make sure not only that customers see their televisions in stores but also that those televisions display vivid high-definition pictures. It’s why Amazon.com, a decade ago, began offering targeted product recommendations to consumers already logged in and ready to buy. And it explains P&G’s decision, long ago, to produce radio and then TV programs to reach the audiences most likely to buy its products—hence, the term “soap opera.”
When Kylie Jenner started selling her lip kits back in 2015, they were available exclusively via her shopify store; she didn’t wholesale her products or sell them in a physical location.
That all changed in November 2016, when she opened her first pop-up store in LA.
This changed the game for both her personal and makeup brand. Sometimes you can beat seeing something face to face and experience it’s tactile; this is especially true in the makeup and beauty industry, where different colours and tones are better distinguished in person.
You might be considering a pop-up store for your business. My cousin has a micro shoe brand and recently took the leap of faith to set up a pop-up store in Paris during the cities well-known fashion week. Sales was the initial goal. But after a couple of days he learnt more about his target customers and their needs and wants than he had in the past 4 years of selling purely via his E-store.
“Discover who your customer is in real life. The people who lined up in Kylie’s pop-up were so interesting—the demographics that I saw were mind-boggling. You think you know who your customer is, but you really don’t.” – Natasha
KylieCosmetics now features in every beauty retailer you can think of.
These are a few ways that Kylie Jenner has reached $1 Billion dollars in the space of just a few years. The way she leveraged her family’s success to grow her makeup brand is quite astonishing and I hope this article has taught you something that you can apply to your business!