Sephora, Ulta, and Amazon all incubate beauty brands, but they all cater to different needs. When looking for the right incubator to project your brand into superstardom, consider the following:
Choose Sephora if you’re looking for: a visibility boost.
Most “indie” beauty brands distributing on Sephora have little brand awareness among consumers or influencers relative to their peers. Sephora builds awareness for unknown brands by placing their products above traditional category leaders on gallery pages; in return, these brands offer exclusive and early product launches on the retailer. The result? Sunday Riley, a brand Sephora helped incubate, is the top-ranked brand on Sephora for night creams, beating out major players like Estée Lauder.
Sephora also invests in indie brands by mentioning them on social media and in marketing emails. According to L2’s Indie Index, indie brands accounted for half of brand mentions in Sephora’s Instagram posts and emails in Q3 2017.
Choose Ulta if you’re looking for: a place to kickstart influencer collaborations.
While Sephora has focused on building brands, Ulta prioritizes distributing indie brands that are already well-known. Consequently, 32% of indie beauty brands that distribute on Ulta are top brands both in terms of brand awareness and social clout, compared to only 6% of Sephora indie brands. Many brands look to Ulta as a good place to kickstart collaborations. Morphe’s eyeshadow palette with YouTube star Jaclyn Hill launched on Ulta in October and soared to success by the end of the year.
Choose Amazon if you’re looking for: a good deal.
As the largest beauty retailer in the US, Amazon provides a good indication of consumer sentiment and brand awareness. Three-fifths of the top indie beauty brands on Amazon are top of mind for consumers, with high search volumes on the platform and frequent mentions in top beauty publications. Two-thirds of these brands officially distribute on the platform either through Amazon Luxury Beauty or Amazon Marketplace. Although third-party sellers have presented a risk in the past, Amazon Luxury Beauty helps brands clean up unauthorized listings by preventing these sellers from distributing on the platform, making it a good place for brands with limited online capabilities to blossom.
For example, LORAC Cosmetics has distributed on Amazon Luxury Beauty since the platform’s launch in 2013, heavily investing in content like tutorials, swatches, and mouseover imagery of various shades — merchandising efforts far exceeding the basic photographs and limited content available on the brand’s own site. The brand’s signature palette now boasts over 1,000 reviews and has received the Amazon’s Choice designation.