January 18

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What Kylie Jenner Can Teach Us About Building a Billion-Dollar Brand on Shopify

By Rob Palmer

January 18, 2020

kylie cosmetics, kylie jenner

How to leverage the same tools and strategies to achieve amazing levels of success, wherever you are in the world.


The Kylie Cosmetics Story

Launching a billion-dollar brand on Shopify is easy. All you need to do is become a beautiful, high-profile, reality TV star with over 100 million followers on Instagram and then…

...oh wait - that’s not so easy, huh? Let’s be honest, Kylie Jenner did have an unfair advantage she launched her Ecommerce business. Nevertheless, she did it using the same basic tools that are available to all of us. So we can learn some very valuable lessons from the success of her brand, Kylie Cosmetics.

Here’s a quick summary of her story. As you probably know, Kylie Jenner is the youngest star of The Kardashians, one of the most popular reality TV shows in history. That fame allowed her to build a huge following on Instagram, as well as a high profile on other social media platforms such as Facebook and SnapChat.

It wasn’t too hard to see the business opportunity here. Online shopping was taking off in a big way, and Kylie was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the opportunity. The first product to launch was Kylie Lip Kits, and to say the launch was a success would be an understatement. The entire 15,000 available kits sold out in less than a minute!

Once the store was restocked with a lot more inventory, there was a relaunch. And this time all the stock sold within 24 hours, clearing $19 million in revenue.

It was clear that this business had huge potential, so the business was renamed Kylie Cosmetics and moved to the Shopify platform. Within 18 months, the company had generated no less than $420 million in revenue. In 2019, Forbes declared that Kylie had become the youngest billionaire ever, at the age of 21. The business is now valued at well over $1 billion.

Way to go, Kylie!

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Be Inspired! 

Of course, the story of Kylie Cosmetics is very much an outlier, and regular store owners are unlikely to achieve so much success so quickly. But we should not be jealous or envious of Kylie’s success - we should be inspired.

Because what this story does is demonstrate the amazing potential in the world of Ecommerce. We might have to do things a little differently, and we don’t have massive social media assets and public popularity to leverage. But we do have the opportunity to take a slice of the same enormous Ecommerce profit pie.

When you know that it’s possible to become a billionaire in this business, then aspiring to a net worth of $100 million seems very attainable. Shopify sellers such as MVMT and Gymshark have already exceeded that goal, so it’s definitely doable.

What We Can Learn

As well as being inspired, we can learn some very valuable lessons by studying the growth of Kylie Cosmetics. Here are some things that Kylie and her team got right:

1. Focusing on a Tight Niche Initially

The initial idea for the brand was to focus on lips only. Kylie had been self-conscious about the size of her lips as a young teen, and she recognized that lots of women would have the same concern. She says:

"Ever since I was about 15, I've been obsessed with lipstick, because I was insecure about my lips. I could never find a lip liner and a lipstick that were the perfect match. So that's how the whole business started."

This is a great example of focusing on a very specific problem that keeps people awake at night. Kylie Lip Kits were formulated to address this issue directly, and as a result demand far exceeded supply.

By focusing on a very specific niche initially, the brand was able to get real traction in the highly-competitive cosmetics market.

This is a great way for any Shopify store owner to grow a company. Start with a very tight focus, perhaps just one product that solves a specific problem. Then scale the business from there.

2. Understanding Today’s Consumers

Traditional cosmetics companies are not known for being sensitive to how their products are produced. But in today’s world, people are very much aware of issues such as animal rights and environmental impact. 

Because of this, Kylie Cosmetics products are not tested on animals, and do not include any animal products (such as honey or beeswax). This makes customers more comfortable with purchasing, and differentiates the brand from the big players.

Whatever you are selling, you will have an advantage if you understand your customers, and the frictions that may prevent them from purchasing.

3. Restructuring to Position for Growth

It soon became clear that the lip kits were a winner, and the business had massive potential. So at that point, the business was restructured. 

The brand name was changed from Kylie Lip Kits to Kylie Cosmetics. This allowed the company to expand into the general cosmetics market, while still retaining a clear focus. 

You can buy all kinds of cosmetics in the online store now, but you can’t buy saucepans or snowboards. The brand positioning is clearly in the cosmetics market.

From a technology perspective, the company migrated to Shopify. This gave the company a platform that could scale with the business. 

So it’s clear that Shopify is a great platform for your business, too. You get all the tools you need to launch your business. And when you start to hit the big time, you can upgrade to Shopify Plus.

Built for enterprise-level volumes, Shopify Plus underpins the online sales of some of the world’s biggest brands, from Red Bull to Tesla. So no matter how big your business becomes, your store will run efficiently.

4. Leveraging the Power of Branding

The business had the huge advantage of the Kylie Jenner personal brand to power it, and the company made the most of it.

This branding reduced friction by establishing credibility and trust from the outset. Customers know exactly who Kylie is, as they have seen her on TV, Instagram, YouTube and more. So they feel comfortable handing over their money.

This allows the business to charge higher prices without experiencing resistance from customers, and increases the average order value - people just buy more stuff!

So building a strong brand is a great way to increase sales, profitability and loyalty in your store. 

5. Keeping Overheads Down

Kylie Cosmetics is now a billion-dollar brand, yet the entire business is run by a team of 13 employees, and many of those are part-timers. A decade or two ago, a business of this size would have hundreds - maybe thousands - of employees.

But nowadays, you can build a business where the technology does most of the hard work. From marketing to order processing, most of the business happens on autopilot. Which leaves Kylie with plenty of free time with her somewhat crazy family.

So use technology wherever you can to eliminate or reduce the need for expensive employees. This will have a huge impact on your bottom line.

6. Leveraging Social Media Reach

There’s no doubt that Kylie and her team understand the massive power of her huge social media following, and they exploit it to the full. With a single Instagram post, Kylie can generate millions of dollars in sales. Wouldn’t that be nice!

We may not be able to replicate that kind of following, but we do still have access to the same massive global reach.

Advertising on Facebook and Instagram alone gives us the potential to reach over 2 billion people worldwide. We have to pay for the ads, of course, but this is still an amazing opportunity that 20th century marketers would have drooled over.

So take the time and effort to get really good at advertising on the big social media platforms. That’s how you get the opportunity to build a massive brand with your store.

Now It’s Your Turn

So the success of Kylie Cosmetics really is an inspirational story that demonstrates what is possible with Shopify. 

Even if you are just starting out in the exciting world of Ecommerce, there is still huge potential for your store. We’re just getting started, and the market is growing at a frantic pace year by year.

So take note of what is possible, think big and set yourself on the road to amazing success with Shopify.

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Rob Palmer

About the author

I help people start and grow highly-profitable Ecommerce stores, so they can turn their annual salary into their monthly income and live the life of their dreams.

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