After watching YouTubers like Shaaanxo doing makeup tutorials, Toni Barrett realised there was a demand for beauty products that weren’t available in New Zealand. She decided to start a site called Beauty Bliss, which sells sought-after makeup products.
Barrett is based in Wellington and has just one other employee, her sister Jenna.
Some might not consider YouTubers to be influential, but the reality is they have a cult following.
The aforementioned Shaaanxo is a makeup guru from Palmerston North that has a huge audience.
She has over 2.6 million likes on Facebook, 1.9 million subscribers on YouTube and is just shy of one million followers on Instagram.
“I think the YouTubers are so much more influential than a lot of people realise and social media like Facebook and Instagram is too, because its so visual and makeup’s such a visual thing,” Barrett says.
“It’s changed the way the people are buying things.”
Shaaanxo uses a variety of overseas brands in her videos, but Barrett knew she couldn’t compete on scale with overseas makeup giants like Sephora.
However, she could compete by stocking beauty products that weren’t widely available in New Zealand.
“I figured if lots of other people were watching these videos, more people would want the products,” She says.
Beauty Bliss was born in 2012 and built by Barrett herself, who has a tech background.
Starting out as a small, unknown New Zealand ecommerce site wasn’t without its challenges.
Barrett faced rejections from many brands to begin with.
“A lot of brands wouldn’t give me the time of day when I first started, particularly because I was an etailer. There’s a stigma that online retail is only discount or clearance houses. Beauty Bliss isn’t that, we’ve got cheap products, but we’re a full retailer that sells at the proper RRP just like other stores,” she says.
Beauty Bliss started out by parallel importing and building an online following, but things really took off when she moved her workspace outside of her house and into an office.
It was a huge improvement, Barrett says, as brand reps could come in and see that Beauty Bliss was legitimate and sell to her.
Now Beauty Bliss has well known brands, such as L’Oreal Paris, Garnier and Maybelline on board.
These are her bread and butter brands that she says reel in customers who wouldn’t necessarily come to her store otherwise.
But Beauty Bliss’ speciality is ‘indie’ brands, like Jeffree Star and Sigma, which are hard to track down in New Zealand.
Orders are shipped overnight to customers, which Barrett says is essential.
“That’s our biggest advantage as we can’t compete on range or price, compared to big international sites, but we can compete on speed,” she says.
The site also has a loyalty scheme which awards one point for every dollar spent. After a customer reaches 20 points, they’ll get $1 off a future purchase.
Five points can be earned for every approved review a customer places.
“I’m really big on encouraging reviews, they’re great not only for helping our customers decide what to buy, but if a product starts getting negative reviews we stop selling it,” Barrett says.
Beauty Bliss taps into the same young audience that follows beauty YouTubers like Shaaanxo’s every move through social media.
Facebook and Instagram are used to promote products, as well as crowdsource customers’ opinions on potential new products.
Barrett says it not only helps her decide what to order, but gives customers a bit of control and sense of ownership of the business.
As of September 2015, Beauty Bliss had processed over 14,000 orders so far containing over 41,000 products.
It also has over 59,000 likes on its Facebook page and over 4600 followers on Instagram.
Barrett says this is the best part about being an etailer, as people share their excitement about receiving their orders through pictures on social media.
Beauty Bliss was recognised as the best pureplay etailer in the country at the Top Shop Awards earlier this year.
True to form, Barrett posted a photo of the award to the company’s Instagram and Facebook fans immediately after she won.
Customer service also plays a huge part for the business.
More than one customer has requested for Barrett to include a drawing of a unicorn with their order. This is both an inside joke, and a test to see how personalised her service can be.
Barrett says the size of the business makes it easy to personalise orders to even the most unusual of requests.
“We’re so small it’s easy, as with every single order that comes through either myself or Gemma sees it,” Barrett says.
“We constantly make adjustments for people and that’s one of the cool things about being a small company. Crazy sale days might be different, as we can’t spend time drawing a platypus.”
The future looks promising for Beauty Bliss, as it has also recently opened a bricks and mortar store.
It's a traditional store, as Barrett says its 60 to 70 percent office space, with the front portion being retail.
The shop is a place for Beauty Bliss' customers to test products, but Barrett wants the main purpose of the store to be click-and-collect spot.
She also is keen to expand even more.
“I want that wall [dividing the office and store] to keep moving and moving until the office and website are kicked out and I have a separate location for them, as well as an Auckland shop,” Barrett says.