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Published May 17, 2021
Published May 17, 2021
Noah Buscher via Unsplash

This last year has forced most beauty brands into rapid evolution, taking stock of their current retail channels and expanding to meet their customer where she shops. For many brands, this meant dipping their toe into the Amazon behemoth. While many beauty brands have been forced over the past year to reconsider Amazon as a potential retail channel, this has been particularly relevant to luxury brands who had remained staunch in their opposition to Amazon before the pandemic. Historically, Amazon and luxury sat at two opposite ends of the spectrum, a distance which has continued to shrink over recent years with Amazon having less of a stigma as a “discount platform” and being viewed more as the “everything store” with a wide-reaching customer base and unparalleled level of convenience.

But when going it alone, these brands found lackluster sales and dealing with Amazon a “full-time job,” and that their questions and issues went unanswered when trying to reach Amazon’s infamous “no-help desk.”

For many luxury clean beauty brands, Carbon Beauty CEO and co-founder Dan Sudman has been a savior, making brands’ Amazon woes disappear, giving them a turnkey solution for what used to be thought of as unattainable: success on the world’s largest retail channel.

According to Sudman, luxury clean beauty brands who were previously on Amazon’s Luxury/Premium platform found Amazon’s efforts in luring brands to their Luxury/Premium platform underwhelming. “We hear from brands that Amazon’s Luxury/Premium platform gives them the ability to gate unauthorized retailers, but does not possess additional advantages,” explained Sudman. “Brands who entered the Luxury/Premium category as a result of Amazon’s unrealistic promises have become increasingly disillusioned with their ‘partnership’ and all of the category’s ‘opportunities,’ which has resulted in these brands choosing to either leave the Luxury/Premium category and partner with a retailer like ourselves, or abandon the platform altogether.”

Amazon currently captures 32 percent of all beauty bought online, Rina Yashayeva, Vice President of Marketplace Strategy at marketing and media agency Stella Rising, said to WWD. Yashayeva found that 77 percent of beauty consumers say they shop on Amazon for beauty, compared to 61 percent at Ulta and 56 percent at Sephora.

We spoke to a few of the luxury clean beauty brands working with Carbon Beauty to hear about their Amazon journeys.

"Just like in all our distribution channels, we wanted to partner with someone that could really tell our story."
By Michelle Ranavat, Founder and CEO, Ranavat Botanics

How did you decide to take the Amazon plunge with Carbon Beauty?

Allison McNamara, Founder of Mara Beauty: “I was always very hesitant about selling on Amazon. The pandemic definitely played into the decision—not because our smaller stockists took hits—we actually saw great growth at our smaller stores. But really the pandemic showed that our brand wasn’t really accessible everywhere. During lockdown I relied on Amazon so much to get the necessities especially at the beginning of the pandemic. So, the end of the year [2020] really made the most sense for us to go onto the Carbon platform.”

Brett Bilon, President and Co-Founder of Plume Science: “We had been recruited by Amazon last year to be on their invite-only luxury platform. It really felt like once they [Amazon] brought us on they ghosted us, we were on our own. We found that simple things like basic product setup became fairly complex endeavors. If there was an error or you had a problem, it would be quite difficult to get anyone on Amazon’s help desk to resolve the issue. The help desk is outsourced all over the world so there’s no consistency in terms of case resolution. Once we saw the success of some of the other brands who were working with Carbon Beauty, namely in the BeautyMatter article on Carbon Beauty and Innersense Organics, we reached out to Greg and Joanne Starkman [founders of Innersense] and said, ‘Hey, we’re looking at doing something with someone like Dan from Carbon Beauty, what’s your honest take?’ They said, ‘We would trust Dan with our children’s lives.’ That was a pretty powerful reference.”

Michelle Ranavat, Founder and CEO of Ranavat Botanics: “Just like in all our distribution channels, we wanted to partner with someone that could really tell our story. For us, it’s not just about having more places for accessibility but more opportunities to tell a story. Carbon Beauty completely understands that nuance and is what ultimately led us to work with them for our Amazon launch. Amazon is its own ecosystem and there is such a specific way to connect with a customer searching on Amazon and we wanted to partner with someone that spoke that language like Dan and his team at Carbon Beauty. Dan’s thoughtfulness around the brands he brings on is really what led us to launching with him.”

What were your brand’s concerns about selling on Amazon and how did Carbon Beauty address them?

Sarina Godin, Chief Product Officer/SVP Operations and Wholesale at True Botanicals: “A few common concerns were third-party sellers on the platform, comprehensive product education, and making your brand still feel luxurious even on Amazon. Carbon Beauty has been amazing addressing all of these. They also create content for the A+ pages that is full of education and images to give consumers everything they need to make a decision. The brand pages feel so elevated that you almost forget you’re shopping on Amazon.”

McNamara, Mara Beauty: “A big catalyst for us [launching with Carbon] was that we had seen some imposters pop up on Amazon as our brand grew and got celebrity recognition. I wanted to make sure that anyone who was buying the product was getting the real Mara goods. Also, the way the Carbon team was able to design our storefront on Amazon, I was just blown away with how his team took our imagery and created the storefronts. I really feel like you’re getting the full Mara experience that you would get on our website or at a retail store. Dan had made the entire experience so easy, so seamless, probably one of the easiest, B2B clients that we have. Which is ironic because Amazon itself is such a beast.”

Ranavat, Ranavat Botanics: “Amazon can be the Wild, Wild West when it comes to selling yourself, and we knew in order to do it right we needed to find a partner that specifically knew how luxury, clean beauty is sold on Amazon. It has its own language and customer and I have found that success on DTC does not always translate to success on Amazon. It is an entirely different ecosystem that you need to understand in order to be successful, which Dan and his team have mastered.”

From easily resolving issues to creating an authentic brand presence, Sudman and his Carbon Beauty team have changed the Amazon narrative for many luxury clean beauty brands. According to Sudman, navigating and mastering the “Wild, Wild West” of Amazon during the pandemic “resulted in us partnering with more luxury clean beauty brands than at any other point in our company’s history.”

Sudman said he understands brands’ resistance to Amazon. “It has historically been known for its poor representation of luxury brands,” Sudman said. “We don’t want luxury brands to miss the enormous underlying potential of selling on Amazon. We have worked for the past seven years to redefine the sales of luxury and niche beauty brands on Amazon in allowing these brands to tap into the platform’s significant potential, while eliminating the chaos that is usually associated with selling on Amazon.”

Sudman concluded that Carbon is seeing a lot of higher-end brands out there desperately trying to figure out what to do when it comes to Amazon. “It’s just a matter of them finding out someone is executing Amazon properly.” And according to the many luxury clean beauty brands we spoke to, that “someone” is Sudman and his team at Carbon Beauty.