New E-tailer Verishop’s Beauty Selection Is Starting With Upscale Clean Brands Before Broadening Its Reach
It may take an ex-Amazon executive to pull off a feat Amazon hasn’t been able to accomplish: assembling an online selection of upscale beauty brands rivaling the world’s best department stores.
Verishop, the new multi-category e-commerce concept from Cate Khan, former senior vice president at defunct Amazon subsidiary Quidsi, and her husband Imran, previously chief strategy officer at Snapchat, is betting heavily on clean beauty, which it has defined tightly for a retailer, to win over discerning millennial shoppers. Its debut beauty assortment sticks exclusively to the segment with an array of premium offerings from many of its most well-known names, including RMS Beauty, Reverie, Kosås, DedCool, Palermo Body, Kahina Giving Beauty, Indie Lee, Ursa Major and Suntegrity.
“We really want to have a strong point of view and specify the ingredients that we feel the industry has said are not good for you. We want the customer to trust us, so we want to go with the strictest standards. I was at a competitor recently, and its list of banned ingredients was less than half the size of ours. That’s not to say we aren’t open to dialogue about the ingredients,” says Khan, chief strategy officer at Verishop. “We also want to give our shoppers options. We plan on opening up the platform to non-clean beauty options later on.”
While Nordstrom’s list of ingredients not permitted in the natural beauty and wellness products it stocks totals seven, Verishop’s no-no list tops 25 ingredients and treads into ingredient classifications like synthetic fragrance and polyethylene glycols (PEGs) that retailers selling conventional beauty alongside clean beauty often don’t cross. The high clean beauty guardrails are a signal to its customers, described by Khan as “label readers,” that it’s serious about human safety in its evaluation of beauty products.
When it comes to safety, though, the safety most talked about by Verishop is brand safety. Its pitch to brands is that it provides an environment lacking the rampant discounting and counterfeiting found on Amazon, but maintains the convenience of Amazon with fast shipping and free returns. With no minimum order threshold, the e-tailer promises purchases will be delivered free to shoppers in two days. Verishop’s customer service is available 24/7 via a phone number presented on its home page.
“We want to help brands thrive. A lot of our brands are saying, ‘We are frustrated that our brand equity is being destroyed because we are sitting next to cheaper goods.’ We are committed to not do that to our vendors.”
“We want to help brands thrive. A lot of our brands are saying, ‘We are frustrated that our brand equity is being destroyed because we are sitting next to cheaper, counterfeit goods,’” says Khan. “We are committed to not do that to our vendors.”
Although Amazon has made some inroads into luxury beauty with a Luxury Beauty destination housing Erno Laszlo, Elizabeth Arden, Elemis, Clarisonic and Sunday Riley, prestige beauty brands have largely snubbed the digital powerhouse to protect their pricing and retail positioning. If Verishop can keep price reductions at bay, cultivate a chic clique of brands that vendors desire to join and become a meaningful sales contributor, it may convince Amazon holdouts to take a chance on it. It’s advantage in wooing premium beauty brands is a keen understanding of the e-commerce landscape that department stores haven’t quite cracked.
Beyond discount and counterfeit complaints, brands criticize Amazon for being difficult to work with. Verishop is proposing to be friendlier to them. Its connection to brands is similar to a traditional retailer holding inventory rather than a third-party marketplace depending on drop-ship arrangements. Khan mentions its buyers have forged close personal connections with brands. Nima Jalali, founder of unisex skincare and body care brand Salt & Stone, extols the job that Verishop senior beauty buyer Lindsey Peterson, former omni merchandise planner at Violet Grey and assistant buyer for beauty at Saks Fifth Avenue, is doing so far. To consistently update brands on Verishop’s operations, it’s sending them monthly newsletters.
“I can tell you that the relationship [with brands] is different from Amazon’s. I see us as more hands-on. Our buyers talk to our vendors versus putting them through a portal,” says Khan. “We pride ourselves on being partners with our brands.”
“Among the selection offered on Verishop, there are a number of brands that are still considered to be small or mid-level, making it a platform for a brand like ours to gain exposure and credibility.”
For Carina Chazanas, founder of rising fragrance star DedCool, the mix of brands Verishop has collected across fashion, home and beauty is appealing. She says, “As we’re an up-and-coming, growing company, we want to associate ourselves with household brands for status and recognition.” Jessica Morelli, founder of Palermo Body, concurs, saying, “Among the selection offered on Verishop, there are a number of brands that are still considered to be small or mid-level, making it a platform for a brand like ours to gain exposure and credibility. Their team is familiar with modern consumers’ needs as well as being tech-savvy in order to meet expectations on shopping experience and delivery times.”
Verishop’s buyers began vetting beauty brands for its selection in January. The brands had to meet its clean beauty standards, and their products had to pass muster with buyers hunting for efficacious products. In addition to being displayed in the beauty section of its website, Verishop’s beauty brands can be spotlighted in a Tastemakers section curated by popular influencers and celebrities, notably Tiffany Ma and Jess Conte, and a section called The Responsible Shop focused on conscious brands. In total, Verishop has accumulated around 160 brands and anticipates the brand roster to increase to at least 300 by the end of the year. The average purchase amount is expected to be over $100.
Certainly, beauty brands are weary of jumping on board an e-commerce concept that could fizzle out, but the deep experience of Verishop’s founders and the investment supporting the company assuage that concern. In November, Los Angeles-based Verishop raised $17.5 million in a round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, the venture firm that’s backed Goop, Grubhub and Girlboss, and Khan insists it’s cultivating a formidable enterprise without designs on a quick exit. She says, “Our intention is not to be acquired. Our intention is to build a business for the long term.”
Alex Barinka, head of external affairs at Verishop, elaborates, “When you look at the opportunity, there really isn’t somebody who serves brands as well that can enable them to have scale and get in front of new customers in this contemporary price point. There’s not really a player that does that with the same level of convenience and tech expertise in the U.S. right now. There is a gap, and we’re hoping to fill it in a big way.”