Twenty one year-old Kylie Jenner made the news again last month after being ranked number 27 in the Forbes list of America’s 60 Richest Self-Made Women.

Her company Kylie Cosmetics has accrued an estimated $900 million since it was founded in November 2015, setting her on course to be the youngest self-made billionaire after a mere three years of business.

However, the phrase ‘self-made’ in this context is certainly debatable, and the terminology sparked controversy online.

As the youngest member of the wealthy, idolised Kardashian/Jenner clan she has had an unquestionable advantage over competition, of which most other business owners can only dream. Prior to setting up Kylie Cosmetics, she starred in the hit reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians for nearly a decade of her childhood and teenage life. Kylie began to build an enviable following of dedicated fans on multiple social platforms alongside the growth of social media. As of the time of writing, she has 112m followers on Instagram, ranking her the 7th most followed person on the channel.

As a result, Kylie had already established her own brand before creating Kylie Cosmetics. The financial boost that the Kardashians publicity provided her, combined with her fame and beauty has proven a winning marketing formula.

The ultimate influencer

Unlike most beauty and cosmetics companies with a presence on social media, Kylie does not need to turn to others for help when promoting her products. She is the ultimate influencer, using her own face to exhibit her makeup range. This likely saves her a lot of money many others would need to budget for third party endorsement, and also eliminates the risk of being caught up in influencer fraud.

When she’s not using her own face, she’s turning to her family to produce collaborative collections. Who better to assist than the winner of the 2018 CFDA’s Influencer Award, Kim Kardashian, amongst her other sisters (and mother)? It’s pretty handy they’re all related, isn’t it?

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The power of Instagram

Despite Kylie Cosmetics having its own dedicated social media accounts, it seems Jenner cannot resist plugging the brand on her personal channels too. It is clear why; Kylie Cosmetics’ mere 16.9m Instagram followers pales in comparison to her own personal following. Although this number surpasses many other international cosmetics giants, it is certainly not the most popular amongst the Instagram community. Rival MAC cosmetics, for example, has 18.9m followers to date.

It is therefore safe to assume that Kylie’s sales success comes from a mixture of promotion on her personal channel as well as her dedicated business channel. As a result, she increases her chances of conversion by targeting a wide audience. She can appeal to repeat Kylie Cosmetics customers through one channel, whilst attempting to convert fans of her celebrity into consumers of her products on the other.

In June, it was revealed that Instagram stories now has more than 400m daily active users; a figure that has risen dramatically from 250m since 2017. According to a recent report by Google, 59.6% of Generation Z actively uses Instagram, in contrast to Facebook (52.8%) and Twitter (just 35.4%). Despite Snapchat being the second most popular platform amongst this generation (56.4%), it attracted just 191m daily active users in the first quarter of this year by comparison.

It is definitely no coincidence that Kylie has cut back on her frequent Snapchat activity and refocussed her efforts on Instagram. She is observing how her core fan base is interacting with her content and adjusting channel usage according to the presence of her young target audience.

With this rise in the popularity of Instagram stories, Jenner has most recently taken to obsessively updating her Instagram story and feed, rather than focusing on other less popular social channels.

Kylie Jenner Instagram Stories

Nearly all of these stories are used to endorse products from kyliecosmetics.com. Whether in the form of selfies, colour swatches or packaging previews, Kylie likes to inundate her followers with makeup. When she’s not trying to convince her fans to buy her cosmetics, she’s trying to entice them into buying her boyfriend’s latest album.

The controversy that surrounds the Kardashian-Jenner family can often cause a media frenzy. The old saying goes, ‘any publicity is good publicity’, and this is certainly the case here. When rumours sparked about Kylie’s pregnancy last year, she spent nine months neither confirming nor denying the rumours by simply not addressing them. Although her Instagram activity decreased significantly, she used the publicity to continue to promote her cosmetics line; with eagle eyed users jumping at any glimpse of social activity that may divulge information.

A simple shopping experience

The official Kylie Cosmetics website is (as expected) unequivocally girly, although not particularly ground breaking or original in its design. Instead, it has been created to provide a quick, seamless shopping experience, whilst also affording customers the opportunity to browse at their leisure through simplified menu items like ‘face’, ‘eyes’ and ‘lips’.

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Kyliecosmetics.com is clearly designed as an extension of her Instagram presence. Powered by the ecommerce platform Shopify, the website includes a long, segmented homepage, which makes it perfect for browsing on mobile. A significant amount of scrolling is required to browse featured products, and this resonates with Instagram’s user interface from which plenty of site traffic originates.

The design is built to accommodate impulse purchases, with a centrally placed ‘add to cart’ call to action button beneath each product photo, leaving little chance for customers to dither and change their mind.

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Priority has also been placed on upselling here, as a sticky shopping cart appears with a handy reminder to spend ‘$x more for free shipping’ once you have added the first item to your cart.

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Immersive content such as video tutorials, trends and inspiration are often included on the websites of high street and high-end beauty brands. Instead, kyliecosmetics.com adopts a purely practical approach designed for optimum conversion. However, change may be on the horizon. A recent addition to the navigation bar ‘News from Kylie’ appeared in July containing the bare bones of a newly launched blog featuring behind the scenes photos and a video of Kylie’s daily makeup routine.

Until this blog is suitably established, however, Kylie’s regular social activity will continue to subsidise the lack of such content.

Influencers shun existing brands to launch their own

Driving demand

Driving demand with limited edition stock is something Kylie is no stranger to. Seasonal launches are a hit with her fans, who have come to expect new collections at Christmas, Valentine’s day, and mid-summer, to name a few.

Releasing a new range for her August birthday each year has also become a tradition, and she even announced an assortment of limited edition cosmetics to celebrate her daughter, Stormi, just weeks after she was born. In February 2016, Jenner released six limited edition lip kit shades inspired by Valentine’s day which sold out in just 10 minutes. This method of inducing urgency in her most loyal customers is something she has utilised ever since, with great success.

Pop-up stores

Pop-up stores have become increasingly popular amongst online-only brands as a way of providing limited-time in-store customer experiences. They allow consumers a chance to test out products in real life before they commit to purchasing; encouraging shoppers who are hesitant to spend money based on online images and reviews alone. Regardless of the myriad of swatches Jenner posts on Instagram, not being able to test the shades on your own unique skin tone has always been a substantial downfall of online-only cosmetics brands.

As the popularity of Kylie and her namesake company continues to soar, so has the number of pop-up stores. In November 2017, Jenner announced a total of seven pop-ups in the US, perfectly coinciding with the usual Christmas shopping mania.

Despite some controversy surrounding the strict rules enforced at the various destinations, the pop-up stores have attracted some incredible crowds over the past few years – crowds that were perhaps magnified by the possibly of meeting the lady herself.

Whatever your opinion of her, Kylie Jenner is clearly more than just a pretty face (although it evidently helps to have one). It is likely that we’ll see Kylie Cosmetics reach the $1 billion mark very soon, and it will be fascinating to see how she adapts her marketing strategy to social platforms as they evolve.

While her website and marketing methods are not overly original, she proves that regularly and persistently connecting with fans on social is an invaluable way of creating demand, urgency and a strong brand identity. At the tender age of 21, it’s likely we haven’t seen the last of Kylie’s business empire yet.

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