How to Start a Business Selling Cosmetics Online

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Makeup is fun, creative and recession-proof, especially lipstick. According to professionals like Mary Kay CEO David Holl, while people may not buy as many skincare items during the throes of a recession, they're still stocking up on their favorite lip shade. When the recession hit in 2009, Mary Kay hardly saw an impact in sales. Retailers like Estee Lauder and Essie Weingarten actually saw an increase in sales during the recent economic downturn.

Selling cosmetics online can be a foolproof business. It's estimated that someone buys a bottle of Chanel's famous No. 5 perfume every 30 seconds, and online-only retailers like Colourpop and Jeffree Star Cosmetics have seen massive cult followings. So, how do you get started?

Create Your Brand Identity

To start an online business, brand recognition is key and consumers are much more likely to buy into a brand with a strong image. To do this, think about who your average customer is – are they a busy mom, a makeup artist or a creative 20-something? Maybe they're a fashionista on a budget. Decide your ideal customer and create an inventory of cosmetics around that consumer. This requires a whole lot of research. Don't forget to create a logo and branded, active social media accounts for your online cosmetics business.

Obtain a Permit

Just because you sell cosmetics online, doesn't mean you won't need a permit. While smaller businesses who are selling through third parties like Etsy or eBay may be able to skirt around the law undetected, you probably need a resale permit, sales permit and tax permit. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS using your business name. Use this to fill out the paperwork and get your business license.

Select Your Platform

Starting an online business requires one major thing: an online store. Many online cosmetics businesses choose to use services like Limited Run and Shopify to create their own branded e-commerce websites. Others choose to use an online marketplace like Etsy, Storenvy or eBay. Each has their benefits. A branded e-commerce website is more professional than an eBay store, but services like Etsy offer more visibility to beginners and veterans alike.

Find Your Inventory

The inventory is the heart and soul of your business. To get your inventory and turn a profit, you're going to have to buy cosmetics at wholesale prices and sell them to consumers. Some of your favorite indie makeup brands may offer wholesale pricing, while other wholesale-only makeup brands are specifically sold to retailers and don't have their own brick and mortar or online stores. Beware of counterfeit makeup on sites like DHGate and Alibaba, which frequently market counterfeits as high-end brands at wholesale prices.

Get To Marketing

Once you've got your products in an online store, you're going to have to market them. A lot of cosmetics companies have found great success using Pinterest and Instagram to show off makeup looks. You may even want to consider posting video tutorials to YouTube or spending a modest budget on influencer marketing. Influencer marketing puts your products in the hands of the internet's most influential users. What's better than someone with a massive following touting your online store? Affiliate programs, which give influencers a small commission for each sale they send to your business, are a great way to create real conversions and raise brand awareness. Above all, don't forget to use social media to do everything from promoting new products and sales to thanking customers and showing off their creative looks. Creating a community around your brand also inspires customer loyalty.

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About the Author

Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.