I was recently introduced to Ayla Beauty, a genius concept of Dara Kennedy, a Harvard MBA and former beauty and cosmetic industy executive. Having seen and used her share of beauty and health products that make the promises consumers are used to and if not immune to, Dara placed her hat in the ring and launched www.aylabeauty.com. At just under two months old, aylabeauty.com is an e-commerce site offering a highly curated, tried and tested selection of what she and her in-house experts believe are the best of the best.
New products hit retail at a good pace, promising one thing or another. What Dara has done is drill down the needs and basics of skincare, keeping in mind factors such as total health (products are natural, organic and paraben/chemical free) and the environment, with no harsh chemicals, emissions or other pollutants being offered in her selected products.
I recently had an opportunity to learn more about Dara, her foray into what many may say is an already crowded market and how she is setting a higher standard of personalized shopping.
What prompted you to launch a site selling only a handful of brands?
Dara Kennedy: Shopping for skincare is overwhelming, and having lots of choices doesn’t usually help. According to a number of different studies (and plain common sense), it actually makes purchase decisions a lot harder. I wanted to offer a curated selection of brands that shoppers can trust, and specific products within those brands that truly live up to their promises, and don’t contain questionable ingredients, such as parabens, that many of us are trying to avoid these days.
What is the selection process for a brand to make it to aylabeauty.com?
Dara Kennedy: As far as the discovery process is concerned, I worked in the beauty business for over a decade, so many of the brands are ones that I’ve come across and really admired as I was looking at other players in the field — The Organic Pharmacy is a great example. Others are brands that I’ve been introduced to by the experts we feature on the site. Luzern Labs is one of those. Then, as I looked at each product under consideration for the website, I asked the following questions:
1) Does it really deliver? For instance, Peter Thomas Roth’s Gentle Complexion Correction Pads are pretty much the gold standard if you’re looking at a high-end exfoliating pad to treat acne. And in cases where the brands are less well known, we send them to a panel of product testers — regular people, not total beauty junkies — who use them for at least a month and give us candid reviews.
2) Does it contain anything that the most ardent critics would find questionable? And if so, is it a major problem in the grand scheme of things?
If you’re using one product to fight acne and the rest of your products are clean as a whistle, I think a little Polysorbate-20, for example, is not that big of a deal. But you’ll find that, by and large, most of our products have a natural or organic bent to them.
How will Ayla beauty distinguish itself from the many sites also offering organic/holistic beauty and grooming products?
Dara Kennedy: I’d say it’s a combination of three things that ultimately helps our shoppers feel more confident about the choices they make on our site:
1) Peerless products: We are extremely careful about the products that we select for Ayla Beauty, we want our shoppers to know that the products we carry will really make a difference in how their skin looks and feels (without using questionable ingredients to get there).
2) Expert advice: We’ve conducted original interviews with the best dermatologists and health & beauty experts you could hope to find in one place. They answer questions about everything ranging from the basics (what’s my skin type?) to specific concerns (adult acne) to whole skincare (the effect that the food you eat can have on the condition of your skin).
3) Outstanding customer service: We try to make the shopping process even friendlier with personalized recommendations via phone, live chat, and email. Our customer experience specialists are wonderful and have helped a lot of people find products they adore. We also sell consultation kits and mini sizes, because even if you’re pretty sure a product’s going to work for you, you often want to give it a test-drive first.
How do you intend to grow the site?
Dara Kennedy: We want to stay true to the points of difference I’ve mentioned, so consumers can expect to see a few things from us in the next year such as an evolving product assortment. We won’t ever carry so many products that it becomes too overwhelming — instead, we’ll curate as we go and add or remove products according to what we hear from our customers. Also, more expert advice. Each month, you’ll be able to read about at least one new topic, and we’ll add to our set of experts. Lastly, additional customer service tools. We’ve seen an astounding number of customers come back to us for second and third orders even though we’ve been live for less than 2 months. We plan to offer a lot of exciting tools that will help us become an even better resource for trusted advice!
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