Breaking Through Amazon Barriers with Ju Rhyu, Co-Founder and CEO of Hero Cosmetics
How to manage brand gating and winning the buy box on Amazon
How to succeed on Amazon is a mystery that many DTC brands have tried and failed to solve. There are tricks to winning on the mega ecommerce site, and there are things that no one tells you when you first put your product up for sale in the Amazon jungle.
There were a lot of things the Ju Rhyu wished she knew, for example, when she and her co-founders decided to launch Hero Cosmetics on Amazon. Like what is brand gating? How do you win the buy box? And what do you do about counterfeit products that come along after you start having success.
Rhyu found the answers to all of those questions and learned so much more as she grew Hero into one of the buzziest skincare brands on the market, which now has its own DTC site and is featured in retailers like Target, Madewell, CVS Pharmacy and more.
But it all started with much more humble beginnings, when Rhyu was living and working in South Korea and sufferedwas suffering from adult acne. She found a patch that was highly popular and effective in Seoul, and knew that this was something that could have a much wider reach.
“For me, [the patch] solved a real problem that I was struggling with,” Rhyu said. “It worked better than anything else I had ever really used and I got to thinking if this is helping me, this could probably help a lot of other people stateside as well.”
Along with a couple of co-founders, Rhyu went to work trying to get their version of the patch manufactured and then up for sale on Amazon, simply to see if there was any interest from the American audience.
“The hypothesis was that if we bring this product category to the U.S. and position it more as a beauty product that it could do well,” Rhyu said. “And so for us, the easiest way to test out that hypothesis was on a platform like Amazon. …We said, ‘Let’s see if people buy it. If people buy it, then we’ll work on phase two, which would be launching a DTC channel.’”
Well, the hypothesis proved true. People loved the patch, and that’s when the problems started.
On Amazon, unless you have a brand-gated page, anyone can attach themselves to your product and then try to beat you in the buy box. Rhyu had to learn all of this on the fly.
“I don’t know how many people know how Amazon really works, but a lot of times when you have a product page, it’s not something that you own, unless you’re brand gated,” she explained. “It’s something that other people can sell that product, leveraging your product page. And then the idea is everyone has to win the buy box. And the buy box is when you’re on an Amazon product page, and you add to cart, the person who’s winning the buy box is the first person whose product you would add to your cart….And it’s really smart on Amazon’s part, because as a seller, you have to earn it either by having really good reviews, like seller reviews or you have to earn it by having the best price. And so there are a lot of sellers, they’ll price a penny cheaper, or like 5 cents cheaper, and then they’ll win the buy box. Which inevitably is a very dangerous game because you can just sort of discount this product to zero.”
Eventually, Rhyu and her team were able to prove that they owned the IP to Hero Cosmetics and get brand-gated protection. They also did launched athe DTC shop on the Hero Cosmetics website, prior to and then setting their sights on retail.
Rhyu did cold outreach to retailers. She explained the product and tried to appeal to their desire to capitalize on the hottest trends. SheAnd then she deployed a fierce PR strategy to drive up interest.
“In 2018, when we launched in a lot of specialty retailers, I credit that to I’m a big believer in, if you build the demand, the retailers will come,” Rhyu said. “Once I started our PR push and we were mentioned in, into The Gloss and Business Insider and Buzzfeed, I actually started getting quite a bit of inbound requests from buyers.”
Today, Hero Cosmetics can be found on the shelves of retailers like Madewell, Anthropologie, Target, CVS Pharmacy and many more. And the product also sells online at Thrive Market, on Amazon and, of course, on Hero’s website.
More products and growth are coming for Hero, and to find out more about that, be sure to tune into Rhyu’s episode of Up Next in Commerce, here.
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