Secret to success

May 3, 2024 | By Rupkatha B

Anisha Oberoi

Among several others, three key factors have fuelled the growth of homegrown e-commerce platform Secret Skin selling clean beauty products. First, rising consumer interest in the clean beauty segment; second, the growth of e-commerce having a direct impact on online beauty sales; and third a strong sense of purpose.

For a perspective on each factor, research indicates that the global clean beauty market is expected to touch $15.3 billion by 2028. Turning to the Middle East, YouTube search interest for ‘clean makeup’ in Saudi Arabia increased by 13X, Google indicates. Interestingly, searches for the term ‘skin-scent’ which means clean, more minimal smelling scents saw 51% year-on-year growth.

While according to data from Admitad, online sales of beauty products in the MENA region grew by over 20% in 2023.

With a deep sense of purpose across multiple levels, Secret Skin seeks to empower women selling on its platform as well as those who buy the products. resultantly, this impact-driven online beauty tech platform that started with around 1,200 products spanning various categories of beauty has grown significantly, year on-year. What’s more, Secret Skin recently established its offline presence within Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle’s THAT Concept Store in Mall of the Emirates, with more such openings lined up in 2024.

Secret Skin at a Glance

  • Year of Launch: 2020
  • Growth Statistics: (Year-on-Year 2023) Customers – 66% I Sales – 52% I Product Categories – 130%
    • A new vertical launched every year since 2020 – B2C, B2B, B2B2C
  • Funding Status: Raised over $1 million with a new round for seed capital now open. 65% of investors are women.
  • Growth Goals: Expand into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and India with key retail partners.

The interest in clean beauty products in the Middle East is a rather recent phenomenon which has been on an upward curve since the pandemic. Even five years ago, there was a gap in the regional market for products that were clean and non-toxic. Secret Skin Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Anisha Oberoi confirmed this.

“I survived breast cancer 14 years ago and at the time I didn’t have access to toxin-free beauty and personal care products. When I moved to the region in 2019, I found the same gap here. Beauty buying here was labour-intensive, cost prohibitive and time-consuming. Finding any ‘safe’ brand locally was difficult, requiring consumers to ship it in from foreign shores, incurring over 50-80% custom charges. In addition, with no local customer care support it often led to a poor customer experience limiting the possibility of repeat purchase.”

This led Oberoi to launch Secret Skin, a platform built on a framework of social and environmental change whose values are rooted in ‘People, Planet and Purpose’. What’s also quite interesting is Secret Skin’s data-centrism in its everyday operations and long-term strategic outlook.

In this context, Oberoi shared, “Personalisation drives engagement and is interwoven with social advocacy reflective of brand values and ethos of our partners. The pay-off can be seen in our repeat customer rate of 54%, compared to the beauty industry average of around 25%. Our return rates are lowest in the region too because delivery-in-full-on-time (DIFOT) is always prioritised as a metric. We track everything from interface dwell time, scroll depth, average order values, basket sizes, spend etc which gives us a better understanding of performance across brands and campaign initiatives. We don’t overlook any insights.”

In fact, as an ex-Amazon Oberoi brought with her a lot of crucial insights and learnings. “We built the blueprint of Secret Skin on Amazon tenets and KPIs. From UI/UX, delivery experience, product discovery, navigation standards, pricing architecture etc. we were able to ideate and scale at a faster rate than our competitors because of this learning.”

Another pivotal focus area for any brand today is supply chain. Having brands from different parts of the world on its platform it is crucial for Secret Skin to create an agile supply chain, proofing it from disruption as much as possible. Here too Secret Skin is heavily reliant on data and technology.

“Instead of the customer waiting for three weeks to receive a product like most cross-border beauty offerings today, we have local robotic fulfilment with a promise of same-day delivery. We index highly on maintaining optimal lead-times as part of our logistics process with partners across geographies so that our customer experience is timely and seamless,” Oberoi explained.

Looking ahead, Secret Skin aims to expand presence beyond the UAE by entering markets such as Saudi Arabia and India. “We are looking for the right local talent to fuel this mission,” Oberoi stated.

“With Secret Skin we have built an entity that’s disrupting the beauty landscape meaningfully. As a result, we have succeeded in getting the right investors, advisors and partners on board who are all helping drive this momentum for a rather new category like sustainable beauty & wellness in the Middle East in a never-seen-before manner,” she concluded.

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