Kate Morris, chief executive and founder of successful online retail business Adore Beauty says that female consumers today are more empowered, informed, self-expressive and smarter than ever before. They don’t want to be told what to buy.
Kate Morris says that when she was younger, being the CEO of an online beauty empire was the farthest thing on her mind. It was law that caught her attention initially. “I busted my gut in high school to get into law – I did a week of law and realised that was the worst mistake of my life.”
Kate then transferred out of law and floated around while she undertook an arts degree. At the same time, Kate’s part-time university job was working at the Clarins counter and that’s where she first discovered and began to fall in love with the world of beauty. “It was a way for me to make money while I studied, and I loved it! It was fantastic!”
“Then when I really started to really think about what I wanted to do career wise, but loved my job at the counter, it got me thinking: I wish there was something I could do in beauty.”
Kate says that once upon a time there was a negative stigma around people working at beauty counters. “I guess around that time when I told people what I did and told them that I worked at a makeup counter, people would sort of pull a face. I would hear things like “I hate going to the make up counters, it’s the worst” and “The women there are really scary”, “The women there wear way too much makeup and always try and upsell you things.” Basically, a lot of people didn’t really like the whole beauty counter shopping experience.”
Kate says she thought that was a bit sad – beauty products aren’t just designed to make people look better, they are intrinsically developed to make people feel better. Kate loved her role at the Clarins counter and it’s around this time when she saw a marvellous opportunity present itself.
“I loved it! (working at the Clarins counter). The feedback I was getting – these people just weren’t getting the joy of getting a new lipstick, putting it on and feeling like a million bucks. They weren’t getting that.”
“So for me, I was thinking it just didn’t make sense, because the shopping experience was making people feel like krap, while the products are actually supposed to make you feel good, you know, otherwise what’s the point.”
Kate began thinking about a better way for people to shop. “I started to think of different ways that people could buy beauty products that wouldn’t make them feel like that – and Adore Beauty is what I came up with.”
Kate says the way consumers make decisions today is very different than yesteryear, women in particular.
“When I think about how consumers made decisions back in my day as a teenager, at some point when you come of age, like at 16 or 17 years old, you’d go and sit down at a counter, have a lesson and you’d buy all of your products from that brand, so that was basically your initiation into the brand. That’s not how it works anymore and that’s not how girls shop anymore.”
Today’s female consumers, and women in general, are more empowered, independent and more informed today, according to Kate. “They learn from things like Instagram and YouTube, and retailers don’t influence people’s buying decisions in the way that they used to. It doesn’t mean that they can’t, it means that they don’t have that much power anymore.”
Kate says that back the day retailers had much more power over consumers in what they bought. “You were told what you were allowed to buy and when you’re allowed to buy it and there was the gatekeeper, the sale assistant, standing in between you and the product and you had to get their permission. That’s pretty much how the beauty industry was, and a good chunk of it still is.”
“But women today are more independent, self-taught and self-expressive. Women are smarter today – why should they be told?” says Kate. “Women are using beauty now to express themselves. Lipstick, for example, isn’t about ‘this colour suits you and those ones don’t’ – it’s more like “I feel like this today!”
The successful entrepreneur also shed light on family life and how being a mum of two and running a successful company is all about having a respectful partnership.
“You do it the same way men do it basically. I have a job, the way most men have jobs and I have a partner that shares responsibilities with me. In my relationship, it’s not expected that I’m the one who does everything. I mean, that’s the only way that you really can do it.” Kate has a three-day a week working nanny, and the remaining two weekdays, Kate and her husband James does a half-day each to take turns with the children.
“The big part of it is having a partner who respects your career and who doesn’t just assume that if the kids are sick that it isn’t just you who stays home. That’s where I see the crunch comes in – What really happens when the kids are sick? and that’s how you really know that you really have equality that you have in your relationship.”