Alexys Mackenzie, Founder, You Beaut

Personalized beauty straight to your doorstep.

Listed as one of the top subscription boxes in UAE in 2020 alongside WearThat, Hand-Tied and Mama’s Box in GCC, meet You Beaut. The platform, founded in 2019 by Alexys Mackenzie and supported by Chalhoub’s Ibtikar Innovation program, is an unbiased, virtual beauty styling service in the UAE.

Below, Alexys explains her mission in starting this friendly, approachable and personalized service. 

About You Beaut

Personalised beauty for you.

We are your unbiased beauty stylist, your trusted source of beauty.

No matter your budget, gender or beauty preferences we personalize a box totally to you – our boxes are like people, no two are the same. We match and send you the best beauty products for you (along with samples to try first) and then we guide you through with expert advice on what we’ve curated, how and when to use it.

Whatever you like you keep, whatever you don’t like you can send back. Simple.

YouBeaut has mastered technology and personalization to bring users an effective, tailored and convenient shopping experience. What is most admirable however, is that the platform lets users decide what they like and do not like without the pressure of the occasional biased salesperson in a store. During COVID-19, beauty lovers get to have their beauty products and try them too.

The YouBeaut ‘Try Before you Buy’ structure sends products and corresponding samples to users, which are carefully curated based on the user’s individual’s beauty goals and budget.

According to BoF, subscription box services have been prospering from the pandemic in the sense that those that don’t want to go to the Sephoras and Ultas to ‘try before buying’, can now do so at the comfort and safety of their own homes. U.S. Companies like Stitchfix and Ipsy have both profited since March 2020, proof that this business model works; however the challenge is in retaining customers and encouraging frequent purchases.

You Beaut in Dubai aims to alleviate this pain point by allowing the user to personalize his/her account when it comes to beauty, skincare, haircare and fragrance. The user receives samples of items according to the user’s beauty preferences; making the service as personalized as possible. An added bonus, the company sends samples of each product so that there is less pressure to commit to purchasing a new product. After deciding, the user can simply return those they don’t like, and pay for those they do. It’s that simple.

In the below exclusive interview, the founder provides us examples of how the brand’s ethos is about putting the customer’s needs first.

1. Briefly tell us about YouBeaut (YB) and how you came about launching.

You Beaut is a beauty stylist platform that matches customers to the best beauty products for them without any hidden agendas or bias. We are a trusted source of beauty. We match customers according to their beauty goals, concerns and budget and then curate the best products to suit them. We send the customers full size products as well as samples to open and try first (which takes the risk out of purchasing a new beauty product). The customer then decides what they’d like to keep and pay for and return the rest for free that they weren’t so keen on.

2. Why beauty?

Most of my career has been in beauty marketing and I absolutely adore the industry – there’s always something new and exciting happening or launching (which is also why it can be incredibly overwhelming for customers too).

3. Describe the ideal customer that would benefit from a  – try at home –  service like YB.

We have a few different types of customer profiles that seem to frequent You Beaut.

We have the beauty novice who is a little more nervous and intimidated by the beauty world. They find it a little overwhelming and are unaware of what to use or do, so we help break down and curate the beauty industry for them providing some helpful tips along the way.

We also have the beauty buff who is essentially a beauty addict. They are super knowledgeable about formulas, brands and what’s trending and are incredibly confident. They want to try a lot of the niche brands and they like being pampered.

Finally, we have the beauty explorer who just loves trying new things. They’re a little more adventurous and not afraid to play around with their beauty routine. They are not brand loyal and love being surprised by cool new products

4. People tend to have worries of skin sensitivity and/or reactions when trying new products; how have you instilled a sense of ease and trust in your new clients?  

That is definitely a reality that we all face and I think that’s where the samples come in. The customer hasn’t forked out a huge amount only to realize their skin absolutely hates it (we’ve all been there with that AED300+ face cream that the lady in the store convinced us to buy). The sample sizes are big enough to see if the product causes customers any reactions and we also don’t push super-active products onto our customer unless they really request it (think retinols or high strength acids). We are looking to bring on board some dermatologists or aestheticians further down the line to really build on that credibility, drive expertise, promote knowledge sharing and create a community.

5. What kinds of beauty products are shoppers looking for during / post COVID-19? How does YB cater to these new tastes and needs? 

We’ve done lots of little experiments during COVID19 and have noticed a significant increase in new customers to our business. I think people want to feel like they can pamper themselves still (but not break the bank!). We have been focusing on democratically priced beauty and the categories that have been absolutely soaring are skincare, body care and haircare – my hypothesis is that since people are home a lot more they’re able to do those treatments they’ve thought about but never got around to doing so it gives us great joy that we can facilitate that for them. We also informally introduced a little bit of wellness and home which people were really fond of – things like smudge bundles, room sprays and candles. This was more of a surprise and delight element in their box as it’s not a formal category we offer (yet) but it went down a treat and the feedback from the customers was super positive.

6. Do you consider YB to operate via a customer-centric/customer-focused approach? How so?

Everything we do is for our customers and this is something we always circle back to whenever making a key decision. We listen to them when the rest of the beauty world consistently seems to push their own agenda with a capture all approach. We strip all of that back by assigning multiple data points to each product in our portfolio. We then match the customer responses to these so it takes away personal bias or preference that our stylists might have (which would detract from the customer experience). We allow the customer a week to discover the samples and products in their own safe space at home and we provide a mini manual and a handwritten note. The manual details how to use the product, in what order, calls out some of the key ingredients and why they are great, some tips and tricks as well as why we love that particular product.

I’m also really big on handwritten notes so we make sure that we pop one of those in there too along with a little rose quartz or amethyst (depending on what vibe they are needing at that particular time). We speak to our customers like we would want to be spoken to by our friends and they can message us on our WhatsApp hotline with any questions or concerns they might have so it’s quite intimate. It’s all lighthearted, fun and experimental – but isn’t that what beauty is all about anyway!?

You know that feeling when you walk into a large beauty store and the brand ambassadors attack you with fragrance bottles? That to me is one of the worst possible retail experiences you can give someone, and I wanted to create the total opposite environment. As a customer, ask me what fragrance I currently wear, my favourite notes or what my favourite smell from my childhood is. Connect with me first and then make a recommendation – not some capture all approach because margins and bonuses are to be made quickly. That will never drive loyalty, retention or a story to be shared with their inner circles. We are in the business of becoming our customer’s beauty personal assistant and trusted beauty BFF. Listening to the customer means the world to them and it also helps us become a lot more efficient and targeted in our approach so we can serve them even better – it’s a constant learning loop.

7. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to provide personalized services to their clients but in a disruptive, new way?

Listen to what your customers are saying to you – whether positive or negative. Don’t dismiss them. Be prepared to be met with many, many challenges. Surround yourself with energetic people with a high EQ; EQ can never be overlooked in teams. Customer service and operations is king and if you’re really wanting to personalize you need to figure out the best way to scale this component. Constantly put your customer hat on and always drive back to the question of – what would I want, expect, feel, do in this situation? Be brave.

8. What is in YB’s future? 

There’s a lot coming up on our horizon actually! Fundamentally we want to grow and fast. We are only present in the UAE but have big plans. We want to shake up not only the way customers experience beauty but the way that retailers, customers, distributors and brands all interact with each other too. We have some very big news in the coming month so watch this space!

"We speak to our customers like we would want to be spoken to by our friends."