The latest player to watch in the K-Beauty scene, which just soft launched their new site, is W2Beauty. W2Beauty is not new; it was founded by Alice Bang in 2012 as a way to make Korean beauty products more accessible to the world. The original concept was to replicate some of the main factors that make shopping for K-Beauty in Korea so great - affordable prices, great service, and quality products.
Since then, W2Beauty has since been acquired in 2016 by serial entrepreneur James Sun, who founded a digital loyalty platform called Pirq which he sold to iPayment. He also was a contestant and finalist on The Apprentice in 2007. James also was behind the site dramabeans.com, a blog and online community that focuses on re-capping Korean dramas. His site has a large audience - monthly pageviews is estimated at around 1.5MM unique pageviews - the audience is also predominantly female.
With such a strong female digital community built around Korean dramas and the hallyu (Korean cultural wave), it's only natural to segue way into Korean beauty products, the latest beauty zeitgeist.
James bought W2beauty to try to replicate the kind of tight community centered around content with the added component of commerce through the Shop section. They've recruited K-Beauty power bloggers like Jude Chao of Fifty Shades of Snail and Coco Park of The Beauty Wolf to be part of their editorial team.
While dramabeans.com monetizes through advertising, W2beauty seems to want to capitalize on a captive audience by enticing them to purchase. Perhaps they will dip their toe into advertising revenue as well in the future? W2beauty centralizes their supply chain by sourcing and fulfilling from Korea, similar to Althea. However, with free shipping over $60 and a wait time of at least 7 days (probably more like 14-18 days via Korea Post), will consumers wait that long when they can get it from Amazon in 2 days via Prime?
Looking at their site, their brands are a mix between popular Roadshop brands like Skinfood, Leaders, and It's Skin and more niche brands like 23 Years Old, AprilSkin, Jung Saem Mool. They may face similar problems as Althea in regards to disputes over distribution rights in the US, though a quick analysis looks like there isn't that much product overlap.
It'll be interesting to see if James can replicate the success of dramabeans.com with his vision for W2Beauty. The community component, which will be forthcoming, will be a great addition to K-Beauty. Besides the Asian beauty thread r/asianbeauty on Reddit, there is certainly a lack of an accessible community centered around Asian beauty and Korean beauty. This type of community is what I thought Memebox would be building (and may still be building?). With their revamp and new direction, W2Beauty will be one to keep an eye on.