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February 5, 2018

Beautytap Behind the Scenes: How We Find the Next Big Thing in K-Beauty

Korean beauty companies churn out thousands of products every year. So how does a product go from store shelves in Seoul’s road shops to becoming the next big thing in K-beauty worldwide? Director of Marketing Jude Chao tells the tale of the Banila Co V-V Vitalizing line’s journey to Beautytap’s shelves.



Would you be surprised if we told you that Korean beauty products famous outside of Korea don’t always earn their fame by being the best of the best? If you’ve read the recent K-beauty articles on Nylon or The New York Times, probably not very surprised at all.


Marketability and profit motives drive retail curation much more than notions of formulation quality. And while we at Beautytap are beauty lovers first and foremost, we’re not immune to the demands of business either. We are, however, committed to being transparent with our readers and customers, so here’s the story of how we sourced some of our most exciting recent finds to hopefully become the next big thing in K-beauty.


The discovery


Because it was 2017, this story began on Instagram. Banila Co’s Instagram account, to be precise. In fall of 2017, Banila Co underwent a massive brand renewal, unveiling a crisp new aesthetic and new tagline: “Skincare for makeup”.  A couple of months and many Taeyeon photos later, the brand’s new V-V Vitalizing products caught my eye. The concept sounded appealing and the brand is popular, so to me, the line showed promise.



A couple of weeks later, my box came, containing the V-V Vitalizing Essence and V-V Vitalizing Intensive Cream in their bold red and pink-striped boxes.


I started my experiments using the essence and cream as my morning post-cleanse, pre-sunscreen skincare. Not long after that, the V-V Vitalizing Toner showed up at our L.A. office; I grabbed that as well and threw it into the mix.


At this stage, I wasn’t testing the products specifically to review myself but rather to see if I believed they belong on Beautytap. They didn’t necessarily have to work out perfectly for my particular skin type and needs. They did have to have the potential to work out well for others. After several years of reviewing products on my own blog and listening to readers’ experiences with those products, I think I’ve developed a decent sense of the difference between products that I like because they suit my own idiosyncrasies and products with genuine mass appeal.



I determined I’d look for their ability to live up to their stated purpose while providing an enjoyable skincare experience. If I found they didn’t work well with makeup as claimed or if I couldn’t picture a fair number of people enjoying them (for example, due to objectionable smells or textures — if I had my way, we wouldn’t carry Heimish All Clean Balm), then I wouldn’t bother fighting for them to go up on our site.


The first step in the V-V Vitalizing line’s journey from Instagram to Beautytap began with me putting in a request to our Korea team for some of the products from the line. Once or twice a month, I and our L.A.-based editorial staff send over a list of items we’d like to test out. Mostly those items are things we already carry, but sometimes we ask for products we don’t. How else will we know if they’re worth selling?



They’re up on the site now, so you can guess how the initial testing went. You can find my more detailed reviews and ingredients discussion soon, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll keep my conclusions short. For me, the V-V Vitalizing Toner, Essence, and Intensive Cream absolutely do live up to their claims and provide a nice experience while doing so. I decided to push for their addition to Beautytap’s selection.


The business


At this point of the process, however, they weren’t a sure thing. To explain why, I need to step back and talk a little about the business side of a site like Beautytap.


Over the last several months, we’ve been listening carefully to the AB community’s opinions on our site (in its prior incarnation as W2Beauty), and we’ve seen the same two issues crop up multiple times. People dislike our higher-than-ideal prices and slower-than-ideal order processing times. Much internal wrangling later, we have made substantial improvements to our operations that will enable us to lower prices (check out our Innisfree prices, for example, now some of the lowest anywhere) and speed up order processing and shipping, changes you should begin seeing very soon, if not already.


These changes, however, necessitate a much more selective approach to the products we’ll be carrying on the site. In order to pass muster on the new Beautytap, products must not only be ones we believe people will love but also products that we can source quickly, reliably, and inexpensively, so we can offer them at competitive prices and with prompt shipping. I had no guarantee at this point that we’d be able to do so with the V-V Vitalizing products.


Fingers crossed, I fired off my initial email requesting that we see if we could add the line to our site. I got some bad news back: probably not, due to the requirements I discussed above.


Still, I really believed in the products, so I pestered the Korea office some more.


next big thing in k-beauty


Then I heard back again, this time with good news. You see, as part of our operational changes, we’ve added some well connected new leadership to the Korea side of the business. They pulled through for me. (Possibly to stop my nagging.) Our first batch of products ran into an unexpected snag when bad weather ruined the entire shipment, but that got fixed quickly thanks to our new processes. And now we’ve laid in a good stock of all three products, ready to ship, at great retail prices. So you can try them for yourselves and see why I’ve been using them every morning.


It’s not every day that we can source exactly the products we love and believe in, but sometimes we can. Those are very good days indeed.


I’ll have my in-depth review of the Banila Co V-V Vitalizing Toner, Essence, and Intensive Cream online soon. And keep an eye on this space — I’ll do my best to find even more products that we can bring to you with full confidence and great prices, and I’ll tell you all about them when I do.


Are you excited about the Banila Co V-V line? And what other behind-the-scenes insight are you interested in learning from us? Let us know and we just may grant your wish!



Jude writes as Fiddy Snails at the K-beauty and skincare blog Fifty Shades of Snail and can be found on Instagram @fiddysnails. Named the ELLE Malaysia Beauty Blogger of the Month for June/July 2017 and one of ELLE Magazine‘s 10 Cool Beauty Bloggers to Watch in 2018, Jude loves ginseng, snail, honey, propolis, and tuna fish kimbap, though she generally doesn’t put the kimbap on her face.