Rihanna’s launch of her own cosmetics line with Sephora produced blockbuster sales. But it also created e-commerce openings for other cosmetics brands.

Rochelle Bailis, director of content, Hitwise

Rochelle Bailis, director of content, Hitwise

After years of anticipation, Rihanna launched her Fenty Beauty line on Sept. 8, 2017, in partnership with Sephora, No. 136 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000 ranking of North America’s leading online retailers. Demand for Fenty products shot through the roof, and many of her most popular products sold out in days.

Fenty searches

Let’s explore the ripple effects of this influential launch, and how other cosmetics brands can ride the wave rather than drowning beneath it. How can marketers take advantage of Fenty’s success?

Sephora is a massive website, but the influx of Fenty-seekers still managed to affect the site’s overall demographics. Compared to August (pre-Fenty launch), audience cross-over between Rihanna fans and Sephora site visitors increased by 199% in September. Let’s explore how else their audience shifted.

1) Younger Audience: During the Fenty launch, a higher percentage of younger consumers visited Sephora compared to the month before, whereas segments over the age of 45 decreased.

Sephora Audience

2) More Diverse: Throughout Fenty’s conception and launch, Rihanna made a point of emphasizing that “Fenty Beauty is for everyone, all skin tones and races” (as quoted in Times of London). Her foundation line offers 40 different shades, and, as we’ll see further down, has become Fenty’s star product. The decision to place inclusion at the core of Fenty’s product development and advertising helped drive a more diverse customer base, not only to her products, but to the site where her products are sold.

more African-Americans go to Sephora

As you’d expect, 6 of the 10 most-visited product pages on Sephora during September were Fenty products, with the LongWear Foundation page pulling a huge concentration of engagement (offering 40 different shade options on a single page certainly didn’t hurt).

Fenty impact on Sephora.com

How can other beauty brands compete with this market domination? Rihanna’s beauty line has grabbed a lot of consumer attention, but it also spawned renewed interest in several cosmetic products, creating opportunities for other brands to step in.

Growth Opportunity Example 1: Concealer search clicks increased 28% since launch


The NARS concealer page dropped on Sephora from 9th place to 18th post-Fenty launch. However, the products actually pulled slightly higher visit share (.43%) in September. Interest in foundation and skin products has increased since Fenty’s launch, and NARS should capitalize on that by promoting their concealer, as well as their staple Sheer Glow Foundation.

Growth Opportunity Example 2: Highlighter search clicks increased 27% since launch

The Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter has been the second-most engaged Fenty product on Sephora, and amplified interest in highlighters overall. During the same month, Tarte released two all-in-one collector’s sets which include blush, highlighters and eyeshadow. Considering the growing popularity of highlighters, Tarte might tweak search campaign keywords to include “highlighter” rather than emphasizing other elements of these makeup sets. It would be especially savvy of Tarte to promote these collections as gift sets leading into the holidays.

The lesson? Successful market entrants like Fenty don’t necessarily spell disaster for other brands. Not every cosmetics company has a spokesperson like Rihanna, but they can take advantage of the market shifts she creates. Keep an eye on rising search terms in the wake of a major launch, and re-evaluate which products to promote based on the rising tides of consumer interest.


Source: Search and clickstream data pulled using Hitwise Intelligence over 4 weeks ending 9/30/17. Audience data pulled using Hitwise AudienceView. Demographics Before Fenty Launch (month of August) measured 07/30/2017 – 08/26/2017 and During Fenty Launch (month of September) measured 09/03/2017 – 09/30/2017. Sephora.com product page visits measured using a Hitwise Custom Analysis. Fast-growing search clicks measured 4 weeks ending 10/7/2017.