One of the hottest topics of 2015 was Kylie Jenner's lips, but 2016 was the year she capitalized on all that discussion with her own rapidly expanding cosmetics line. The first Lip Kit dropped on Cyber Monday 2015 at 12 p.m. EST. At 12:01 p.m. EST, everything was completely sold out. Within minutes, the site crashed entirely and still wasn't functioning properly hours later; the kits, which retailed for $29 a piece, were already listed on eBay for upwards of $200. It was a buzzy product launch (something the Kardashian/Jenner/Wests are experts at) to say the least, but Kylie stans who weren't able to purchase the item Jenner had been teasing on social media for months were not exactly pleased. Angry tweets and comments — as well as negative reports to the Better Business Bureau — would plague Jenner for months to come. So in January, Kylie Cosmetics relaunched in partnership with popular e-commerce platform Shopify, which still powers all of the 19-year-old's retail endeavors.
Shopify already had a connection to the family (it powered Dash's website) and Jenner switched over when her team realized demand would be too high for their existing online platform. As Shopify powers over 325,000 merchants, it's built enough back-end infrastructure and servers to prevent a crash like the aforementioned Lip Kit fiasco, explained Loren Padelford, VP & GM of Shopify Plus, over the phone last week. "We had to write special software that allows us to manage servers in a unique way," he said, using the analogy of standing in line at a physical store before you can check out. Essentially, shoppers must wait in a digital line before they can check out, and that prevents the site from crashing when millions of people flood it simultaneously once Jenner sends that all-important tweet. Of course, drops still do sell out in mere minutes, so fans need to act fast. A rep for Shopify sent the following examples:
- Nov. 9, 2016: Holiday collaboration with Khloé Kardashian sold out in six minutes.
- August 4, 2016: Kylie Birthday collection restock sold out in one minute.
- August 1, 2016: Kylie Birthday collection sold out in one minute.
- July 26, 2016: Kyshadow bronze palette sold out in one minute.
- July 20, 2016: Kristen & Maliboo lip kits sell out in 8 minutes.
- April 1, 2016: Kylie lip glosses sell out in 37 minutes.
But even Shopify's robust software can be foiled: An increasingly popular strategy among resellers (people who routinely buy hot-ticket items in large quantities only to sell them at a higher markup) is to buy bots that can jump ahead in the "line" and add multiple items to their carts in seconds. These are more common with sneaker drops (many of which Shopify powers — they work with Kith, for instance) than Lip Kits, and according to Padelford, Shopify is trying to build technology to identify and stop them, though it's becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish them from legitimate customers.
However, bots won't be an issue with the next Kylie Cosmetics launch: For the first time, Shopify is taking Jenner's product offline with a pop-up at Westfield Topanga — just a hop, skip and a jump from Calabasas! — opening Friday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. The shop will stock everything from Jenner's best-selling Lip Kits to exclusive holiday gift sets to brand new Kylie Jenner merch — much of which she's been teasing out on social media. The following morning, said merch will also be available online via the newly formed kyliejennershop.com.
The turnout of Southern California-area teens and millennials is likely to be massive on Friday. A rep for Shopify said the company anticipates what may very well be the "biggest pop-up ever," in fact — and they've been busy preparing for it, spending the past few weeks doing "lots of work in design, fabrication, constructing the pop-up, getting product there, getting people trained, installing POS hardware and swipe tools," said Padelford. The pop-up is set to be open for two weeks. We're told there will be "a ton of inventory" to support that length of time, but there's always a chance items could sell out before they close up shop. He also emphasized that Shopify wasn't doing all of the work: The design and inspiration is all Jenner's, he said, adding that Jenner herself, at the time we spoke, had been at the store "almost every day."
He says to expect lots of "personal touches" from the 19-year-old mogul throughout the store. "She's very heavily involved; she's been in the store deciding what she wants it to look like," he said. "She cares a lot about the experience of the customers and wants them to feel like they're a part of her world."
While it's commonplace for companies to say things like that about celebrity collaborators, we get the sense that Jenner is truly invested in her eponymous line and wants her fans, her 80.6 million Instagram followers and customers to be happy. On "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," we saw her get genuinely excited and touched when her drop (on Shopify) broke Google Analytics but did not crash her site — something she'd felt guilty about after her first release. She frequently takes to social media to apologize when people aren't able to get the products they want, too. "She's an entrepreneur," said Padelford.
Shopify also powers the e-commerce for Khloé Kardashian's denim line Good American, which famously became the biggest denim launch in history, bringing in a whopping $1 million in sales on the day it was released. As the company chases its goal of powering the e-commerce sites of the world's biggest influencers, and now, bringing those online experiences offline through pop-ups, Shopify has definitely aligned itself with the right family.
The Kylie Cosmetics pop-up opens Friday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m PST at Westfield Topanga (6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd.) in Canoga Park, CA.
The Kylie Shop goes live online at kyliejennershop.com Saturday, Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. PST. (Subscribers to Jenner's app get access 15 minutes early.)