The beauty of insight

Kate Morris has found increasing online success with cosmetics through staying aware of what women want. 

Who:     Kate Morris

What:    Adore Beauty

Where: Melbourne, Vic

When:   2000


Kate Morris was one of the first entrepreneurs in Australia to successfully take a traditional bricks-and-mortar beauty business digital.

At 21 years old, after working at a beauty counter in Melbourne, she realised that many women found the traditional beauty retail experience intimidating and unpleasant. This inspired her to create an online beauty boutique offering a more empowering shopping experience.

With just $12,000, Morris started Adore Beauty out of her garage. The business has grown to become one of Australia’s most popular shopping destinations for beauty products and cosmetics. Her sweet 16 years in business have included many milestone achievements, but it is the past two years that have been particularly significant. Woolworths became an investor, taking a 25 per cent stake in the business in 2015; and in late 2014, Adore Beauty signed an agency agreement with the Estee Lauder Group, making it the first and only pure-play online retailer in Australia to sell luxury cosmetics, including Bobbi Brown, Clinique and Estee Lauder.

Flying the flag for Australian beauty, Morris is taking the business global. She has just launched into China, and in partnership with Borderfree is expanding into 200 countries, involving 64 currencies.

Morris says the key to Adore Beauty’s success has been to build a business based on making the needs of its customers paramount in everything it does.

“Our customers’ needs are constantly changing, and we have made it our business to listen and find the solutions to their beauty problems. We have created the tools to supplement what they get to touch and feel in a physical store, with a seamless online shopping experience.”

“This includes offering customers complete transparency. We build trust by enabling customers to read and write reviews of all our products and services. We also have a team of brand-agnostic customer service advisers who can respond to their questions within seconds, which enhances their user experience.”

Innovation award

Morris has won the Victorian Telstra Business Women’s Award for Innovation for creating the Findation software tool.

“I developed it to solve a problem customers were having. They would know the colour of their foundation for one brand, for example Lancome, but didn’t know what the comparable colour would be for another brand such as Estee Lauder.

“A world first, the software enables buyers to enter their preferred shade and Findation tells them the matching colour from other brands. Winning the award was a great acknowledgment of how passionate we are about creating technology to solve problems and offer an exceptional service,” says Morris.

Her next project was launching Adore’s new Essentials portfolio, enabling customers to shop for their favourite luxury brands alongside affordable high-street labels such as Avene Eau Thermale, La Roche-Po-say, Nude by Nature, ModelCo and Real Techniques.

“When I started the business, customers had a strong sense of brand loyalty. Women tended to shop for only one brand or an alternative with a similar price point, but shopping habits have changed. Women now want to be able to cross shop, so for example buy an expensive foundation with an affordable high-street mascara.

“This has previously not been made possible by beauty brands and retailers. By continuing to respond to our customer needs with new technology and services, Adore has seen a 55 per cent year-on-year sales uplift in the past six months alone.”

Morris is now aiming to make Adore Beauty the leading online retailer for beauty and cosmetics globally.

“We plan to keep momentum in Australia with some exciting new partnerships and software feature announcements,” she says. “After scaling the business, Adore Beauty is on track to becoming a global leader. Our success to date has been concentrating on our customers and not the competition.”

Tim Ladhams