December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Cosmetics on the edge

Tarte, Cargo, Lucky Chick and Heavy Duty-they’re not your mother’s cosmetics brands. But they’re featured fare at, where the mix of trendy brands and fashion-forward content are miles from the soft-focused but often stuffy marketing approach of the offline stalwarts. To make sure it stays ahead of the curve, the luxury cosmetics site has built the largest community of make-up enthusiasts on the web,, which it owns but which operates independently. Alley members review new products, swapping information and praising or bashing them with no holds barred-feedback uses to find emerging brands and test the waters before adding them to its line-up.

But in its quest to stay hip, hasn’t forgotten why it’s there: to sell product. It makes shopping a breeze with a crisp, visually appealing and easy-to-navigate offering that serves up high-quality product images larger than the usual thumbnail so shoppers see clearly what they’re buying-even the type size is slightly bigger than usual so product descriptions and recommendations pop off the page.

“What I like best about the site is how easy it is to use,” says Heather Dougherty, digital commerce analyst with Jupiter Media Metrix. “For example, there’s a running shopping bag at the side so you can see what you’ve placed there as you go.” Dougherty adds that clearly has benefited by standardizing this and other winning features with those at Amazon-backed, which acquired the beauty site in January. And unlike other sites in the prestige cosmetics category, concentrates strictly on beauty products, resisting the temptation to add jewelry, apparel or other merchandise that could appeal to its largely female audience, but could muddy the site’s focus. With the latest cosmetics on the market and navigation features that make selection and shopping a snap, weighs in as more than just a pretty face.

Bellvue, Wash.

Monthly visitors: 1.5 million

Sales: N/A

Went live: March 1999

Design by: In-house

OS: MS NT/ Oracle 8i

E-C Software: In-house

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