If you’re a beauty brand and not thinking about the consumer first, you’re doing it all wrong. That’s according to Joël Palix, chief executive officer of Feelunique, a swiftly growing U.K-based e-tailer with dedicated web sites in the U.K., France, Germany, China and the U.S. “Drop the barriers. I deal with 500 companies and we still have a long way to go before they are thinking of the consumer first. Some brands still view e-commerce as the secondary channel when it should be the primary channel if you are seeking a specific audience.”
Added Palix, an industry veteran of prestige beauty, “For more than 10 years, the Feelunique team has been mastering the art of learning brand curation online. We keep learning, the technology is getting so fast that every year we have something new we have to create.”
Those lessons are paying off with sales growing 75 percent a year, totaling $120 million in online sales per year. Feelunique serves 2.5 million customers and has 1.5 million followers on social. The company supplies an average of 15,000 items a day and up to 100,000 during peak seasons, prompting Feelunique to open new distribution centers including plans for Hong Kong by the end of the year. “Under one single roof, we put together 500 brands in makeup, fragrances, skin care and hair care with a diverse positioning from entry point to very luxury niche brands. The consumer can put in one basket a large variety of products.” The client base is highly engaged and trusts peer-to-peer recommendations. “We have customers all over the world. Those who have decided online is their main for shopping beauty channel are found anywhere,” he said ticking off London to Nigeria.
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Using examples from Feelunique’s portfolio, Palix illustrated how a fine-tuned, storytelling approach can boost fledgling lines, while giving new life to legendary logos in a cost-effective manner. “We are very good at connecting premium brands with digitally savvy consumers,” he said.
For example, to adhere to strict guidelines associated with Chanel, Feelunique created a dedicated digital pop-up called Unique Boutique [so the line was not presented with other brands] for the luxury logo. “We are one of the few pure players that has been allowed to distribute this beautiful brand,” he said. Chanel had already been growing more than 50 percent at Feelunique, and sales spiked 142 percent during the week the program went live during the holiday season last December. Chanel was the number two in the U.K. across all brands and number one in fragrances with a 17 percent market share. The pop-up helped attract aspirational Millennials “who love legacy brands,” Palix said.
For the launch of the full makeup assortment of Anastasia Beverly Hills in the U.K., Feelunique filmed tutorials and videos at the Los Angeles headquarters to capture the company’s vibe. That helped the brand become number two in makeup in the U.K. the month it launched and generate the most social engagement on Feelunique’s platforms in the four years Palix has been onboard. That was accomplished, he noted, without any physical store support in the U.K.
To help build sales for L’Oréal’s organic range called Sanoflore, Feelunique tapped into a sampling program called Pick and Mix. “Green brands have a strong appeal to online, digital shoppers but they key is to combine content with sampling to make it work.”
Feelunique put its network of 2,000 influencers to work to create a buzz with Charlotte Tilbury wanted to go global. That especially resonated in China which now produces about 30 percent of Feelunique’s Charlotte Tilbury brand.
The message from that success, said Palix is “don’t wait to take your brand worldwide. Cross border is easy these days with influencers.” Palix also shared stories of relaunching Philosophy to give it a second life in the U.K., as well as the debut of a lip product form By Terry. The takeaway is that when you have a product aimed at a younger customer and a limited budget, it pays to launch online, according to Palix. “When you need to tell a new story, go digital first.”