U.K.-based beauty e-commerce site Feelunique is continuing its play for global domination via partnerships with regional search engines, marketplaces and publishing conglomerates.
In February, the retailer will partner with Russia search giant Yandex to bring its beauty brands to the country. Additionally, Feelunique will formally launch a partnership with China’s luxury-goods retailer Secoo, as well as link with Indian e-commerce site Myntra.com and Sweden’s media company Custos Group. It’s all in an effort to bring Feelunique’s slew of brands to new markets.
Of the Yandex relationship, Feelunique CEO Joël Palix said the feature will be similar to Google’s shopping section.
“Our collaboration will be on a dedicated cross-border platform to start with, targeting a more premium consumer,” said Palix. “We know there is an appetite for indie brands not available in Russia and for premium brands not well-distributed across the region.”
Feelunique, which carries over 35,000 products from 500 beauty brands, including Chanel, Huda Beauty and Charlotte Tilbury, hit nearly $120 million in retail sales in 2018 and experienced 25 percent year-over-year growth. Over 50 percent of Feelunique’s sales happen outside of the U.K., said Palix. In 2018, the retailer’s Russian sales represented only 1 percent of the retailer’s total sales, but the retail value of the Russian beauty and personal-care market reached nearly $11 million in 2017 (compared to the U.K.’s $16 million), and it’s ranked 11th globally, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. For its part, Yandex had over 54 percent of search engine market share in Russia, compared to Google’s 42 percent, between December 2017 and 2018.
Feelunique has dedicated websites in France, Germany, China and the U.S. Palix has been focused on establishing the company as a leader in international beauty by working with local marketplaces in the last year. Since the start of 2018, Feelunique has partnered with China’s Little Red Book, Kaloa and JD.com (via borderless e-commerce group Azoya), and France’s La Redoute – the strategic partnership with La Redoute began in October 2018 with 2,000 products from brands like Jurlique and Korres, and is expected to grow to 4,000 items.
“In the last 12 months, we’ve diversified the way we do business because we want to tap their audiences. Secoo is the Chinese Net-a-Porter and La Redoute is a big French fashion and home site, but they’re not as well-known for beauty,” he said. While Feelunique would not detail the commission it pays to the aforementioned regional sites by country, Palix said it ranges from 5 to 20 percent depending on the services Feelunique provides, which range from content assets and strategy to product fulfillment via its distribution hubs.
The company has already made inroads through its partnerships with Kaola and Little Red Book, as it now makes up 15 percent of Feelunique’s total China sales. (The country accounted for 20 percent of Feelunique’s 2018 retail sales.) “We can’t give all our money to Google, and this is a way to arbitrate our marketing costs and scale our business and our brands’ businesses,” said Palix.
Feelunique hopes its Russia, India and Sweden-focused strategy will be appealing to its brands, as well. Rather than working with different retailers in various regions, like Sephora or Ulta in the U.S. or Mecca in Australia and New Zealand, Feelunique is hoping to become a one-stop shop by having a more widespread presence in a variety of markets.
“We streamline and accelerate brands’ international expansion directly because they don’t have the time or resources to devote to the region or specific platforms,” said Palix.
However, it is just not providing products on these sites that is smart for Feelunique; it is also its fueling brand expansions via influencers and content. An example of this was Huda Beauty’s worldwide launch with Feelunique in July 2018. In six months, the brand has consistently been among the top-20 brands carried by Feelunique in the U.K. and China, and Huda Beauty’s November 2018 New Nude eyeshadow palette became the No. 1 product on the retailer’s site after only six weeks.
“The palette became so successful because we created specific visuals and video content for the launch in China, but then Azoya took that content and adapted it for Kaola and Little Red Book’s target customers,” said Nigel Lawmon, Feelunique global commercial director. China regional sales for Huda Beauty reached 13 percent by year-end. Additionally, according to Feelunique chief marketing officer Jennifer Roebuck, user-generated content from key opinion leaders outside of Kattan, herself, drove engagement. The New Nude eyeshadow palette has had 700,000 total impressions on China’s WeChat and Weibo since November.
Palix expects similar opportunities in Russia, India and Sweden later this year. “We’ve proven the kind of dynamics Feelunique has in scaling companies in other regions,” he said. “As these regions’ beauty markets mature, we want to be there first.”