While the United States is rife with beauty enthusiasts eager to achieve the quintessential “French girl” look, French beauty brands are struggling to keep up with a rising global demand that calls for diverse digital marketing strategies at home versus abroad.
Despite the incessant buzz surrounding French beauty products and trends, sales in France’s domestic market have started to drop at a rate of 1 percent year-over-year, according to a report by Gartner L2. In an effort to counter the dip and prevent alienating its base, French brands are experimenting with digital efforts to better engage with local e-commerce shoppers. For major brands like Clarins and Lancome, this involves a push toward regional marketing tactics that make better use of social media and data to entice French consumers, in order to more effectively sell products to consumers both in France and beyond.
To prevent what Gartner L2 described as a mounting “identity crisis” spurred by growing international e-commerce sales and waning domestic sales, French beauty brands are turning to platforms like Instagram to bridge the gap. One popular tactic has involved prioritizing local pages tailored specifically to French shoppers and their tastes, used by Benefit and NYX, subsidiaries of French conglomerates LVHM and L’Oréal, respectively. The strategy takes a cue from brands that have successfully used Instagram to cater to demographic differences in the past, such as Nike launching separate accounts for men and women and H&M launching a menswear-specific account.
As a result, Gartner L2 found that Benefit and NYX are among the top-mentioned brands by French beauty influencers on YouTube and Instagram — key drivers of sales within the industry. Looking collectively at the local Instagram accounts of all French beauty brands, Gartner L2 saw followers grow by a total of 94 percent from 2017 to 2018, compared to 88 percent among local accounts in the U.S.
“Account localization gives creative teams more control over content decisions and the opportunity to strengthen brand awareness in specific regions,” the report stated. “Many brands like Rimmel London and Clinique use local accounts to post about events and drive foot traffic to stores. Local accounts will almost always have smaller community sizes and higher engagement rates than their global counterparts.”
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A recent post from Benefit’s France-specific Instagram account
In an attempt to better inform localization tactics, as well as personalization efforts on e-commerce sites, French beauty brands are also amping up the pursuit of customer data. Many are finding ways to gather intel on shoppers that circumvent strict GDPR policies around demographic information gathering and targeting. According to the Gartner L2 report, French beauty websites that allow the ability to save user characteristics for return visits increased from 17 percent in 2017 to 32 percent in 2018, allowing them to procure details about shoppers and use this data to inform marketing strategies across platforms.
Still, French brands are failing to use social media tools to their advantage to capture real-time insights in their local market. With the advent of recent functions like polling on Instagram Stories, brands are not only using posts to drive conversions, but also to glean insight about products. Though Stories is widely used by U.S. fashion and beauty brands, French companies have been slow to adopt: According to Gartner L2, 64 percent of the French beauty brands examined were active on Instagram Stories in January and February 2018, compared to 88 percent of U.S. brands.
“Creating a two-way dialogue, where followers can vote on things like which style, outfit, shoe or color they prefer, will be an incredibly powerful way for fashion brands to engage with and grow their communities,” Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, said in October.