After almost 30 years, British skin-care brand Elemis is expanding internationally, and its U.S. launch strategy will serve as a roadmap for other countries.
The brand first entered the market through its e-commerce store, by adding U.S. payment options and shipping to Elemis.com in 2015. Since then, it has added new points of distribution: It started selling on QVC in 2016, and in 2017, it added an Amazon storefront. This month, it began selling online at Ulta.com and will expand nationwide to stores in August. To raise brand awareness, Elemis updated its social media strategy in the U.S., working with social media influencers and content creators to offer a fresher take on the brand through a combination of lifestyle shots, animations and sponsored influencer posts.
Since 2016, the brand has seen triple-digit growth year-over-year in traffic, sales and new customers to Elemis.com, at a 150 percent compound annual growth rate. Elemis declined to provide further details around the number of users or conversion rate. Currently, the brand is trending toward 80 percent multi-purchase and repurchase rate at on its website, which was redesigned in July 2017.
Targeting the U.S. is key for Elemis, which is using the market as a sandbox for future expansion strategies. The brand has moved its research and division team to New York City and grown its personnel there in order to localize strategy and make the brand feel as close to the consumer as possible. Spurring the expansion is money on the table: The facial skin-care market represented $17 billion in the U.S. in 2017, compared to $1.2 billion (£924 million) in Great Britain, according to Statista. And now that Elemis has entered the U.S. market and seen the early results, it’s gearing up to grow its retail operations and draw in more revenue channels in the region.
Outside partners have played a key role, not just in selling product but in collecting customer data. With its initial expansion into QVC, the brand was looking to gather feedback from customers and educate them, said Noella Gabriel, president and co-founder of Elemis.
“We are using it for reach and brand awareness,” she said. “You get the feedback about [products], and we are engaging; it doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative feedback, because we are learning. That’s how we grow a market,” she said.
On Amazon, the idea was not to introduce customers to Elemis but to provide a way for them to easily repurchase products. It also succeeded in shutting out unauthorized sellers on the platform and could control the look and feel of the brand. Elemis has only made a select few items available on the marketplace, but as customers were purchasing the brand’s products through Amazon, it felt it needed to have an official presence there, Gabriel said.
“You’ve got to go here because it’s the future. We have to make our product available, and this is how people shop now.”
To attract new customers in the U.S., Elemis has revamped its brand image alongside its distribution strategy, making it more fun and informative. Working with influencers like Brooke Morton (@theglowtrotter) and Caro Losada (@caro_losada), Elemis is introducing its products through the traditional promoted partnership. The brand is also working with content creators like photographers, illustrators and animators to diversify its content offering, making it less product-driven and more lifestyle-driven.
“That has been something different that we do,” said Kelly McDonnell, vp of digital for Elemis. “We leverage influencers to show how efficacious our products are, but we allow the freedom of choice in how they apply the product. Skin care should be experiential and fun, and you see that in our content. It sparks a conversation.”
Additionally, the brand has been focusing on short “bite-size” videos for its Instagram page over the past month, and the brand has also honed in on YouTube, through both its own short videos and influencer-created ones. With its social strategy, the brand is maintaining its direct-to-consumer ties: All the content on social media directs visitors to Elemis.com, and its mobile traffic currently accounts for 50-60 percent of its web traffic, which was specially optimized for mobile in its redesign to feature the checkout experience in one page. Overall, the brand has seen double-digit growth month-over-month and year-over-year across mobile and desktop.
For future markets, such as next year in Germany or Australia, the brand will follow a similar path as the U.S. Elemis will use QVC Germany as its first entry point there, having experienced how quickly it can get a large volume of product into people’s hands before it even launches a website. But for the next few years, the U.S. will continue to be a key part of its growth strategy.
“The U.S. is our main focus,” Gabriel said. “We want to get the U.S. right, and it will continue to be the leader in all the brands’ innovation and R&D [going forward].”