Feelunique, a European online beauty retailer, has doubled its quarterly web sales after it launched a Chinese language ecommerce site, yet another indication that strong demand from China’s burgeoning middle class is creating a tremendous growth opportunity for global brands.
The company, which sells about 500 top beauty brands like Chanel and Dior, had some Chinese consumers before offering a Chinese portal, but lacked a viable route to break into the country’s booming online market.
“We did not have a deep knowledge of how best to present our site to Chinese consumers, what brands to promote and what marketing channels to use”, said Jim Buckle, Feelunique’s COO.
When Feelunique tried to sell to China via its English site, Chinese consumers were not satisfied with their shopping experience, including the lack of native language customer service. Even after Feelunique hired Chinese-speaking staff, its service representatives didn’t have deep knowledge about the shopping habits of Chinese beauty shoppers.
Merchandising and customer education were other barriers for Feelunique. Chinese cross-border online shoppers are capricious when it comes to following fads. They lack information about overseas brands, so only purchase the most popular items. This poses challenges for overseas retailers as they can easily sell hot items but have trouble moving more niche products.
Last year Feelunique was introduced to Azoya, a Chinese cross-border ecommerce service provider, through the Jersey Economic Development Department in its native UK.
“We were impressed by Azoya’s understanding of the challenges for an international ecommerce business selling cross-border into China and by their willingness to invest in building a business in partnership with us,” Buckle said.
In October 2015, Azoya helped Feelunique launch its Chinese ecommerce site. Since then, Azoya has handled its ecommerce operations, including marketing, shipping and customer service.
Azoya’s strategy of working with online celebrities in its marketing paid off when Feelunique promote niche lotion brand Bioeffect in China. After a Chinese influencer introduced the brand to its followers on social media, Feelunique sold out of its Bioeffect inventory, generating about $100,000 in two days.
Azoya also help Feelunique sell products in China at the same price as other markets. Traditionally, overseas beauty brands are sold in China through layers of chartered agents each taking a cut, resulting in the price being doubled. There are also endless government certification and registration requirements. By contrast, the prices Feelunique offers to Chinese customers are the same as on its UK site. The prices on Chinese site are calculated according to the real-time currency rate.
“Working with Azoya we are able to have a Chinese language version of our site which meets the expectations of the Chinese consumer, supported by relevant local marketing,” Buckle said. “Importantly, we have a partner that understands the local market and the local customer in a way that we are unable to do from the UK.”
As demand is so robust, sales on Feelunique’s Chinese site could reach $10 million in the first year.
To reassure Chinese shoppers that they are buying directly from a British retailer, Feelunique’s original site provides an entrance to its Chinese site, and the parcels are shipped directly from the UK.