Digital Geostrategy Digital Strategy

E-commerce internationalization: the cosmetics industry example

Written by Lola Thomas

In 2014, sales on the Internet in France reached €57.5 billion, a one-year increase of 11%, according to the Federation du e-commerce et de la vente à distance (Fevad). These online purchases are more and more via smartphones or tablets. Indeed, 4.6 million of French people have already bought using their mobile and m-commerce (sales using mobile and tablet) amounted to 2.6 billion € in 2013, an increase of 160% compared to 2012 and 5% of global internet market.

Tourism/travel products and services appeal to most internet users. Nevertheless, the beauty sector is quite attractive too: 27% of surfers buy beauty or health products online. However, since 2013, we have noticed that e-sales growth is increasing more slowly and brands need to find new growth drivers. Internationalization is an example. That is why we will try to explain how cosmetics companies use the internationalization to increase their sales and extend their reputation internationally thanks to the digital.


The internationalization of cosmetics brands’ digital activity is no longer an option. However, it is important to note that duplicating our e-commerce website in different language is not enough to attract foreign surfers. Brands have to consider cultural differences and the local consumption habits. They have to adapt their website in terms:

  • of ergonomics: same user experience for all websites of the brand (FR, UK, US websites for example)
  • of product offer and merchandising: same products catalogue
  • of communication and promotions: standardization of digital campaigns
  • of the translation of content: translation has to be made by natives
  • website domains strategy
  • good SEO practices

Globally, the luxury industry implements an identical user experience and communication to protect a strong identity. However, the range of products can be different from one country to another. It is also important to consider the local consumption habits, the cultural differences of each country and so to think local.


Brands have to adapt as much as possible their marketing strategies to local practices (customer service, delivery and payment options) which change from one country to another. This way, they will push towards a market, seduce local surfers and at the end they will increase international e-sales.

Therefore, brands try to adapt their customer service to local specificities: for example, besides phone and e-mail, brands can also use Twitter to reach the customer service in particular in the USA and in the UK.

Moreover, websites have to know very well payment habits of each country to ease the buying user experience. He will feel safe to buy on a national website.

Thus, the best way to push towards a new market is to have a website adapted to local practices and based on a market with a high growth potential. However, that is not enough because of the strong competition between cosmetics companies. They have to differentiate and set up a mobile strategy in order to enjoy the opportunities that m-commerce represents in the world.


The first step is to develop a “responsive” website in order to ease purchases on mobile. That means that the website is adapted to different devices (computers, TV, smartphone, tablet) and every screen sizes.

It is really interesting to develop a responsive website in order to enrich user experience but it is not enough. Companies have to think “mobile first”: first, they have to develop their website on a mobile basis and then they have to adapt it on bigger screens (tablet, computers, and laptop).

Finally, brands can develop an app which can increase the loyalty and ease the buying journey. Indeed, an app is specially designed for mobile.

However, brands have to face a new way of consumption: all consumption modes are now interconnected. Consumers don’t buy only in shops or only online, they prefer to mix experiences in order to enjoy the best opportunities of both.

That is why brands can’t think about their digital strategy and offline strategy apart, they have now to think about synergies between these two channels thanks to an omnichannel strategy.


High-street shops still represent 90% of purchases (Observatoire du Research Online, Purchase Offline) and transform 20 times more than digital commerce (Xerfi, 2013). Therefore, from a linear relationship with the customer, brands have now a relationship with different dimensions, horizontal and pyramidal: omnichannel.

The omnichannel is a synergy between digital and physical sales strengths. This gives birth to connected shops. They offer an internet connection inside the shop in order to set up a fluid purchase journey and to be adapted to consumers who already use cross-channels tools. That is the “web to store” or “store to web” or outlet digitalization.

We can take a recent example: Sephora Flash, a new Sephora real connected shop. The number of items is reduced because of the size of the shop but customers can check all the catalogue via digital. They can also order unavailable items and receive them in store or at home. This kind of stores change the consumption habits in store: people come not only to buy but also to receive advice from a sales consultant and test products.

Finally, in order to increase traffic and sales and extend reputation in France and internationally International, traditional brands in the cosmetics sector have to define a true digital strategy. Brands have to face major difficulties to set up a consistent digital strategy between the holding and the local teams. Indeed, companies have to manage between international strategy and local strategy which enable to adapt the supply with the demand.

Cosmetics brands also have to take into account the important role of mobile in the buying behavior. Worldwide surfers are more and more on mobile to enquire, navigate and buy on internet web site.

About the author


Lola Thomas