When it comes to visibility on Google, e-tailers historically dominate brands. However, brands are reversing this trend in France by defending their brand terms. Between January 2016 and January 2017, brand ownership of paid results for branded search terms on Google.fr nearly doubled, surging from 23% to 44%.
This improvement was not mirrored in the UK, where the figure remained at 23% in January. So what explains beauty brands’ dramatic comeback in the French search landscape?
Here are four theories:
French shoppers prefer brand sites. 57% of French women have purchased items directly from a brand site, while just 50% have ordered from a specialty beauty retailer. While high performance fulfillment is an important component of the value proposition of Amazon and e-tailers, French beauty shoppers have lower expectations than those in other markets: 31% expect 1-2 day shipping vs. 47% in the UK, and 34% expect free delivery in France vs. 49% in the UK. This shopper preference for brand sites offers a solid ground for brands to promote their direct-to-consumer online channels and reclaim ground against retailers.
In a challenging environment, brands are investing aggressively in digital. Hampered by a sluggish economy and fewer tourists in Paris, the prestige beauty market declined 3% in France in 2016 compared to 6% globally. In contrast, online sales have grown 21% year-over-year. E-commerce represents a glimmer of hope in the French market, and brands have scaled their marketing investments to capitalize on it.
E-tailing is less competitive. In the UK, the absence of beauty juggernaut Sephora has allowed the rise of multiple specialty beauty retailers that compete for visibility, such as FeelUnique, All Beauty, and Look Fantastic. Amazon’s foray into the UK beauty market fuels this bidding war and creates a highly competitive search environment. But in France, beyond the rise of parapharmacies and FeelUnique, online distribution remains relatively stable. The dominance of Sephora, which distributes 60% of beauty brands tracked by L2, limits the emergence of other pure players.
Patriotism. France is the birthplace of numerous beauty brands, particularly the L’Oréal and LVMH conglomerates. So it makes sense that some brands prioritise their investments in favor of the French market, where they benefit from a historic presence.