Online sales are a life raft in the otherwise stagnant French beauty market. While established brands are doubling down on digital investments, parapharmacies, a French beauty staple, have the home field advantage online.

Although Sephora remains the retailer with the highest first-page search visibility, Amazon France is battling with Doctipharma, the most visible of the online parapharmacies, for second place. And with parapharmacie sales increasing at almost double the rate of specialty beauty retailers like Sephora, established retailers are adopting an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude. Amazon France and French retailer Nocibé both added parapharmacie tabs to their primary navigation categories this year, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beauty France.

Parapharmacie

Amazon France attempts to recreate the guidance customers would receive from a pharmacist by directing them to products based on their concerns and skin types. And while similar categories appear on Amazon’s UK and US sites, those categories feature a global variety of brands. The parapharmacie tab, however, sells almost exclusively French brands—and at a lower price point than those appearing in the regular skincare category.

The same is true on Nocibé. Products found through Nocibé’s parapharmacie tab are, on average, priced lower than those found through the regular skincare tab. This is especially true for anti-aging products, which can cost over €1,000 within the skincare tab but cost no more than €150 within the parapharmacie tab.

Beauty

Traditionally, parapharmacies and the brands they sell were separated from mainstream purchase channels, limiting competition between parapharmacie brands and established global brands. But the brands found on Amazon France and Nocibé’s new parapharmacie hubs could cannibalize sales from larger players.

Yet parapharmacies also provide an opportunity for brands to stand out in the French beauty market. In an effort to capitalize on the popularity and consumer trust placed in parapharmacies, prestige skincare brand Mixa partnered with Doctissimo to produce a YouTube series featuring testimonials about Mixa products. On YouTube, French parapharmacie channels score upwards of 10% organic visibility against unbranded terms—much higher than the average for brands in Gartner L2’s study, which was just 3%. For Mixa, the partnership clearly paid off. As of May, the videos have garnered over 2.5 million views.

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