April 18, 2011, 3:48 PM

Estee Lauder builds its European e-commerce house a brick at a time

Estee Lauder also keeps each European market local.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Lead Photo

Estee Lauder Cos. believe the key to successfully selling online in Europe is to just take on one country or a region at a time, leverage existing e-commerce systems where possible and keep everything else local, says ELC Online president Dennis McEniry.  

Today, Estee Lauder sells online in 11 European countries, including its newest market: Russia. Internet Retailer estimates Estee Lauder’s sales in Europe reached about 30.5 million euros (US$43.42 million), up 3.7% from 29.4 million euros (US$41.85 million) in 2009. In comparison, Internet Retailer estimates web sales for Estee Lauder, No. 133 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and No. 176 in the Europe Top 300, grew 6% to $107.2 million in 2010 from $101.1 million in 2009.

In 2011, Estee Lauder, which processes all transactions on a single global e-commerce platform, will expand into several other Eastern European countries, although the company has yet to say which ones. Estee Lauder first began selling online in Europe in the United Kingdom about a decade ago, and that’s where the company learned to create individual marketing, merchandising and payment options for each market, says McEniry.

Today, Estee Lauder has a dedicated web marketing and merchandising team in each country in which it sells that develops unique content written in the local language. Search engine marketing strategies, both paid and natural, also are driven by the specific keywords and phrases of shoppers in each country.

Estee Lauder is growing in Europe because the company pays close attention to consumer demand for certain products and local payment options, says McEniry. In the U.K. more cosmetics purchased from an Estee Lauder e-commerce site are paid for with a credit card, but in Germany, where consumers are less prone to pay with credit cards, about 60% of Estee Lauder’s web shoppers use a “promise to pay” service, or pay for merchandise when they pick up their packages at the post office, he says.

“A cookie cutter approach to Europe won’t work,” says McEniry. “In Germany we have a ‘promise to pay’ program and in France that option doesn’t exist. We’re successful because we study very carefully what consumers expect online in each country and then refine our e-commerce presence to meet those expectations.”

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