Feelunique saw its marketplace grow quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sales on the marketplace part of its retail website grew 695% in its latest financial year, to March 29, as shoppers chose buy more beauty products online - from ‘at home’ treatments to skincare regimes – online. At that point, more than 800 brands were selling 12,000 products on the marketplace, and by the end of the year, those sales accounted for 2% of full-year revenues of £103.5m. Feelunique says that expanding the choice of brands and products helped it to grow at a time when shoppers were more interested in looking after their skin or carrying out their own treatments.
Ting-Ting Lee, head of the Feelunique marketplace, says that having a marketplace helps the business broaden its range. That means it can broaden existing categories and also more easily try new categories, and new brands. “We launched activewear for the first time this year, which is not a core category for us,” says Lee. “But having the marketplace has enabled us to launch it and try it as a new category.”
Such steps helps it to bring more traffic and more customers to the website. In its latest full year, active customer numbers on the Feelunique site grew by 42% to 1.3m, and its total customer database grew to 6m. That, in turn, means more attention for the brands that sell on it.
“There are newer independent brands that don’t necessarily have the same brand awareness quite yet but Feelunique is able to give them a platform to get exposure - and to benefit from the traffic that we have as well as a very established reputable retailer,” says Lee. She adds: “It’s extremely difficult [for new brands] to even open up a conversation with a lot of retailers, it’s a difficult space to get traction. I’ve had some wonderful feedback from some amazing brand partners, just hugely grateful that we’re recognising those brands and giving them the opportunity.”
Taking part in platform activities can help brands to raise awareness on a site that stocks more than 800 brands. That includes getting involved in the Feelunique community, where shoppers can ask questions about the brands that are on sale, and in social and marketing activities from Q&As to practical classes. This, says Lee, means "there’s opportunity to really speak to the customer and engage and understand what they’re looking for”. Offering free samples as part of the Feelunique pick and mix service – delivered with a voucher for a discount on cost of the full-size product – enables shoppers can find and try out a brand before committing to a purchase, making them more confident about their investment.
“We’re doing lots of development to really help that customer journey and help customers shop the enhanced range that we have,” says Lee. “We, as a retailer, are very much focused on helping customers to navigate that range and helping them to find the products that are right for them.”
Feelunique asks brands using the marketplace to list all of their range on it, enabling Feelunique to become a destination for the brand, while they also have service-level agreements governing areas such as delivery policies.
Looking ahead, Feelunique sees the marketplace as a way of helping it to expand overseas. “I think the marketplace will carry on scaling and looking to broaden our offering further,” says Lee. “We will look to use this, I think, to enhance our international presence because I think it’s a great platform for us to do that. It’s very much in line with our strategy to to broaden our offering for the customer, but also to optimise that customer experience throughout the development of our site as well.”