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5 takeaways on Estée Lauder's online growth

The prestige beauty company's online sales grew 11% in fiscal year 2022.

makeup products on a table

Estee Lauder products. (Photo by Melinda Seckington | Flickr)

The Estée Lauder Companies is a beacon for beauty.

With more than 20 brands in its portfolio including MAC Cosmetics, Clinique and Bobbi Brown, Estée Lauder is a leader in the prestige beauty category with a global footprint. That means the business’ activities can say a lot about what’s happening in commerce and the consumer economy. This includes ecommerce, where Estée Lauder is growing its business by selling through its own websites, third-party marketplaces and other retailers’ websites.

In recently reported results for the fiscal year ended 2022, company leaders shared insights into how ecommerce fits into the wider picture of the business, and progress for online sales over the last year.

Here’s a look at how the company is Estée Lauder is growing its online business, as described on its FY 2022 Q4 earnings call:

Online growth

For the year ended June 30, Estée Lauder’s online sales grew 11%, and represent 28% of overall sales. Online sales grew mid-single digits in the latest quarter, paced by double-digit growth in the Asia Pacific region. Digital sales are now more than double their pre-pandemic numbers.

China expansion

The company launched Estée Lauder, Clinique and Origins on JD.com in China. It is planning to add more brands at JD.

“We continue to innovate across the online ecosystem to generate trial and repeat,” CEO Fabrizio Freda said.

Haircare from Aveda was also introduced in China through the marketplace Tmall with a standalone store, and Estée Lauder is planning to “double down” on this channel. In the coming year, the company is set to open an innovation lab in Shanghai to create for Chinese consumers, and beginning production in a facility near Tokyo that is the company’s first-ever in the region.

Online also allows Estée Lauder to reach more consumers. In China, for example, Freda said the company reaches 148 cities, but is seeing demand from more than 600 cities. Through ecommerce, the company can reach the cities where it does not have physical distribution. It allows the company to attract new customers. In India, it introduced The Ordinary Skincare through the platform Nykaa, and is further growing a presence among the community by partnering with the channel to stand up a beauty-focused incubator for entrepreneurs. These online-focused strategies works in concert with the company’s introduction of new brands to a region and its entrance into new brick-and-mortar stores. It all increases distribution.

When it came to earnings, one big factor in the quarterly results was disruption at the company’s Shanghai distribution center as a result of COVID-19 quarantine. This limited capacity to fulfill orders from mid-March to early June. However, the distribution facilities were reopened in June in time for the 6.18 Shopping Festival, where brands performed well.

Social selling

Freda talked about how the company engages consumers on WhatsApp in Latin America. This helped social media-based selling reach 30% of revenue in the region. Beauty advisors and makeup artists are also extending their expertise by creating content on platforms like TikTok.

Fulfilling stores

Freestanding stores in North America have fulfillment capacity, and Estée Lauder is standing up these capabilities in EMEA and Asia Pacific.

“These new capabilities are driving higher average order values and convincing upsell trends,” Freda said.

Closing stores

Estée Lauder is also seeking to close freestanding retail stores that are “unproductive.”

“By the end of fiscal 2023, we expect to have closed nearly 250 freestanding retail stores under the program. We've also rationalized department store counters and other retail locations, improving our ability to focus our efforts on driving more profitable omnichannel opportunities in our remaining distribution,” CFO Tracey Travis said.

Notes and numbers

Here’s a few more notes on Estée Lauder’s sales and the macroeconomic picture from the earnings call:

  • Net sales for Fiscal year 2022 (ended June 30) were $17.74 billion, up 9% from the prior year. Net earnings were $2.39 billion, compared with $2.87 billion in the prior year.
  • Supply chain woes ate into the company’s margins in the latest quarter. “Global transportation delays, port congestion, labor and container shortages and higher costs for both ocean and air transport have increasingly pressured our cost of goods,” said Travis. Shipping costs are also rising.
  • Pricing: Estée Lauder is planning list price increases to offset inflation. These pricing actions are expected at the beginning of the fiscal year, which started July 1.

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