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How 4 leading ecommerce brands use important ecommerce features to support international growth

Loqate, in partnership with Retail Week Connect and Planet Retail RNG, recently released its inaugural internationalisation guide, identifying a top 30 global retailers excelling in international ecommerce. In this blog I look at some of the fast growing ecommerce brands like Sephora, and discuss smart ecommerce features they’ve launched and scaled to help support international growth.

The big question to take away is this: what can you learn from these ecommerce features, and how can you apply this learning to pilot new features on your own ecommerce store?


Not the first in the beauty space to experiment with AR, but the Virtual Artist app scans your face, detects your lips and eyes and lets you try on different makeup to find the perfect look. And of course you can buy from the app to provide the ecommerce angle. Value-add content is built-in to the app via tutorials, helping Sephora’s audience to visualise the impact of style trends on their own face.

Why flag this?

Sephora has gone one step further, recently integrating Virtual Artist with Facebook Messenger (a closed beta for big retailers including Nike). Via the Sephora messenger bot, users can try on different looks, then purchase directly via Messenger or share with their friends.

There’s a SVP of Omni Experiences and Innovation (you’ve got to love a la mode job titles!) – the company is investing in new channels and new capabilities from existing channels to continuously test new ways to engage its global audience, drive brand affinity and increase sales.

Global reach?

“Visual messaging has already proven itself to be a powerful way for people to connect with each other. In 2017 alone, people shared over 500 billion emojis (nearly 1.7 billion every day) and 18 billion GIFs.”

Heath Black, Product Manager for Facebook Messenger.

Source: interview with Retail TouchPoints, July 2018.

My one gripe when browsing Sephora’s international ecommerce sites: if you try and visit the .com site from a UK IP, it forces a redirect to the .fr site as .com doesn’t deliver to the UK. However, this prevents anyone who wants to deliver to a US address (US citizen in the UK on business, non-US resident sending a gift to a friend in the US) buying from the .com site. From .fr you can only deliver to European countries.

There’s even a genius page showing all the International websites, including US. BUT, if you click on US, it still redirects you back to the .fr website – why?

There may be a genuine business reason behind this enforced redirect but in my experience, choice is much better for UX.


Boohoo has adopted Amazon’s delivery subscription model, introducing Boohoo Premier (be seduced by the name!) in 2016 to provide unlimited next day or standard delivery for a year for a one-off fee of £7.99 (originally £9.99). As with Amazon, the delivery mechanism is clearly a loss leader; the play is to increase lifetime value, customer order frequency and value.

The use of delivery subscription amongst online shoppers is increasing as retailers look to tackle common barriers to repeat purchasing. The second purchase is critical in driving lifetime value and shopper loyalty, and a delivery mechanism is a sensible enabler.

It’s set up as a product SKU, so can be merchandised like a standard product. A good example is on product list pages, where the delivery offer is shown amongst products as you scroll.

The other thing I think Boohoo does well is their speed of reaction to latest market trends and big events. For example, after the Royal Wedding they released a halterneck white gown that imitated Meghan Markle’s evening reception dress. A veritable bargain at £22.

Result: media and customer frenzy, it sold out within 2 hours. Alas it’s no longer available for me to link to L (or buy for the weekend…).

Hello Fresh

Subscription ecommerce has been growing quickly over the past few years. The market has grown by more than 100% a year over the past five years, with the largest retailers generating more than $2.6bn in sales in 2016, up from $57m in 2011. 15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis, frequently through monthly boxes.

Source: McKinsey & Company, Thinking Inside the Subscription Box, February 2018.

Interestingly, the Mckinsey & Company study found that 55% of ecommerce subscriptions are curation-based, reflecting consumer demand for a personalised, premium service.

Hello Fresh plays well in this space. It has pre-set boxes with the ability to customise based on the number of people you’re cooking for, the number of meals per week and the ability to specify vegetarian only recipes.

Within your account you can control the subscription package, for example pausing for a few weeks if you’re going away, or changing your box and recipes. There’s an app as well as web access, providing a convenient way to shop via mobile devices (I know native web capabilities have pretty much caught up with native apps and PWA is all the rage, but for some brands native apps still work well for loyal, returning customers).

It’s interesting to see the new user journey flow for product selection. As soon as you select a box, you’re taken through the checkout and payment before you do your meal selection. The emphasis on securing the conversion before customising the product is different to most retail ecommerce websites, where product configuration happens before the checkout.

I’m now actually considering a subscription myself. The garlic prawns with mini roast potatoes and walnut-parsley pesto has left me drooling into my keyboard….


From a merchandising point of view, I like how Zalando has drawn a clear line between its full price catalogue and discount/outlet catalogue with Zalando Lounge (launched in the UK in 2014).

Lounge is a shopping club you need to join (it’s free) to access the continuous sales on branded items, or you can use your existing Zalando account. This is a smart move, as Zalando can track all session back to a unique user, across devices, simply by using the log-in ID.

It enables Zalando to tailor merchandising strategies for value shoppers, without turning its primary domain into a discount retail store. It also means Zalando has a wealth of product and user data to create targeted campaigns to nudge value shoppers over to the main domain to purchase full price items.

Take a peek at Loqate’s Top 30 international ecommerce players: http://www.loqate.com/retail-index#top30


Guest blog by James Gurd, Owner of Digital Juggler.


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