Unilever made waves last summer with its $1 billion acquisition of Dollar Shave Club, a new CPG company who was competing with Gillette in no time by selling razors directly to consumers through one-time purchases or subscriptions. Since then, a common theme has emerged in Unilever acquisitions: All have strong direct-to-consumer e-commerce operations while also selling on select thriving retailers like Sephora and Ulta.
Living Proof, for example, revamped its website to become more e-commerce focused after it was acquired by Unilever. Now Living Proof is sold directly to consumers and on Sephora and Ulta. Similarly, Drunk Elephant built strong roots selling directly to customers before Sephora picked up the line. Seventh Generation has stayed away from shipping directly to consumers, but holds on to the interest of online shoppers visiting its site with a e-commerce style grid page and seamless hand-offs to online home goods and grocery stores. Each Seventh Generation product page provides three to four options for retailers to buy from.
To navigate the challenges of maintaining direct-to-consumer sales (less foot traffic and temptation to add to cart), Unilever brands have adopted aggressive sampling programs. Drunk Elephant, for example, owned 3% of skincare samples on Sephora in Q1 2017. It also positioned itself on Sephora’s sample subscription box Sephora Play! where it became a best-seller, as well as a best-seller on the site overall.