Unilever’s online sales are growing at twice the rate of the global ecommerce market, fuelled by strong performance in the UK, Ireland and France.
The world’s second biggest ad spender behind P&G said its total ecommerce sales were growing at 40% compared to 20% for the global market. This is compared to a 5.7% rise in total sales for the FMCG giant, accounting for both online and offline sales.
Looking ahead, Unilever predicts that its ecommerce sales will account for around 6% of its total retail sales this year.
Unilever attributed a high proportion if its ecoomerce growth to its UK and Ireland division, with ecommerce now accounting for 7% in the UK alone. Its third biggest market is France where the business is seeing gains from alternative and “highly pop-up” models.
Digital drive pays off
The results indicate that the brand’s efforts to embrace ecommerce are paying off. Earlier this year, Unilever announced it was targeting a 40% boost in online sales during 2015, following
following rivals such as Mondelez in shifting its marketing budgets onto cheaper and more targeted digital-led strategies.
As part of the digital drive, Unilever is using more desktop and mobile user data to understand how customers are moving between virtual and physical channels.
Last year, the firm launched a hackathon to hunt for start-ups that could help it gain this insight with successful applicants receiving $50,000 to fund a pilot.
Making its latest quarterly financial announcements, Unilever added that strong sales of ice cream were partly behind a 5.7% rise in underlying sales growth in the third quarter. Good weather and “successful innovations” helped ice cream sales in southern Europe and growth in Turkey was also driven by ice cream.
Announcing Unilever’s third quarter financial results, CEO Paul Polman cautioned that despite sales rises, “we continue to see soft global markets with no immediate signs of getting help from an improved global economy”.
The group expected “underlying sales growth for the year towards the upper 2-4 per cent range”, steady improvements in Unilever’s operating margins and strong cash flows, Polman added.