Can YouTube Drive Your Brand’s International Distribution Strategy?

On Youtube, the typical boundaries of international commerce don’t always apply. A fan in the UK might review a product that is simply unheard of in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean thousands of U.S. viewers won’t see the video and make a purchase as a result. Add in the fact that 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S., and the implications are vital to understand for any brand’s distribution strategy.

International Beauty “Hauls”

Take for example the beauty fan community on YouTube, and hence the beauty product marketplace.

Since not every beauty product mentioned in every video is commercially available for viewers in every country, a problem arises for those fans wishing to make a purchase based on their favorite videos. And, the solution involves a level of commerce amongst beauty lovers that expresses itself in creative ways.

Some fans swap products with friends in other countries. Others stock up on products when they travel. Buying products online through international sellers is also very popular. Ultimately, regardless of how fans choose to get those “must have items,” it’s clear that YouTube’s international reach, along with the behavior of its users as a result, reveals a lot about brands’ potential distribution strategies around the world.

A fan in the UK swaps products with a fan in the US


When looking at specific product examples for this phenomenon, it would be irresponsible not to lead with Bioderma.

Bioderma is a French dermatological lab that produces cleansing waters, makeup removers, and other items for skin related issues. The Bioderma Sensibio H2O (formerly Crealine H2O) has proliferated throughout YouTube. It is a product that has gained word of mouth traction to the point of Beauty Gurus dedicating videos to the arrival of their Bioderma by mail. Here is a “European haul” video from beauty fan Belen:

We ran a quick search here at ZEFR to figure out how many views Bioderma has earned to date, as well as how many of those views came via channels outside of France, Bioderma’s home base:

Bioderma related views on YouTube: 38,646,043
Views from videos uploaded outside of France: 36,586,339

Bath & Body Works

Bath & Body Works, a favorite for the fall season because of their line of candles, goes the other way. Bath and Body Works is an American company and part of parent company The Limited. Products from their online shops can only be shipped to the U.S., Canada and U.S. territories. Physical store locations are in the U.S., Canada, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Notably absent are Western Europe and Asia.

Thus, when British Beauty Gurus come to visit the United States, their “USA haul” videos explain how they wish they could have gotten more candles, for example, but the weight restrictions on the plane prevented them from doing so:


Although many of the products in Sephora are available in other countries, Sephora as a storefront has not yet proliferated to popular countries for Beauty Gurus like the UK or Australia. As a result, Sephora tends to garner constant earned media from domestic and international Beauty Gurus alike.

In fact, a “Sephora Haul” video can be seen as a sign of commitment to the Beauty Guru mega-fandom on YouTube, and a rite of passage when traveling to the United States.

Drugstore Chains

International lines in drugstores get pined over too. The UK has Soap and Glory. The US has the famously super inexpensive drugstore brand Wet N’ Wild. CoverGirl is known as Max Factor in other countries, with slight variants, and different availabilities. Rimmel London’s lines tend to be more robust in the UK. Basically, whatever Americans can get at a CVS, Walgreens or Rite-Aid isn’t always what you’ll find at a Boots or Superdrug.

Discover Emerging Markets

It has been fascinating to see the progression over the past couple years as some products become more easily available internationally and how those products existed on YouTube prior to the expansion. In 2011, for example, Ingrid Nilsen made a video haul from London where she purchased Soap and Glory’s Hand Food.  Now, in 2013, that product is available at Sephora here in the U.S. This doesn’t imply causation, but perhaps correlation isn’t unfathomable. Perhaps, if or when Bioderma gets carried in shops in the United States, YouTube will have played a role in getting it here.

No matter what, as an international social platform, YouTube presents a great opportunity to do some advance research on potential emerging markets for products, and fans on YouTube could very well lead you in the right direction.


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