In a market dominated by established conservative companies, a fresh wind. Facetheory rewrites the rules for skincare.
When they expanded beyond the UK to the Netherlands, France and Germany - where the brand was less known - Mollie helped Facetheory build trust with first-time buyers by offering familiar local payment methods.
“We’re pretty well-known in the UK now, but there are so many opportunities.”
— Benn Walsh — Head of Growth at Facetheory
Facetheory is 100% cruelty-free, only made with vegan ingredients, perfectly combining nature and science. This sustainable way of thinking doesn’t stop there: the company has eliminated the use of single-use plastic, using glass jars and recyclable aluminium tubes. And they use the least possible biodegradable packaging. Benn chips in: “We’re going through B Corp certification right now. It’s very important for us”.
Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. To be granted this certificate, they are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a worldwide community of people using business as a force for good.
Proudly made in Sheffield, England
Facetheory has only been operating since 2015. Founded by Jamie Shuker in Sheffield, England, where all the products are proudly sourced and made. The company has tripled in size over the last year, now shipping to over 80 countries worldwide. The next goals: 100% growth over the next 12 months and localisation in another five countries. Of course, the inevitable question, how is Brexit affecting the company? Isn’t it difficult to export to Europe?
Benn: “Brexit has been a bit challenging, but we were actually very well prepared. The most important thing for sales in Europe is having stock available. So, a year ago we opened up a warehouse in Germany. Overall, it’s working out pretty well.”
The company now produces over 100 products for all kinds of skin types and all kinds of skincare. Cleansers, scrubs, masks, cloths, brushes, tools, night creams, day creams, eye care products, makeup, lip, hand and body products to name but a few! Facetheory believes in taking care of its customers and operate a 365 day money back guarantee on all their products. Benn says: “We want to encourage people to try it. If it’s not for them, no problem.” In other words, if you use it and don’t like it, just return it, no questions asked.
A spirit of generosity
When Facetheory launches new products they send a free sample to customers they think might be interested. The company has also recently launched a customer loyalty programme, where customers can save up to 30% on their purchases. Benn: “Flexibility is important. We’re not monitoring people’s time, as long as people are getting stuff done. We’re also great believers in knowledge sharing and training. If there’s a course you want to follow and it’s kind of relevant, go for it!”
Another surprising fact: despite being 100% vegan and despite investing in every extra measure to be sustainable, the products are still very affordable. Making them accessible for everyone to use. This is of course helped by the fact that Facetheory products are only available online, so the customer doesn’t have to pay the hefty mark-ups from retailers.
Positive independent reviews
The response to the company online has been impressive. Over 70,000 customers have reviewed the products and the results are overwhelmingly positive. For example, on Reviews.io the brand received a 4.76/5 rating from over 23,000 reviews, with 97% recommending the brand. Customers were impressed by the quality of Facetheory products and how economical they are. Add in on-time delivery 99% of the time and you have an all-round great story.
The business really took off
Apart from Brexit, there is also the question of COVID-19. Benn remembers the beginning of the pandemic very well. “Yes, March last year, we were all very concerned. We made the decision very quickly, in terms of working from home for the next few weeks and see what happens. We were worried about it being a tough few months for us. Ironically our business really took off.”
The pandemic hit retailers hard in the UK. Also, many of the big players in the travel business stopped advertising which meant the cost of advertising online was drastically reduced. The result was the best year in the company’s history.
From the UK to Europe to Asia
Facetheory has operated through Shopify from the very beginning, initially just for the UK. It’s only in the last three years that the company has really developed a more European presence. This has involved a lot of practical developments, like the ability to accept payments in euros and the site appearing in different languages. The Italian version of Facetheory will be ready very soon, but of course, the company is looking further afield.
The Asian market is an obvious possibility for future growth, with more websites planned for later this year. Benn is excited by the possibilities. “We’re pretty well-known in the UK now, but there are so many opportunities. The German beauty and personal care market is more than 14 billion euros, while the US market is at least twice that.”
When a company expands into new markets, it’s faced by new challenges and different consumer tastes. Facetheory is actively working on localising its products, catering for these local preferences. Benn has a typical example: “In France, people are very interested in face masks. They are a lot more popular than in the UK, but also a different kind of mask, with a lot more moisturiser. This is the kind of local nuance that we need to learn about every day”.
To help with internationalization, Facetheory now employs country managers in some of its major markets, including Germany. The next step, which is planned for this year, is to start supporting the country managers with a local team offering deeper knowledge of the market. The ambitious future plans don’t stop there: the company will also be adding more warehouses for storage, where necessary.
The role of Mollie
When Facetheory expanded to countries like the Netherlands, France and Germany, the company was unknown to potential customers. It’s vital to quickly gain their trust. In that respect, payment options are incredibly important. The customers want to see their favoured payment methods. Benn is very positive about how Mollie helps Facetheory break down the payment barriers.
“In Germany people like to use payment systems which include a bank transfer. We need that kind of flexibility to allow customers to pay exactly how they want. To do everything possible to reduce any obstacles at the point of purchase.” What’s also important for Facetheory: Mollie is straightforward and easy to use. Benn: “It’s almost one-click integration. We’re currently launching a Spanish site, adding Mollie is going to be a very, very quick process.”
No lock-in contracts
Facetheory builds most of the online tools they use themselves, in-house. This approach makes it easier to adjust and change rapidly, when necessary. The company does work with HubSpot, Google Analytics and Shopify. However, the most important aspect is the flexibility of no fixed contracts. that you can step out anytime you like. As Benn puts it: “We don’t like to be tied down by long-term contracts for enterprise software. That’s how we look at all areas of our business”.
That’s how Mollie works too, we don’t lock people into contracts. The last word from Benn: “I definitely think that’s something you should push more, because a lot of small businesses are really interested in testing, or trying new markets. A lock-in contract makes that a big problem.”