Perspective

Maureen Mullen’s enlightened advice to succeed in the US

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Maureen Mullen

At the helm of the Business Intelligence Firm L2, Maureen Mullen, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, advises US firms on marketing and digital marketing strategies. Today, she shares her recipe for success on the US market. 

Selling online is key to carving out a place on an ultra-connected market

“The first thing you need to know about the US market is that it is ultra-digital”, Maureen begins. With almost 300 million internet users and average annual growth of 3%, the USA is the world’s third-most connected country after China and India. “To carve out your place, investing in digital is no longer an option, it’s a must. Today, the West is being won online”, she says.

In distribution, online sales are a priority on the American market. In 2016, US e-commerce sales hit $395 billion, driven by annual growth of 15% and accounting for 46% of global growth in the retail segment. “Unlike European consumers, who are still leery of buying products before they have looked at or touched them, Americans are far more accustomed to distance buying, not least because the country is so enormous and sales outlets may be several hours away”, Maureen tells us. Brands that thrive are those that manage to harness this driver. “Amazon is a telling example. It was the first to realise that the internet was not one driver among many but THE driver. Taking this idea on board, every company, no matter what kind, must make internet sales its priority distribution channel”, says Maureen.

Influencers offer a way to win over young Americans

In communication, too, digital technologies have radically changed the established codes. In the USA, social media now play a decisive role in the success of brands, particularly among millennials. “Teenagers and young adults in America watch 12 hours of YouTube videos a week on average and spend around seven hours a month on Facebook, compared with four in France. They immerse themselves in social media as they seek to share and connect.”

Small wonder, then, if influencers, vloggers and celebs have become critical to success on the US market. “In the beauty sector, for example, we see a positive correlation between use of influencers and sales of partner brands”, says Maureen, citing the example of Anastasia Beverly Hills. This makeup brand went on to have great success thanks to its Instagram account with 13 million followers and its many collaborations with these online influencers. “The brand posts every day a dozen photos of Instagram girls using the product of the brand. They became its best ambassadors. When followers see a picture of them using a lipstick, they want the same!” And Maureen Mullen concludes: “A few years ago you had to pay a fortune in advertising to reach an importance audience. Today it is more strategic to send some products to an influential blogger!”

A dynamic acquisition policy for a vast market

Finally, acquisitions of key brands can also play a big role in the success of companies on the biggest cosmetic market in the world. “This strategy offers a way to diversify the portfolio and reach a broad spectrum of consumers. On such a vast market, this is a decisive advantage”, explains Maureen. A dynamic acquisition policy is also a means to capitalise on the success of brands, which are attuned to the market’s specific expectations. Best example to date: the acquisition by Danone of The WhiteWaveFoods, an American company specializing in organic dairy products. “It’s a very strategic acquisition. The United States is the world’s largest organic market, with sales of $ 40 billion, accounting for 44% of the world market. This acquisition will thus enable Danone to double the size of its North American business and become a market leader!”

Keep on innovating, but pick up the pace!

When asked what challenges lie ahead for companies on the US market, Maureen is quick to reply: “They have to innovate, of course, but at an ever more sustained pace. The speed with which products and services reach the US market is picking up all the time, and firms must get smarter if they want to obtain and hold onto a leadership position.” Among the brands that have best integrated this paradigm, Maureen cites the GAFA – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple – and more specifically Facebook which has always shown a high velocity over the years. “Not only has the blue network regularly offered updates to improve its interface and the quality of service but it has also innovated quickly according to its competitors. Whenever its rival Snapchat proposed something new – like the concept of “stories” – Facebook systematically imitated and adapted it. And it worked!” Maureen Mullen concludes: “In the country of competition, you cannot be treading… In the United States, companies age quickly!”