The largest market in the world is also known to be one of the most difficult. Here are some keys to getting started.
More than 700 million consumers, a pronounced taste for make-up products – very anchored in the local culture – and a high purchasing power that is constantly getting closer to Western standards… China can be seen as an Eldorado for the Beauty industry. But be careful, it is certainly not a market like the others.
“First thing to consider, China boasts to be the only country that managed to free itself from COVID 19 in 2021. The population has strongly resumed its taste for make-up, explains Florence Bernardin, Founder of the Franco-Asian agency, Information & Inspiration, entirely dedicated to the monitoring of cosmetic markets in Asia. We have noticed a boom in lipsticks, the pleasure of colors is the symbol of a newfound freedom while providing enhanced skincare benefits”.
The key role of KOLs in China
This freedom is primarily achieved through online shopping, as e-commerce continues to grow at a rapid pace. Leading brands and products are heavily promoted by KOLs – Key Opinion Leaders – and by live streaming, with videos that encourage sales. “But if digital reigns supreme, the distribution networks are also continuing to diversify, notably by focusing on experience sharing, with augmented reality. The other particularity of the Chinese market is of course the importance of offshore sales, especially in Hainan,” notes Florence Bernardin.
The C Beauty in full expansion
At the same time, a phenomenon has completely changed the beauty sector in China in recent years: the rise of C Beauty. Driven by a strong economic patriotism, the C Brands have met an impressive success. “While enjoying strong government support, these new brands have skillfully weathered the COVID crisis through a series of charities, such as donations to the Red Cross or mask deliveries. In return, consumers have embraced their products. Among the lucky ones are Winona, with plant-inspired skin care, and in makeup, Florasis, ColorKey and Perfect Diary.
A heritage phenomenon and a taste for authenticity
This phenomenon has been joined by a nostalgic, legacy movement. “New brands are collaborating with older ones, drawing inspiration from products of the past, and even collaborating with the Forbidden City in Beijing. Generation Z, which is very eager for a sense of patriotism and culture, is asking for more,” Florence Bernardin points out. The vintage fashion is also surfing on the 80s, with for example very specific lipstick colors, and ultra-slim formats put forward by KOLs.
Another success is that of the Indie Brands, with many very young and girly brands positioning themselves. A boom that can be explained in part by the C Beauty trend. “Consumers are opening up to other forms of beauty, with less saturated colors and new, more subtle shades. If in terms of lipstick, pure red remains a must, other colors work, mostly with matte tones, because the lip, in the Chinese beauty canons, must remain smooth.
Products adapted to Chinese skin
As for foundation, products adapted to Chinese skin are in demand. “We’ve gone from a milky skin idea to what I call ‘my real skin idea’ in a short time. More and more KOLs are highlighting their skin colors. As a result, foundations are evolving towards new tones. As shown by the rise of the “olive-skin”, with ranges that are closer to blue. Also noteworthy is the very strong success of ‘tone-up’, in skin care, with an immediate highlighting effect. It’s a hybrid product from Korea that is making a splash in China! A market where everything goes very fast!
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