As a mother and baby products brand evolving in China, you have to be aware of the unique dynamics of the market. The Chinese government has been putting a lot of effort into supporting family-oriented policies, which has resulted in a growing demand for baby products. At the same time, competition is fierce and brands must differentiate themselves to succeed. In this guide, we’ll give you an overview of the China baby care products market landscape, key trends and offer some tips on how to thrive in China’s dynamic mother & baby products market.
Mother & Baby products Market growth in China
The country is the major hub for the maternity and baby market. According to Mr. Enlong Hou (COO of Suning commerce group), the market growth has shown no sign of stopping in recent years.
According to Statista market research, In 2019, the market size of mother and baby products in China reached approximately 2.7 trillion yuan, growing at around a 15 percent rate annually in the past three years. It’s expected the Chinese mother & baby product market will reach US$24 Billion by the year 2027 and was evaluated at about US$24 Billion in 2021; The baby food segment is leading the market, followed by baby body care, diapers, and baby skin and hair care.
Another market research shows that China’s mother and baby products market is expected to grow steadily over the next decade due to growing demand from young parents who pursue high-end lifestyles, particularly in lower-tier cities. In 2020 sales revenue from this sector is expected to reach 3 trillion yuan. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of almost 10%
What are the reasons for the market growth?
- Following a worrying declining birth rate, 2016 saw the easing of the One-Child Policy. The child policy was further relaxed in 2021.
- Families are willing to pay a lot for useful products for their children and mothers
- Families are willing to pay higher premiums for high safety baby products
- The rise of the “New Retail” is characterized by the integration of online and offline platforms
- The rising demand is not restricted to first- and second-tier cities, but has seen growing demand from lower-tier cities.
China Baby Product Market trends
- Baby hair care products
- Baby cosmetics
- baby toiletries
- Baby Formula, Baby Food & Supplements
- Prenatal Supplements
- Mom Postnatal personal care
Online distribution channels’ growth
The mother & baby market has seen steady growth through both online and offline distribution channels.
In fact, although offline channels are still the main place where to buy the products of this industry, the growing online presence through both eCommerce and social media seems to indicate a promising future for the mother and baby market in China.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, the demand for mother and baby products has been high. For example, on JD.com sales of daily necessities, such as baby and mother clothes, artificial milk, and diapers, increased 10 times on a yearly basis.
Millennials are the main actors in China’s baby care market online growth
The Chinese online community, represented by the young Chinese generation, born in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has greater purchasing power than ever. Data from JD.com, the second Chinese marketplace, showed that this generation account for 70% of the purchases of mother and baby products.
This generation, which has seen major changes into an economic and digital power, has a higher disposable income than previous generations, therefore, they are:
- Less price-sensitive
- Willing to try new products
- Heavily influenced by the Internet
- Open to international culture
- Willing to pay more for better products for their children
- Willing to buy trendy products
- Prefer to watch live-streaming content and short videos
In the first quarter of 2020 on JD.com platform, the viewing time for live-streaming and short videos increased around 130% year-on-year, and sales driven by live-streaming increased around 400% y-o-y.
Ecommerce live-streaming’s boom
Ecommerce live-streaming, with KOLs as protagonists, is becoming the most effective marketing tool for several reasons.
Through live streaming users can:
- Inquire about a product and buy it immediately, without ever-changing the App
- Having a “virtual” contact with the host
- Send messages and receive live replies
- See the product live and is, therefore, more reliable for the consumer
Through live streaming exposure, brands can:
- Generate more leads
- Get more followers for your brand
- It is cost-effective, but it still brings great results
- It can be used for product reviews, seeding of products
- It can be used to increase sales
- Use KOLs to boost sales
Higher Quality and Premium Products
Quality is more important than ever for Chinese families. This represents a significant opportunity for foreign brands, which are often perceived as having better standards than Chinese ones.
In fact, Chinese families are increasingly demanding products with specific characteristics such as:
- Healthy products
- products free of pollutants
- ecological products
- Minimum added additive products
- Durable products
All these reasons have led the mother and baby market to be classified as a premium market, with high prices and quality, compared to other sectors. However, competition is expected to intensify.
What are the main categories of products?
Chinese citizens pay close attention to which brand a product is labeled and tend to buy products from overseas brands, especially products such as infant formula and infant diapers.
A high degree of market saturation
- Baby food
- Baby toiletries & skin care products
Low degree of market saturation
- Baby clothes
- Baby footwear
- Baby accessories
- Functional appliances
- Daily-use goods such as baby bottles
- Baby furniture
- Car seats
Who are China’s baby care market’s major players?
International vs domestic brands in the baby products market
Foreign brands enjoy a better reputation than Chinese ones by default. This can be explained by the many scandals on baby food safety that plagued the local baby food market (ex: The 2008 Chinese milk scandal).
As a matter of fact, product quality scandals have led many Chinese parents to buy foreign products over the past twelve years. Especially regarding milk powder, over half of the Chinese infant formula market is dominated by foreign brands, and in some cities, the percentage reaches 80%.
Although foreign brands are still the favorites, a national competition in the Chinese childcare market has intensified in recent years, especially in the sale of products such as:
- Baby seats
- Baby clothes
- Baby skincare products
The new requests from a population of parents with higher incomes also represent an opportunity for Chinese baby product brands. With a greater demand for specific products and with a diversified market, in fact, there are many opportunities for local players.
For example, the growing demand for baby skin care products such as shower gel and lotions has led Frog Prince, one of the leading Chinese baby care brands, to produce a gel that emphasizes the beneficial qualities of baby’s skin, through natural ingredients extracted from the oil that leaves the skin delicate and nourished.
Some of the main players in the Mother and Baby market in China
- Johnson & Johnson
- Procter & Gamble (Pampers 帮宝适 bangbaoshi)
- Frog prince
- les enphants
- Baby Bear
How to sell your Brand of Mother & Baby products in China?
There are a few things to consider when selling mother and baby products in China. First, you’ll need to research the market dynamics and understand the needs of Chinese mothers and Infants. You’ll also need to create a marketing strategy that resonates with your target audience. And finally, you’ll need to find the right distribution channels to reach Chinese mothers and infants.
What are the regulations and trade requirements to sell your products in China?
The Mother & Baby sector in China is highly regulated. There are multiple regulators and three testing requirements for market entry.
Multiple regulators in Mother & Baby product industry:
- The government (China Customs and the State of Administration for Market Regulation “SAMR”)
- semi-governmental agencies (China Consumers Association “CCA”)
- Social organizations
- Non-government bodies
The testing requirements for market entry:
- laws and regulations
- Mandatory standards
- Product standards (normally stated on the label)
What are the channels to sell your Mother & baby products?
Finding the right model to enter this market is the key to success due to its competitiveness. What are the options available to international exporters?
- Consignment to retailers (Not selling products, risk and high cost for consignment)
- Direct sales to retailers (Retailer managing brand risk and low visibility)
- Online retailers and marketplaces
Distributors: How to find distributors for your mother and baby products?
Finding distributors can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a non-Chinese speaker. By using this option you lose control over pricing and branding, however, working with the right distributor can make things significantly easier, and it may be worth spending some money to save time and reduce the difficulty of entering a large market like the Chinese one.
There are numerous ways of contacting potential distributors. The most common ways include:
- Attending fairs
- Searching online
- Tmall B2D
Attending Chinese Mother and Baby Fairs
According to Tradefairdates, although most of them were postponed because of Covid-19, some major fairs are:
Playtime in Shanghai is a trade fair for the child. Many exhibitors will be presenting their latest trends and products to children. This exhibition is a communication and information platform in the industry and offers exhibitors the opportunity to present to an audience of experts. Visitors can find information here thoroughly and comprehensively about the latest developments, trends, and products from the fields.
- Children Baby Maternity Expo “CBME”
The Children, Baby, Maternity Expo CBME China, being held in Shanghai, is known as the world’s largest event. Lots of international suppliers from all over the world present more than 2000 brands of products for children, infants, and pregnant women. Therefore, the event offers great opportunities to meet other buyers, manufacturers, distributors, or suppliers. The fair is highlighted by an innovative product award, where the most innovative and best products in different categories are determined.
- China Toy Expo Shanghai
China toy expo is an international trade fair for toys and baby items in Asia. It is China’s market-leading platform and provides international manufacturers access to the Chinese market. The fair offers exhibitors the opportunity to get in touch with visitors, especially buyers, and to deepen their business relations.
- Hong Kong Baby Products Fair
Hong Kong Baby Products Fair is a platform for the dynamic baby products market in Asia. It offers Asian-based suppliers and renowned worldwide brand names a great opportunity to expand their network, explore new market opportunities, and promote product image and brand recognition all under one roof. The event is a spin-off from the well-established and very successful Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. The Hong Kong Baby Products Fair, the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, the Hong Kong International Stationery Fair, and the Hong Kong International Licensing Show all take place at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center at the same time.
Chambers of Commerce
Most domestic chambers of commerce will provide organizations with a list of distributors within their sector, and may already have some contacts with distributors.
Online retailers and marketplaces
Consumer reports of increased frequency in online shopping indicate the growth potential and competition of online retailers vs offline retailers.
The director of the China eCommerce Research Center, Cao Lei, said:
“The explosive growth of the maternal and child industry in recent years has prompted many online retailers to enter the market.”
To meet the growing and diverse demand for mother and baby products, many Chinese online retailers are launching customized products and collaborating with various foreign brands.
Purchases of baby care products through online channels are widespread and now represent 50% of mother and baby retail market value. Purchases on the platform are a great source of growth for the market of mothers and babies in China. In addition, transnational online sales related to baby care and food are the most popular.
Baby care products like baby food, body powder, lotions, and creams, insect repellent for children, and shower gels are the most requested.
Among the baby care products, imported products are still the best for safety reasons. Thanks to online marketplaces, It’s possible for buyers to purchase products from foreign brands, that don’t have a physical presence in the middle kingdom, through cross-border eCommerce.
The online market is dominated by Tmall, followed by JD, Xiaohongshu, Kaola, Vip.com, mia.com, and other online retailers. Branding and presence on well-known eCommerce platforms are crucial to selling your products.
Sell baby care products on Chinese Online Marketplaces
One of the major market trends in the Chinese baby care industry is the growth of online marketplaces. Let’s have a look:
Use Tmall to sell mother and baby care products
Tmall is the biggest B2C (business-to-consumer) platform in China. It was launched by Alibaba’s Taobao in 2010. Tmall is a general marketplace and offers consumers all kinds of products from over 100,000 brands.
It mainly focuses on premium brands. This characteristic makes Tmall the most expensive marketplace in the country. For consumers, high prices indicate high quality, therefore many customers prefer buying their products from Tmall.
Requirements for Overseas brands to operate an online TMALL store:
- International brands must be authorized distributors and have a corporate identity outside China.
- The company must be independent and hold retail and trade rights
- The company must be the brand owner or authorized agency having the authority to sell products under its name
- The company must hold relevant inventory certification for the stock
- Entry preparation
- Store application
- Store development
Tmall store types:
- Flagship store
- Authorized store
- Specialty store
Authorized brands and retailers are present on Tmall through the creation of a real Flagship Store graphically customizable because it allows brands to successfully promote their identity and allows them to create a very accurate user experience.
JD.com e-commerce platform
JD.com(京东Jīngdōng) is a Chinese eCommerce company headquartered in Beijing. It is the second B2C online retailer after Alibaba’s Tmall. It is partly owned by Tencent, which has a 20% stake in the company.
Foreign companies can open individual online stores on JD.com and brands are permitted to import food, beverages, apparel, and shoes from overseas. JD is well known for its support of in-house logistics services and its zero-tolerance policy for counterfeit products. In addition, JD.com is less expensive than TMALL.com, but still rather expensive.
JD has become one of the largest retailers of many maternal and baby brands and sales of more than 50 mother and baby brands surpassed 100 million yuan ($14.1 million) in 2018.
By partnering with a diaper brand, JD, using online research and comment data analysis, has found that users often search for specific keywords like “diaper rash” and look for diapers that won’t damage the baby’s skin.
Based on big data and consumer preferences, JD and the diaper brand subsequently developed a new diaper product for sensitive babies’ skin.
Requirements for international brands to operate an online JD store:
- Be an established non-Chinese company
- Trademark registration documents or licensing agreements
- Have a USD bank account
- Provide business registration documents and the ID of the major shareholders and directors.
- Chinese customer service must be provided and the product details page should be written in Mandarin
- Products must be dispatched within 72 hours after order placement
- The process for product return centers must be available in Mainland China.
JD store types:
- Brand flagship store
- Outlet-type flagship store
- Franchised store
- Exclusive store
Vipshop is one of the most important realities of Chinese eCommerce. Its primary business strategy is to partner with popular and well-known brands and sell their excess inventory to consumers throughout the country at a significant discount from retail prices.
VIP.com covers wide product categories ranging from apparel, shoes & bags, cosmetics, maternal and child products, home goods, foods, and more.
By providing special offers and deep discounts on branded products, the Company has pioneered the online discount retail model in China and become the expert and leader trusted by its customers and brand partners alike.
Online retailers specialized in imported Mother & Baby products
Mia is an online retailer specializing in items for mothers and babies which also established its self-owned brands such as Mompick. Founded in 2011, Mia.com is committed to helping middle and high-income families access the best products for mothers and babies, such as diapers, infant formula, toys, and baby clothes from abroad.
Statistics from Mia.com platforms
Users from first-and second-tier cities are more willing to spend on:
- comfortable underwear
- intelligent home appliances
Users living in third-to fifth-tier cities are more willing to spend on:
- women’s apparel
- latex pillows
- juice extractors
- other homegrown products
Muyingzhijia is an independent online retailer of baby merchandise which offers over 10,000 products from well-known foreign brands, including Pampers and Pigeon.
Beibei was founded in 2014, Beibei is a similar maternal-infant eCommerce merchandise site that offers discounted sales in all kinds of products for infants and parents. Famous brands are on this platform like the Chinese brand Home baby and the US brand Huggies and Pampers.
Content-driven Social e-commerce platform focusing on the Mother & Baby industry
Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) specialized in Mother and Baby care products
Little Red Book, also known as Xiaohongshu or RED, is a Chinese social e-commerce platform launched in June 2013. Currently, It has 85 million monthly active users.
Xiaohongshu is particularly special among all social media channels because it combined e-commerce functions and because its users are a specific target market (86.1% of users are females, 83.7% are under 35 years old and 62.5% live in 1st- and 2nd- tier cities).
- It is considered reliable by Chinese users for quality content
- It focuses heavily on building trust and reliability rewarding users for posting suggestions and advice to followers.
- KOLs and live streaming play a fundamental role in this platform
- On it, users can share content, review products, and buy items.
Why is Little red book useful for brands?
- Specific target
- Increase reputation
- Increase brand awareness and loyalty through quality content
- Engage new followers and consolidate existing ones
- Leverage sales through its e-commerce platform
Babytree is the country’s largest online parenting site.
In 2018 Babytree reached a strategic cooperation agreement with Alibaba on e-commerce to further improve its consumer services for Chinese families. Its average monthly active users reached 156.3 million in the first half of 2019, an increase of 21.5%, compared to a year ago.
Another famous platform is Mama.cn which is very similar to Babytree.com.
Beyond Tmall or JD, it is also important to explore partnerships with targeted Mother & Baby product platforms such as Babytree, Mia.com, and Mama.cn because, in addition to being eCommerce platforms, they are also communities where mothers share information and seek recommendations.
Cross-border eCommerce platforms
Foreign entities that do not wish to establish a physical presence in China can also choose to supply their products through cross-border eCommerce channels.
Through cross-border, companies can sell their products directly to Chinese buyers by sending them from their country of origin.
With cross-border eCommerce, foreign products can be sold without having to face the long and complex authorization procedure with the competent local authorities, which is mandatory for export and sale through traditional channels. Here is a list:
- Tmall Global
- JD Worldwide
- VIP international
How to market your products on the china baby market?
With over 800 million internet users in China, 98% of whom connect online using a mobile device and 75% of digital purchases made on mobile devices, it is not surprising that international companies focus heavily on digital channels when entering the Chinese market.
However, a company’s offline presence is still crucial, especially in smaller cities, as parents sometimes still prefer to test children’s products and ask vendors questions.
For these reasons, companies are exploring an omnichannel approach when marketing products for mothers and china baby.
Growing Awareness & ORM
Branding is a major factor in success because Chinese consumers do not trust emerging players and products. When purchasing beauty products, Chinese consumers will look for product and brand information before making a purchase.
Most Chinese parents search for information and conduct their research online. It is therefore important to ensure a presence on online channels, creating content that makes the perception of the brand accessible and reliable.
They will mainly look for information on Baidu (the Chinese search engine), on social networks, and on e-commerce platforms.
Therefore, you should make sure that your online reputation is good and that you allow yourself to take advantage of a full market share and generate leads quickly, how? Following these steps:
- Brand and products should appear on Baidu results
- you should create official accounts and be active on social media
- brand’s presence in forums, Q&A platforms
Get visibility on Baidu
Google is banned and the main search engine is Baidu. On the Chinese search engine, Baidu, more than 100 million searches related to Mother & Baby products are conducted each month.
When a brand wants to enter the Chinese digital market, it encounters resistance due to the language barrier, culture, and purchasing habits of Chinese consumers. The first problem encountered is brand awareness and search engine optimization techniques to be visible on the web.
SEO (Search engine optimization) and SEM (Search engine marketing) activities are necessary because they allow companies to improve their brand awareness and brand identity on the net.
To get visibility on Baidu you should follow some steps:
- Your website should be translated into Chinese
- To ensure fast loading, it must be hosted in China
- The website must also be adaptable to mobile phones
- Localized content marketing
- Through SEM techniques, it is possible to sponsor sites with targeted campaigns.
GMA provides SEO/ SEM on Baidu to get more exposure. We start by auditing your websites and writing reviews, and press releases to get targeted visitors interested in your products.
To be present on Social Media channels
China is the largest social media market in the world, with people increasingly addicted to these platforms. They use them to look for a place to share their opinions, ask for product advice and connect with others.
WeChat (monthly active users, 1.165 billion)
WeChat is the main Chinese social network. Born as a messaging platform, over the years it has introduced several innovative and advanced features that have made it more than a simple online chat. In addition to allowing product selection and e-commerce to be easily accessible, WeChat allows brands to establish a sense of intimacy with their users.
Today it allows users to:
- Create a circle of contacts and chat with them
- Post content or better “moments” on the bulletin board
- Stay informed about news in any area
- Make reservations (taxis, restaurants, flights, and much more)
- Use WeChat Wallet to shop online, see their balance, transfer money to other contacts, and pay via mobile
- Use QR codes to connect the digital world inside phones to real things, people, brands, and places.
It allows companies a complete CRM through:
- The ability to create WeChat official accounts (Subscription, Service)
- Interact with followers and keep them updated on brand new
- Mini-programs, are small apps inside the WeChat system that cover various functions, such as e-commerce, games, and much more.
- WeChat pays to pay for everything with this app
- WeChat advertising (WeChat moment ads, WeChat account promotion, WeChat mini program ads, WeChat article banner ads).
For example, Leyou, a popular Chinese baby care company, utilizes interesting and humorous blog articles offering knowledge and advice on taking care of babies, demonstrating how brands may utilize WeChat as an effective marketing platform for the mother and baby market.
In the same way, Johnson & Johnson’s campaign joins local health professionals to pay homage to the “silent angels” who are pediatric doctors.
Weibo (520 million monthly active users)
Weibo is the second most used social network. It can be considered as a mix of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, presenting itself as a microblogging platform.
- Open personal accounts
- Follow accounts and be followed by other users
- Publish textual and visual content
- Stay updated on the latest news by following the so-called “hot topics”
- Watch live streaming
It also allows companies to create a verified brand profile and:
- Communicate to the masses, as it is a one-to-many platform
- Increase their brand awareness
- Convert users into customers
- Retaining those already acquired
- Collaborate with KOL to increase recommendation through word of mouth
- Weibo advertising (Display ads, search promotion, fans headline, fans tunnel)
Xiaohongshu (85 million monthly active users)
Little Red Book, or Xiaohongshu in Chinese, is a perfect mix between a social network and cross-border eCommerce. It is especially suitable for Fashion, Luxury & Lifestyle Brands.
In addition to creating networks of contacts and publishing content, it is in fact possible to directly purchase the products shown on the screen through the practical “link-to-buy”.
Opportunities for brands:
- Open an Oﬃcial Account to sell products cross-border
- Easy interaction with customers because it is also a social media
- Logistics, customer service, and marketing support provided for brands account
- In-app advertisement
- To promote themselves on the App, brands can also collaborate with KOLs increasing the credibility and desirability of companies. In addition, they also have a strong power over brand awareness
- Cosmetics are the top industry utilizing KOLs on this platform
Mother & Baby KOLs
Apart from having a verified branded presence on Chinese social platforms, it is also crucial to involve influencers or KOLs that can endorse a brand. Engaging with KOLs in the Chinese digital ecosystem is very functional to attract Chinese consumers as KOLs are more reliable.
With multiple brands trying to attract Chinese consumers, Chinese parents are more selective about which brands they choose and heavily rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and KOLs.
Aside from celebrity influencers such as KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), brands can also consider working in partnerships with experts such as nutritionists and educators.
For example, Nicomama (年糕妈妈) has over 16 million followers in total across various online platforms, with 2 million followers on Weibo.
Q&A platform Zhihu (Monthly active users 34 million)
Baby-related questions have gained attention on the Chinese platform Zhihu. Community members have written extensive articles on certain popular topics, such as baby formula and diapers.
Zhihu is a Chinese question-and-answer site like Quora. On Zhihu, questions are created, answered, edited, and organized by its users. In Classical Chinese, “Zhihu” means “Do you know.”
Thanks to additional functions developed by Zhihu, users can also:
- Write articles
- Participate in discussions
- Read e-magazines containing the best answers related to certain industries
- Give an online presentation about a specific topic
- Interact with an audience in real-time
Promote your Baby care brand on Zhihu with the following methods:
- Q&A Campaigns (Answering questions, brands can establish a relationship with users and build their reputation this way. It allows them to promote themselves and introduce their products)
- KOL Endorsements to enhance a brand’s image and reputation (brands can invite experts or key opinion leaders to answer questions for them. Answering questions on Zhihu allows them to showcase their expertise and connect with both industry experts and general users)
- Zhihu Live (it allows brands to conduct online presentations on specific topics. Brands can have opportunities to provide in-depth knowledge and communicate with users in a more direct way)
- In-Depth Articles (Brands can publish long-form content to gain credibility in their industry which is highly valued by people in that industry).
Mother and baby care market in China: a great opportunity for foreign brands despite many challenges
The presence on social media and e-commerce proves to be an effective entry for foreign brands that want to enter the Chinese market.
In addition, as Chinese consumers are highly sensitive to the perceived safety of foreign brands, foreign brands should take advantage of the gap in this sector as the demand for mother and baby items continues to increase.
Do you want to know more about how to use Chinese e-commerce platforms to boost sales? Contact GMA a digital marketing agency, that specializes in the Chinese digital market.