Following China’s economic liberalization and with ancestral traditions that are slowly being erased, Chinese consumers have discovered the ‘European way of flirting’ as well as seduction and wellbeing in terms of sexual life. As people are more open-minded, they tend to try new things, thus contributing to the success of sexual wellness products in the country. However, Chinese people, in general, are more ashamed of this kind of thing than their western counterparts, and that why brands have to find the right way of advertising and selling their products (plus that is a heavily regulated industry in terms of advertisement). With a tech-savvy population, it is undeniable that online platforms, as well as social media, will play a prominent role in the growth of this promising industry.
China’s Recent Sexual Revolution
After years of austerity under the communist regime, during which just writing about love was considered bourgeois, and writing about sex was forbidden until the 1980s, the mentality around sex is evolving and China’s sex wellness industry is recording steady growth. This revolution is not without a counterpart: in addition to the generational shock, AIDS is spreading and millions of men seem to have difficulty understanding the new aspirations of Chinese women that want to prioritize their wellbeing in terms of health and sexual life.
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Because the one-child policy and the age-old customs have created an imbalance between the sexes: China lacks women. With 180 million singles, the Chinese love market is only growing. China is one of the largest manufacturers of sexual wellness products.
When talking about health, sexual health is often eluded but plays a crucial role in individual well-being. Unfortunately, the pandemic, which has impacted every aspect of our lives has taken a serious toll on our mental health, is also encroaching on people’s sex lives.
The Chinese Society’s Mindset
Talking about sex in China is taboo in many instances and the lack of sexual education is staggering. Thus, contributing to the fact that many Chinese consumers are not very knowledgeable on the topics.
In fact, the lack of information among Chinese citizens is the biggest barrier between them and sexual wellness. That can stem from growing up in a conservative or religious household where shame may be associated with sex.
- Mariage: A prerequisite for Chinese citizens
First of all, marriage has been considered for a long-time as a prerequisite in the life of the chinese citizens. Men and women have to find their ‘life partner’. For example, pre-marital sexual relations are only getting more acceptable now.
As parents want to find the best match for their child, it is common to see parents in parks, writing flyers with their child personnel information (height, work, income, university, age, hukou, etc…) and looking at the same time for the best party.
- The one-child policy: A major policy in China’s history
The one-child policy has had a major impact on the ratio of men and women in China, which still favors baby boys to girls. This imbalance is opening up markets for sex toy producers with products such as the infamous love dolls that are now quite “popular” among Chinese singles who want companionship without any strings attached.
- Traditional values are evolving
The era during which people were “feeling uncomfortable when talking about sex” or even ashamed of thinking about it, is slowly fading away. In recent years, China has been at the core of shackles in terms of conservative cultural concepts and traditional values from their ancestors. While Chinese grandparents are extremely reticent to talk about it openly, young Chinese are much more open-minded. This phenomenon is mainly due to globalization, cultural exchange, and their discovery of the world, as well as social media.
As the adult industry started later in China, it was difficult to increase market volume and overall development has been slow. But that doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything about it! The state’s supervision of sex industries has also gone through a process from prohibition to strict management and control then finally benign guidance for sustainable growth.
The Perception of Sex in China
Even though the perception of sex has always been taboo in China, it is worth mentioning that mentalities have changed along with globalization and the fact that Chinese consumers are traveling more than before. The younger generation does not consider marriage as their main goal in life, but they are instead more concerned about their happiness and wellbeing. They want to be actors in their life and enjoy it in the best ways possible.
Figures of China’s Sexual Wellness Market
In 2020, the market size of the adult product sector in China was estimated to surpass 143 billion yuan, up from 118.87 billion yuan in 2019. The majority of adult products in China were sold online.
The Evolution of the Sexual Wellness Market in China
Over the years, we can see that the sexual wellness market has been growing steadily, especially in terms of China’s adult products.
Thanks to China’s rapid digitalization, sellers were able to increase their reach and scope in the market. Attractive and informative branding and campaigning are emerging as a significant source of revenue for vendors. Further, the increasing collaboration with government agencies for increasing awareness about STD, the growing use of contraceptives, the popularity of sexual education, and the acceptance of sexual wellness products among women are likely to boost the sale of sexual wellness products in socially restrictive societies such as East Asia.
Who is purchasing sexual wellness products in China, and at which frequency?
According to the following data, we can see the frequency of Chinese consumers in different marital and love states when purchasing sexual products.
Now, if we look at the frequency of Chinese consumers buying sexual products, almost half the population has never bought sexual products, while 20% on average are purchasing sexual products at least once a month.
In terms of age group, we can see that 32% of consumers purchasing adult toys were aged between 31-35 years old, followed by consumers under 30 which accounted for 31% of the market share.
Sex toys in China: A Growing and Very Lucrative Industry
Masturbatory products, sexual accessories, condoms, massage gels, lubricants… Recently in China, as adults’ attitudes toward sex and sex toys are quickly evolving, the enthusiasm for sex toys is slowly being ignited. The Chinese adult toy market has huge potential thanks to its burgeoning increase in recent years. During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, one of the fastest-growing sectors was the sex toy industry in China.
It is estimated that China has 900 million sexually active people, and 93% of the sex toy sales came from young adults aged under 35.
China has been experiencing a recent boom in its sex toy market. This can be traced to an increase of startups and consumers demanding more products for their “pleasure” needs. In 2018, the market size of adult toys in China amounted to 348.8 billion yuan – a 9% year-on-year growth.
Even though China is currently the largest exporter of sex toys in the world, accounting for 70% of available sex toys, they’re now reorienting their market on importation to meet the increasing demand from the domestic market looking for high-quality products.
Chinese Herbs for Sexual Wellness
Traditional Chinese medicines always had a focus on sexual wellness which ranges from solving erectile dysfunction (impotence) to dealing with reduced sexual energy. Unlike prescription drugs like Viagra that mainly focus on the genitals to stimulate an erection, Chinese herbal medicines aim to build the body’s overall health so that an active sexual life naturally follows.
According to traditional medicine, health problems are related to physiological problems from different parts of the body. Thus, the best way to solve erection issues, for example, is to focus on the kidney. Several Chinese herbal medicines are well respected for nourishing the kidney, according to the Yin and Yang. All Chinese herbal medicine is extremely easy to find and compared to sexual products, they are not portrayed badly and people using them have nothing to be ashamed of when buying them.
Niche (but growing) segments of the Sexual Wellness market
- Male Performance enhancers such as testosterone pills
- High-end toys are making their way into the market
- Cosmetics and creams such as cooling gel.
- Erectile Dysfunction Treatment: This is a common issue encounter by Chinese men, an issue that stems from a lifestyle that often is not healthy (binge drinking, cigarette, lack of sleep, intense pressure from work and society to be a provider for the family and so on)
- Innovative products: Technology (such as AI) has had a profound impact on sexual wellness and this is showing in the growth of the market. One example is sex dolls, which are manufactured with artificial intelligence to give them more human-like qualities that we can only dream about.
What are the most purchased adult products among male consumers?
The rise in consumption of adults items is also linked to the “mainstreamfication” of online shopping. It is a lot easier to order such products online rather than to find a physical store that sells such items. You can easily find lubricants, condoms, and even some sex toys in convienent stores but the range of products is rather limited.
Among Chinese male shoppers, masturbators were the most popular sex items on e-commerce platforms, taking up 81% of male adult products sales on Tmall and Taobao, followed by sex dolls.
Female Pleasure Enhancer: A booming Industry
Women have long been considered only as a secondary market in a male-centered industry. However, in recent years, women are gaining confidence and freedom to explore their sexual preferences, which has led to an increase of female-focused products available on online platforms for example.
For female consumers, lingerie and clitoral stimulation products are the most popular sex items on Tmall and Taobao. In 2019, the sales value of lingerie accounted for 57.6% of female adult product sales on these two platforms, followed by anal toys.
It worth mentionning that lubricants formulated towards women well-being are also on the rise.
The adult toy market in China generated about 889 million yuan of sales revenue from female consumers in 2019, indicating a double-digit growth compared to the same period of time in 2018.
Sexual Wellness in China: A Very Competitive Market
Here is a list of main players in the Asian market:
- Church & Dwight
- Diamond Products
- Karex Berhad
- Lifestyles (Lifestyles Holdco)
- Okamoto Industries
- Reckitt Benckiser
Chinese companies are targeting all kind of consumers
Because Chinese companies are targeting all kinds of consumers now, the transaction in the B2C sex goods market has grown exponentially in 2019, as demonstrated in this chart.
Challenges on the Chinese Market for Foreign Brands
In China, consumers are very suspicious about products on the market, following regular scandale linked to products safety from shady producers. Thus, providing quality product is essential, especially for sex toys which are in close contact with the body. However, you will not only have to pay attention to your reputation and quality of your products, but also on this competitive market that is China.
- A rise in counterfeiting
It is news to no one, China has a counterfeit issue, and brands selling products targeted at adults are as much a victim of the practice as luxury bags brands are. The difference being that a counterfeited luxury bag is only to the detriment of the brand, fake condoms can have dramatic consequences.
Unfortunatly there is not much you can do to protect your products from being copied, but you can protect yourself by registering your brand and products trademark to the right authorities in China.
At present, most of the products on the Chinese market are low-end products, and there is a lack of private labels. Besides the distribution channels and marketing strategies, from the beginning, it is vital to ensure the quality of your adult’s products, not only for your customer’s safety and satisfaction but also because the segment for premium products is gaining more and more traction.
- Sex Education is Still a pretty much inexistant in China
In 2017, a controversy has erupted online over a series of textbooks for children in China that deal with sex and relationship issues. After pictures of the book were posted on Weibo and became viral on the internet, some people commented to say the content was inappropriate for young children, comparing it to “cartoon porn” and warning that kids may attempt to copy what they saw in the images.
As a matter of fact, compared to Western countries where children are learning about this topic during biology classes, sex education, as well as child sexual development, is hugely neglected in China. The lack of sex education comes from both family and school as it is still considered taboo, and even shameful for some.
- The Chinese Government Against Sexual Goods
As mentioned earlier, the Chinese government is still not ready to acknowledge the use of sexual products. Thus, companies are not benefiting from government aids. In fact, the government is kind of prohibiting sexual goods, putting the use of these objects on the same level as prostitution for example. According to them, it is against Chinese values, and this phenomenon is linked to Western culture.
- Censorship in China
Although this market has been constantly growing, the Chinese government still has a strong grip on the industry and the way it can be promoted. As for many subjects, companies have to face censorship and their brands can be prohibited from certain platforms because of the “message” it conveys. Even dating apps have a lot of limitations and restrictions in terms of paid advertising and content. Actually, several brands have received fines because their content was against Chinese law, such as Durex for the ad display just below clearly playing on the idea of One-night stands.
The Chinese market is one of the most enticing and profitable in recent years, but it also has its own nuances that can be difficult to navigate especially for brands whose products as anything to do with sexual wellness. It’s important for brands looking to enter this new territory to do thorough research on what keywords are popular among Chinese consumers before allocating precious resources into advertising campaigns. Working with an established agency will help you avoid some of these pitfalls as they have already done their homework and know which channels work best for your target demographic. At GMA, we know exactly the keywords to avoid, and we can find easily the ones that will allow you to take advantage of this growing market. If you want more information about our services, do not hesitate to contact us directly.
Opportunities for brands willing to adapt their products to Chinese consumers
The demand for sexual products from Asian countries such as Japan and China, increasing online retailers, growing incidences of AIDS/HIV and STDs, as well as awareness about sexual wellness products are c contributing to the strong market growth.
Furthermore, innovative condom designs and silicone-based lubricants are gaining popularity among Chinese consumers. The growing market of sexual wellness products for women is also one of the major trends in recent years.
How to Sell Sexual Wellness and Adult Products in China?
Under the influence of traditional culture, the number of people entering the store is very limited. The rising use of e-commerce platforms has solved the pain point of “privacy” for users, and the advantages that traditional offline operators have gained by virtue of their channel status have been replaced by e-commerce websites.
According to our data, China’s retail industry is still dominated by offline sales, but the ratio of online and offline sales of adult products is close to 6:4. There are also a large number of enterprises in the franchise mode in China, but the headquarters basically make money by the franchise fee and the first batch of purchases, and stores are in a state of loss.
Therefore, you can sell your sex toys in two ways: offline distribution and online e-commerce. Offline selling consists of sex toy shops, convenience stores, and supermarkets. It is a traditional way, even though its market share has been surpassed by online sales, but it still exists in China for now.
The rise of the Internet has led to more people purchasing their goods online. E-commerce is a popular way for adult toys, such as vibrators and other sex aids, to be sold because it offers convenience and secrecy.
As for online sales, B2C e-commerce is the most common and most competitive model. Competitors can be divided into three major categories:
- Large-scale comprehensive e-commerce;
- Vertical adult product e-commerce;
- Traditional medicine e-commerce.
Online platforms are the main way of distribution for adult products in China
According to a survey about adult product customers, nearly 70% of respondents said they were purchasing adult products on e-commerce platforms such as Taobao. Around 32% of respondents were purchasing offline.
- Tmall: A Wide Variety of Products
Tmall is a subsidiary of the e-commerce website Taobao. It was founded in 2008 under Alibaba and specializes in Business-to-Consumer transactions, mainly focusing on mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Tmall has strict standards related to quality control which set it apart from its competitors which sets it apart from many other local competitors.
With a strong reputation, Tmall has been dominating China’s eCommerce world for years now and is a privileged platform by adults toy and sexual wellness brands.
However, platforms like JD.com and Tmall mostly work with high-quality products and brands that already have a good reputation in China. The sexual wellness products you’ll find on Tmall are most of the time from well-known brands internationally and locally.
- JD.com: The Qualitative Website for Sexual Wellness Products
The online retailer JD.com was founded in Beijing by Liu Qiangdong, who opened his first store as a magneto-optical shop in 1998 and has since expanded into electronics, computers, mobile phones, etc. In 2004 he introduced his company’s new retail platform for the internet which quickly became China’s two dominant B2C (business to customer) retailers with its competitor Tmall operated by Alibaba Group. Now Tencent Holdings Ltd., one of Asia’s largest Internet companies is part owner of JD.com owning a 20% stake on 21 March 2021 when total active customers amounted to 470 million at the present time (2021)
Even though JD.com is the reference in terms of electronics and new technologies, it also provides a wide variety of sexual wellness products from all around the world.
JD.com has set its standards for online shopping through its commitment to quality, authenticity, and the variety of products it offers; another asset is that deliveries are within a few hours thanks to a sophisticated logistic network across the country.
- Taobao: The Most Affordable Platform for Sexual Wellness Products
Launched in 2003 by the Chinese giant Alibaba, Taobao (淘宝网) is one of the most popular online shopping platforms and a hugely successful entrepreneurial platform. It has hundreds of millions of products on offer as well as service listings that are really appreciated by Chinese consumers. As of 2019, there were 300 million daily active users on Taobao and 668 million mobile monthly active customers too!
In 2019, the Chinese e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall (under the Alibaba Group) sold around 3.15 million sex toys in China, reaching its highest peak of the year. These sales were mainly driven by the largest annual shopping event in the country, Singles’ Day on November 11 (11.11), when many companies offer discounts and deals to encourage purchases. Many sexual wellness brands are using Taobao to sell their products. However, it is also worth mentioning that there are lots of fakes and counterfeiting in China. That’s why Chinese consumers tend to be more cautious when products.
Brick-and-mortar stores: Still a taboo in China?
In 1993, the first sex shop in mainland China was opened in Beijing. At that time, some customers hurriedly left their money and walked out without change after shopping because they were “shy”. People felt so awkward when purchasing in retail shops. Even decades after, Chinese consumers are still shy to purchase directly in brick-and-mortar stores. Thus, they are much more confident and reassured when buying online, without receiving judgment from others.
Apart from traditional e-commerce websites, China’s largest adult product chain brand Jusechengren (‘Orange Adult’ ) decided to break through the mist of secret in the adult product industry for many years, establishing the online platform “Jusechengren.”
How to gain Chinese consumers’ trust?
The Chinese market is the most digitalized in the world with over 989 million people connected to it. Not only are they engaged online, but on average spend six hours a day using their phone! The internet has opened a new world of opportunity for those in China. Chinese consumers are using search engines and social media to find out more about products before making their purchase decisions, which means that businesses need to be creative with the way they advertise online if they want an edge over competitors.
If you want to sell sexual wellness products in China, you’ll have to promote your brand effectively on the most popular online websites, social media, creating your own website, and collaborating with Chinese KOLs. Don’t forget that you are not the only one who wants to conquer Chinese consumers.
Enable Baidu SEO with a Chinese Mobile Friendly Website
The Chinese market is massive and to enter it you need a website in the language. Generating traffic of interest can be easier for people who have websites translated into Mandarin, meaning that they will not only reach more customers but also rank higher on Baidu search engines than companies without this investment.
Baidu is an opening window to enter the Chinese market as consumers will do their research on it in order to discover/learn more about your brand. If you are not visible on the first page of Baidu, then chances are that you won’t get much traffic which leads us back into why working with GMA’s SEO specialists for help could be beneficial and worth exploring further. We have helped many companies increase successfully their rank on Baidu, gaining much traffic, leading them making more money by having a bigger customer-base
How to Promote your Sexual Wellness Products in China?
As you want to enter the Chinese market, it is normal to promote your brand in order to attract potential clients. However, you have to know that the Chinese market is indeed very different from ours. People tend to be less educated on the topic, and the Chinese government is against all kinds of sexual advertising. Thus, you will have to be innovative and subtle when promoting your products in China.
Social media: The Best Way to Attract Chinese Consumers’ Attention
- WeChat: The Most popular app in China
One billion monthly active users make WeChat the most popular messaging app in China. It also has a large ecosystem of services for companies to promote their products and services, with features such as live streaming; mini-program, paid advertising or blog-like content, and so on
WeChat is one of the leading social networks worldwide, ranking sixth in terms of active user number. It became a lucrative marketing platform with its plethora of different functionalities and was able to integrate almost all the features that made other successful networks so popular.
- Weibo: Much more than a ‘Chinese Twitter’
With over 500 million users, Weibo is a popular social media platform in China. Launched by Sina Corporation in 2009 as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook, it quickly became one of the most ingrained ways for many people all across China to share their thoughts on anything from current events or pop culture trends to mundane updates about what they had eaten that day.
As of 2021, Weibo has 56.8% of the Chinese microblogging market in terms of active users, and 86.6% in terms of browsing time over Chinese competitors such as Tencent and Baidu. It has more than 511 monthly active users and millions of posts per day, making it the largest Chinese-language mobile portal. Almost all Chinese millennials are using this social app in order to follow celebrities, KOLs, brands, read news, etc.
With the majority of foreign brands having an official account on Weibo, you will probably have to consider creating an official account on Weibo to promote your sexual wellness and adults products. To do so, you can contact us and our team will take care of it.
- Xiaohongshu: The leading app for female shoppers
Founded in 2013, Xiaohongshu (小红书) also known as ‘The Little Red Book’ and ‘RED,’ is a social media platform that connects its users with the latest beauty products. As of 2021, it has over 300 million registered users and 85 million monthly active users who can find anything from makeup to clothes on this site. It was valued at more than USD 3 billion in 2018 thanks to support from giants like Alibaba, Tencent, Zhenfunds Genesis Capital etc.
Xiaohongshu is not just a social media app, users can also purchase on it. As the leading Chinese platform for cosmetics and fashion products, Xiaohongsghu has 80% of its user base consisting mainly of young female consumers in China. Word-of-mouth marketing proves to be powerful with most product recommendations coming from KOLs.
Considering the rapid growth of the women sex toys ans sexual wellness segment – a segment driven by millenials living in 1st and 2snd tiers cities – RED seems like a great place to promote your brand to the right target audiance.
- Zhihu: The Leading Q&A Platform in China
Zhihu, China’s biggest knowledge-sharing website was launched in 2011 and became the country’s largest community of questions. As of 2018, it had over 200 million registered users with 120 million answers on there – that is more than any other QA site in the world! And by 2020 they have recorded 45 Million ADUs (advertisements), 1.2 billion pages views per month as well as an impressive number of people who use Zhihu for finding information about anything from pop culture to science facts!
The tagline “Discover a bigger world”, is definitely an important source for Chinese netizens to obtain expert knowledge and insights into various topics. By using this platform to advertise your company, you will be able to catch users’ attention, having a high income, high consumption power, and strong educational backgrounds, who are capable of discussing more high-level, technical, and premium topics, which is extremely useful for brands selling sexual wellness products.
Collaborating with KOLs to share their point of view
As for any other kinds of goods, it is essential to collaborate with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) that have a huge influence on the web in China. However, it is important to underline the fact that sexual wellness is not a commonly shared subject among Chinese people. Thus, instead of asking KOLs to directly promote your products, they can help you share related information, as well as their knowledge in terms of products.
Contact us to start to selling your sexual wellness products in China
The sexual wellness market in China is set to grow is set to keep growing for the coming decades. Unsurprisingly, as this industry expands and becomes more lucrative, Chinese brands (and internationnal ones) are quickly taking advantage by developing their own products that cater specifically to local tastes such as aphrodisiacs made from exotic mushrooms or ginseng drinks meant for women’s health needs. However while there may be many potential opportunities there also is a big work on sexual well-being awareness to be done beforehands.
As a Digital Marketing Agency established in China for almost 10 years, we were able to break through the Chinese market, helping hundreds of foreign brands entering the Chinese market. Proud of the success of our collaboration over the years, we are constantly trying to help brands expand their activities in China. So, if you are interested or if you have questions about the cosmetic market in China, do not hesitate to contact us and we will reply within 24 hours.