Chinese consumers want natural products
When it comes to cosmetics, Chinese consumers will surely follow trends and look at the new developments each brand comes up with; however ‘naturalness’ remains a must for them. This type of consumer behavior derives from Chinese culture: the holistic approach regarding beauty in China makes a link between health and beauty, and traditional Chinese medicine focuses on the use of natural ingredients to cure ailments and promote health.
Brands have understood this and offer more and more products which include natural ingredients (sometimes they even integrate ingredients used in Chinese medicine) … which obviously leads to an increase in sales for them. One of the pioneers in this trend in China was Yue Sai, the brand founded by the Emmy-winning television producer and host Yue-Sai Kan, which is today a part of L’Oréal’s portfolio.
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Skin care oils are getting even more popular
A few years ago, you would not find a diverse offering of skin care oils in most Western countries. It now has become a global trend, and it actually originates from Asia. Asian skin routines have been using oil treatment for a while now, Western consumers have adopted these products … and it all comes back full circle to China today.
Many foreign brands offer this kind of product nowadays, and since chinese customers trust global brands more than local ones, the interest for and sales of these products have increased.
It is actually not a surprise that there is an increased level of interest in oil skin care in China: oils are natural, pure and do not contain additives, they can be used for many purposes and this suits their consumer habits.
Chinese consumers are buying into beauty routines
This is a trend that actually comes from Japan and South Korea. Skin care routines in these countries are far more detailed and complex than in Western countries but surprisingly, also more than in China. These multi-step processes include many different products and can seem very advanced for beginners.
Chinese consumers have seen their buying power grow over these past few years, they have bought more cosmetics than they used to… and now that they can buy them and because they have access to foreign brands (through cross-border e-commerce platforms) they are integrating more and more global brands into their daily beauty habits. This is especially the case with Japanese and South Korean products: they are regarded as innovative and high quality products by Chinese consumers. We are all now influenced by Asian countries’ beauty rituals.
Big city consumers are getting into perfume
Chinese consumers do not use much perfume, which can be surprising because fragrances have been used since ancient times in China (for example fragrant herbs or incense). However, perfumes are seen as luxury products and are therefore expensive, even more when consumers favor foreign brands over local products.
With China’s growing purchasing power, sales for perfumes are increasing (with a growth rate of 15.5% to 22.1% between 2009 and 2013) but for a very specific consumer segment. Indeed, most perfume customers are 30 to 50-year-old urban women whose earnings are sufficient for them to afford such products. An interesting fact is that Chinese men do not seem too interested in perfume. It is not yet a habit for them but they do appreciate using products like cologne: maybe an opportunity for ambitious brands?
Store experience and explanation are essential
Chinese consumers are known to be active online shoppers. However, when it comes to cosmetics, the top sales channels are still physical stores: department stores, specialty stores and supermarkets.
There are several reasons for that. First of all, going to a counter to make a purchase is a guarantee to get authentic products: due to the propagation of counterfeit products, consumer are very cautious about what they buy.
Then, it is also very important for them to be able to try the product. If their buying habits have evolved into more sophisticated and informed ones, Chinese consumers are also likely to critically judge the product by themselves. Besides, store experience is also a decisive factor for them; it is part of what makes the branding experience complete, and these customers are more and more interested in what a brand has to say and offer them.
These elements ring true with regards to luxury products. Therefore, providing them with an educational, friendly and original store experience is a great way to attract consumers to your brand.
Cheap beauty products have their own sales channel
If consumers would rather buy luxury products in physical retail stores where they will be able to try them and get first-hand information when it comes to cheap products consumers are happy to buy online. Even with many rumors about fake products being sold on e-platforms, consumers will still be happy purchasing cheap products here: since they are basic products, there is a lower chance that they will be counterfeits. Jumei, Tmall or JD are popular e-commerce websites for cosmetics.
The trust issue is not over
As we have said, there is a real trust issue regarding product quality in China. The country is known for its production of fake products and you can find these on any distribution channels. Even trustworthy supermarkets have been affected by these scandals; it concerns any type of item: fashion, cosmetics or even food products.
The internet and its many e-commerce platforms do not help resolve this issue. Consumers are now looking for proof of authenticity when buying online (any official document that could be provided by the brand to the purchaser) but counterfeit manufacturers are now also providing fake authenticity certificates.
IWOM (Internet Word of Mouth) is still the way to go
Since Chinese consumers are so cautious about their purchases they rely heavily on what other consumers have to say. This explains why forums and blogs are so popular in China: it is a way for them to hear experiences from those who have tried the products they are interested in. Consumers will trust what their peers say more than what a brand communicates.
If you are looking into making your product appreciated by Chinese consumers, you should therefore focus on listening to what is said about you, and to try to steer the conversation in a positive way.
More information about IWOM here
Cosmetics how-to guides
Following on from the concept of Word of Mouth, there is another type of content Chinese consumers are really fond of, beauty tutorials. These are mostly videos or picture how-to guides explaining how to do a particular type/style of makeup or hair-do.
This content is very popular, on WeChat the highest engagement levels are achieved by beauty brands, especially due to tutorial-based content.