How to Sell Perfumes in China? A Guide to the Fragrance Market in China

In this post, we will give an overview of how to sell perfumes in China and take a look at the Chinese fragrance market, the changes it is going through, and why it is the moment to enter this market. The perfume industry is thriving in China with brands like Dior, Chanel, Armani, and many more entering the market.

We’ll also cover some statistics about perfume consumption in China as well as examples of how other brands have been successful in marketing their products here.

Why is it the Moment to Enter China’s Fragrance Market?

In 2023, the fragrances market is anticipated to reach a revenue of US$1.26 billion, with an expected annual growth rate of 3.58% (CAGR 2023-2028). Among all countries in the global market, the United States leads in generating the highest revenue with a staggering US$8,715.00 million in 2023.

Revenune of the Chinese Fragrance Market

China Fragrance Market Trends & Segments

The Chinese fragrance market is booming, but the market is not in a state of a free-for-all. Fragrances are grouped into four different segments, according to industry analysts. Fragrance category:

Luxury (Chanel)

Prestige/Mid-range ($100-$250 per bottle) (Gucci, Marc Jacobs)

Mass Market (<$50-15 per bottle) (Burberry, Paco Rabanne)

Fragrance – Accessories (Estée Lauder, Elizabeth Arden)

Within these segments are brands that have unique and quite different marketing strategies. Chanel’s strategy is to sell its perfume through luxury department stores with high price tags while Burberry has invested in Chinese e-commerce platforms and social media outlets to promote its perfume.

Chanel Perfume Brand Zone on Baidu & Website
Chanel Perfume Brand Zone on Baidu & Website

Home Fragrance Segment Growing in China

The China Home Fragrances Industry accounted for $776.2 million in 2022. Home fragrances are becoming more and more popular among Chinese customers. People like to have a sense of peace at home, not only because it is related to Shen (静), but also because the fragrance can help people improve their own living space with a lifestyle often getting more and more stressful.

According to Statista on a per-person basis, the revenue generated in 2023 is estimated to be US$0.88 when considering the total population.

“Home fragrance is booming in China for three reasons,” said Chinese millennial Grasse Institute of Perfumery student, Wanqiu Chen:

  • Traditional culture and habits.
  • Young Chinese consumers value the importance of fragrance in their lives.
  • The rise in disposable income among younger generations, who are more willing to spend money on luxury items like home fragrances.
The Fragrance Market in China: Home Fragrances

Men’s Fragrance in China: A Growing Market

The men’s beauty buying rate in China has been steadily growing in the past years and it’s expected to reach 21.3 billion yuan by 2025.

This increase is partly due to emerging male-oriented brands entering China’s perfume market such as Hugo Boss on popular eCommerce apps.

Guerlain targeting men on Weibo with this Kol Campaign
Guerlain targeting men on Weibo with this Kol Campaign

Men consume fragrances differently from women. Statistically, over 50% of men perceive perfume as being a seduction tool while the same proportion of women is much less likely to do so. Most men depend on their friends and wives for personal suggestions when it comes to choosing scents, while 70% of women say they choose consciously.

Millennials and Gen-Z Seeking Customized Fragrances

What we know from the market figures is that Millennials and Gen-Z young Chinese are willing to pay more for customized fragrances. The customization process begins with scent preferences, which can be selected from a list of 350 perfume profiles in China. Once these choices have been made, additional features such as color, bottle shape, and packaging may also be chosen. This trend is observed in many industries in China: Skincare with custom-made serums, jewelry with personalized rings, and so on.

Perfume & Fragrance Customization

Perfume is a really personal experience and a perfume will act differently in every individual. This is where offering custom-made fragrances will help you differentiate from the competition (especially in a market like China) where the competition is high and consumers are looking for unique experiences.

This is a great opportunity for you to start selling custom-made fragrances that will match your customer’s personality. The process from selecting the scent, choosing the bottle shape and color, picking out packaging details such as labels, ribbons, and bows, and so on. Custom options are made easier by the generalization.

China’s Luxury Perfume Segment

The luxury segment has been the focus of many fragrance market analysts in recent years, and some have even suggested that it is a dying trend. However, by the year 2023, approximately 60% of all sales in the Fragrances market are projected to be driven by the luxury goods segment.

Chinese Fragrance Market Luxury Revenue Share

China is, after all, the biggest market for luxury brands, and many have not hesitated in widening their offering by including perfume and cologne in their collections.

How Perfumes and Fragrance Brands Can Make It in China?

Chinese customers have a unique approach to purchasing their fragrances, and this is reflected in the way they purchase them. It’s not about simple product marketing; it’s about brand engagement and experiences.

So how to sell perfumes in China, or for that matter anywhere? Certainly, the easiest answer is to only use what you have. If your company manufactures perfume and it’s not being sold enough (or at all) consider marketing locally before branching out internationally.

A Digital-Oriented Strategy

China is a heavily digitalized nation. Even if a big chunk of perfume and fragrance sales still happens offline, brands can’t afford to avoid online channels anymore.

China Online Revenue Market Share of Fragrance

Keep in mind that you are not the only one who wanted a piece of the cake and Chinese consumers are flooded with choices. What matters for you is what influences your target audience’s choices;

  • Recommendation
  • Brand awareness
  • Online presence
  • Convenience
  • Price

The Chinese perfume market is not yet mature. So, there are many opportunities and challenges for international brands to explore.

Use Chinese Search Engines to Promote Your Fragrance Brand in China

Baidu is without a doubt China’s biggest search engine. It is China’s Google. You will want your website to rank on Baidu and for that, you’ll have to follow a few guidelines & tips that you’ll find on our Baidu Guide.

Guerlain Baidu Brand Zone  + Product Page on Guerlain's Mandarin Website
Guerlain Baidu Brand Zone + Product Page on Guerlain’s Mandarin Website

Use Social Media to Promote Your Perfume Brand in China

Social media have become a critical tool for any brands trying to make it to China and it’s true for perfume & fragrance brands as well.

Perfumes & Fragrance Brands on WeChat

WeChat is a great tool for businesses to communicate with their customers. In China, it’s the most popular messaging app and has over 1.2 billion, monthly active users.

In fact, most international perfume brands already have a WeChat official account (there are 20+ Million official accounts) and one or several mini-programs (1+ million).

WeChat Statistics 2023

For instance, Lancôme (who has been on WeChat since 2015) launched a limited-edition lipstick on WeChat to celebrate the Chinese lunar new year. The campaign generated over 90 million impressions and reached nearly 3 million people through ad clicks, video views, social shares, and comments.

Perfumes & Fragrance Brand on Weibo

Weibo is one of the most popular social media in China and has more than 573 million active users. The average time spent by each user is 30 minutes a day with mobile devices accounting for 80% of all usage.

Weibo Statistics 2023

The Chinese Weibo platform provides a huge opportunity for brands to promote their products through paid advertising as it’s a relatively cost-effective way of reaching consumers across the country.

Take L’Oreal Paris which had been a Weibo account for about five years, but only gained traction in 2017 when they began to use the platform to post adverts as well.

It’s now their most successful social media channel and has helped them become a household name in China.

Guerlain X Elle Collaboration - Weibo Campaign. Nana in the picture is followed by 20 million people on Weibo.
Guerlain X Elle Collaboration – Weibo Campaign. Nana in the picture is followed by 20 million people on Weibo.

Xiaohongshu/RED: Perfume Brands Have to be There

It has over 200 million users in 2023, with a total of 18 billion downloads. Its recently launched offline service will use smart vending machines to provide real

RED, is THE app to be for any brand in the cosmetics & fragrances market. The application appeals to mostly women from high tiers Chinese cities looking for information on High-end beauty & lifestyle brands and products.

Xiaohongshu Statistics 2023

Many beauty brands such as Guerlain, Lancôme, and L’Oréal Paris have started to use the app to promote their brand but also to tell their products. L’oréal Paris notably has many reviews for its lipsticks and other beauty products.

RED is also incredible to collaborate with KOLs and influencers. Indeed, despite the monetization of the app with marketing tools for brands and its RED store, Xiaohongshu has made the smart move to be as little commercial (as opposed to Weibo) as possible and to keep netizens’ reviews as its core features. By making this choice, RED has earned the trust of its users bases, and RED-affiliated KOLS benefits from the same reputation.

YSL - Kol Collab - RED
YSL – Kol Collab – RED

RED Kols now represent an important communication channel for perfume brands as they can promote them to their followers (and potential customers) via video reviews or posts about new products. They also act as spokespersons for the brand, which is an aspect that brands should be keen on in China.

Example of Campaign by Yves Saint Laurent on Xiaohongshu: #YSLxXiaohongshu, which gave followers the opportunity to win an exclusive tour of Yves Saint Laurent’s Beijing store and a chance to meet with designer Anthony Vaccarello.

Douyin: Short Video and Live-Streaming App

With the rise of Douyin, Live-streaming & short videos have become one of the most popular ways to consume content for Chinese netizens and to promote products for brands.

Douyin is more known as TikTok in the West. It has a bigger focus on entertainment and appeals more to big cities. The app owned by Bytedance has a sophisticated algorithm making it a great tool for targeted paid advertising. The most popular perfume brands on Douyin are CK, Burberry, and Versace.

Douyin Statistics 2023

Chinese Forums and Q&A: Great Tools for User-Generated Content

Word of mouth and recommendations are some of the most impactful factors for Chinese consumers. Now, if you can’t ask your target audience’s family to whisper into their ears about you, you can at least make good use of the online community in China. There are numerous and you’ll find one for each industry.

Because Chinese consumers are wary when purchasing new items, they’ll often Baidu something like “[insert brand name/product] reviews”. The results will go from bloggers’ reviews to Q&A and forums discussion.

results for perfume request on Zhihu
Results for perfume request on Zhihu

As a perfume brand, you’ll benefit from having content generated on those apps. Not only it would mean organic traffic (they rank quite well) but also it would help consumers trust you more.

Not only that, consumers actively look for information on such an app. For instance, look for YSL on Zhihu and you’ll find a discussion on the application.

Sell Perfumes on Chinese E-Commerce Platforms

Sell Perfumes & Fragrance on Tmall

Tmall is China’s biggest e-commerce platform in terms of revenue with an average basket approaching $40. The app is great for a brand with a budget and that is willing to work on its awareness in China.

Tmall also launched the “Perfume Route” in December 2020 aiming at facilitating the logistics for perfume& fragrance brands selling cross-border. Any well-known Chinese fragrance brand is already there, so it’s time for you!

Perfume search results on Tmall
Perfume search results on Tmall Global

Brands can register for free and upload their product information here, including a photo of the bottle with at least one major feature highlighted (Chinese name). Tmall also partnered with NetEase Beauty (one of China’s largest beauty & personal care retailers) in 2017 to sell perfumes on Tmall.

Tmall has an app called ‘Beauty Plus’ on which you can buy a wide range of beauty and personal care products, including perfumes & fragrance brands.

Sell Fragrances on Jingdong

Jing dong – JD – is China’s second-largest e-commerce platform in terms of revenue with an average basket of $16. Although Jingdong was mainly known for its electronic and home appliance focus at its beginning (as well as great logistics) it has since become a lot more mainstream with a much larger choice of products and an effort to grow in the cosmetics/fragrances/maternity and groceries sector.

lancome ads and flashipstore on JD - sell perfume online in China
From left to right: Lancôme Paid Ad Landing page – Lancôme Paid Ad banner on JD home page – Lancôme JD flagship Store with Link to Live-streaming at the top.

Looking at the perfume section of JD you’ll find brands such as Guerlain, Lancome, Dior, and more. Most of these stores are beautifully designed and are not shy of sending visitors to ongoing live streaming.

Pinduoduo: Social E-commerce & Group Buying

Pinduoduo is a Chinese e-commerce platform that promotes group buying. It’s one of the most popular apps in China, especially among women, and has more than 100 million active users. The app also provides a live shopping experience for its customers by encouraging people to chat with each other while they shop online (which makes it very addictive)

Many perfume brands (Hermes, lowe, Gucci, Adidas…) are being sold by Pinduoduo Merchants.

Although the average basket is a lot lower than on Tmall for instance, the app is a great place to sell unsold products to customers looking for a good deal. Pinduoduo has taken the spot of the biggest e-commerce app in China to Tmall when it comes to users. It is safe to assume this is a place not to miss (even Apple has a store there).

Pinduoduo Live Streaming

Sell Perfumes with Kaola

Kaola is a cross-border eCommerce platform by Alibaba that offers free delivery for orders over USD50. When you search for a specific brand, it will show the different products available from that certain company (both online or offline). It also offers a live shopping experience where customers can chat with each other while they are in the same store as well as suggestions.

Use Nostalgia & Innovation to Sell Perfume in China

hite Rabbit candy fragrance at a Scent Library store in Shanghai
A woman tries on White Rabbit candy fragrance at a Scent Library store in Shanghai. [PHOTO BY GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY]

Use the Chinese culture to sell perfume in China. To be specific, use nostalgia as a way of selling your product. For example, White Musk is one such brand that was introduced by Revlon back in 1975 and still sells well today because people are nostalgic about it from their childhoods.

A study shows that people in China are more likely to buy brands they grew up with, which is why a lot of Western perfume companies that want to break into the perfume industry in China have collaborated with local beauty bloggers.

The idea is that these bloggers can promote Chinese cultural values and traditions as well as sell their products at the same time.

“Some niche brands use innovative ways to attract Chinese consumers. For example, the French perfumer Diptyque decided to link ice cream flavors with fragrance in-store events. The British brand Jo Malone London did a partnership with hotels in order to do afternoon teas” => Full article here.

Product development in China: use traditional ingredients for product lines. Traditional ingredients also have been used by Western perfume brands when they develop new products for the Chinese market, such as Acqua di Parma’s La Colonia Assoluta or Chanel No. 19 Eau Fraiche which both feature jasmine extract from southern China (the country’s most popular flower). This is a good way of making your product stand out among other competitors because it uses natural resources that are more common in Asia.

Foreign Brands Should Work with Chinese Distributors to Sell Their Perfumes in China

The advantage of working with distributors in China is that you’ll be able to sell your products in physical outlets without the need to have your company registered there or to spend resources in opening your own brick and motor store.

When it comes to the perfume market in China, getting a distribution deal with beauty franchises such as Sephora or Watson’s is a good way to get your products into the hands of consumers.

Perfume Distribution Channels for China

Distributors are companies that sell goods manufactured by other manufacturers on behalf of those manufacturers and they usually specialize in one type of product, like fragrance or accessories. They’re not responsible for cost-price, storage, delivery, or customer service but they do provide clear pricing information so you can understand what it would cost to distribute through them before taking this option.

Distributing fragrances through distributors might be tough because there’s already a lot of competition from international brands with a strong presence in China and if you want to distinguish yourself with an exclusive range then working directly with Chinese retailers will make it easier.

In any case, you’ll need to work on your online reputation. Indeed, distributors are looking for brands that won’t be difficult to sell. Keep that in mind when doing your research.

Benefits of working wit Chinese Distributors

The Best Period for Selling Perfume and Cologne in Mainland China

China has a rich history & culture of celebration. Those celebrations are an occasion for gifting loved ones but also oneself. Chinese e-commerce giants have seen opportunities with those cultural festivals but have also implemented their own shopping festivals. The most famous example is Double 11 which is now worldwide and the biggest day of the year for most brands in China.

It also seems like they will spend more money on high-priced products during the Chinese New Year and May holidays compared to other occasions.

In short, China does not lack shopping festivals: Any occasion is good for e-commerce platforms and apps to push promotions.

Unlock Opportunities: Partner with Us in China’s Perfumes & Fragrances Market

The perfume & fragrance market in China is still growing. International luxury brands and Chinese e-commerce are investing in it, but most people entering the sector don’t have a good understanding of what they should be doing to sell their brand successfully.

In this article, we discussed how you can gain the trust of your target audience by using different channels for promotion and selling, as well as some tips and market insights on making sure that your product reflects local tastes while also maintaining quality standards.

Interested in launching your perfume & niche fragrances brand in China? We understand exactly what needs to go into such a project from both an international perspective (having worked with many multinational companies) and a local one (due to our experience working closely with domestic brands).

Contact us today!

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1 comment

  • Hello

    Do you confirm the following figure from your article “people spend an average of 3500 yuan annually on fragrances for their homes”?
    3500 yuan for home fragance expenses per household per year in average seems very high.

    Thank you for your very interesting article.

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