In this post, we will take a look at the Chinese fragrance market and give an overview of how to sell perfumes in China. 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.
- 1 Introduction to the Chinese perfume market
- 2 China Fragrance Market Trends & Segments
- 3 How Perfumes and Fragrances Brands can make it in China?
- 4 Use Chinese Search Engines to promote your fragrance brand in China
- 5 Social Media to promote your Perfume brand in China
- 6 Chinese forums and Q&A: Great tools for User-generated Content
- 7 Sell Perfumes on Chinese eCommerce platforms
- 8 Work with Chinese distributors to sell your perfumes in China
- 9 Perfumes & Fragrances in China: Conclusion
Introduction to the Chinese perfume market
Research conducted by Forward, suggests that consumers in China accounted for 1% of the global perfume market. While this small share may be unimpressive when compared to other categories such as beauty products and skincare routines which are booming in China, it is actually an indicator of untapped potential in the industry. The Chinese market for perfume is primarily driven by women. According to a report from the China Association of Fragrance and Flavor Industries (CAFFI), in 2016, more than half (59%) of all female consumers in China used at least one fragrance product during the year. The popularity of fragrances among females also reflects the importance placed
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Perfume in China: Some Historical & Cultural background
There are many myths about China and perfume, one of them being that its use is fairly new. In fact, there has been a long history of using incense and fragrance herbs in Chinese culture–and not just burning them! The ancient Chinese mastered distilling to create “perfume.” It was mainly used by imperial families only until around 1929 when commercial production began emerging across Shanghai. Perfumes had always symbolized elegance, wealth, or mystery for centuries among people in China
However, a shift in perfume consumption happened at the beginning of the twentieth century with a new ideology and system to run the country. “Purifying” all Western influences became one focus for modernization during which time products like luxury clothes, cosmetics, or expensive perfume were illegal to sell or use due to their capitalist symbolism.
In the late 1980s, when China’s economy was more open to Western goods and ideas, perfumes were both readily available in department stores as well as being made locally. Today, a wide variety of scents are now sold across Chinese cities with prices starting at around $15-25 for 30ml.
Why Is it the Moment to Enter the Chinese Fragrance Market
The fragrance market is a leading global industry with projections to grow at an annual rate of about 11%. The fragrance market in China, ranked number two in the world after America’s $30 billion USD perfume business. In 2017, China’s fragrance industry revenue was $27 billion USD and is forecast to reach $35 billion by 2021.
That’s a compound annual growth rate of 11%. The general retail segment generated approximately 84% of that figure with department stores generating.
70% of the Chinese perfume market shares are from internationnal brands such as Chanel, Dior, and Ralph.
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:
• Luxury (Chanel)
• Prestige/Mid-range ($100-$250 per bottle) (Gucci, Marc Jacobs)
• Mass Market (<$50-15 per bottle) (Burberry, Paco Rabanne)
• Fragrance – Accessories (Estee 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.
Home fragrance Segment Growing in China
The China Home Fragrances market is expected to reach $1.3 billion by 2022, rising at a CAGR of 9.4% during the forecast period from 2017 to 2022.
Home fragrances are becoming more and more popular in China. People like to have a sense of peace at home, not only because it is related to Shen (静), but also the fragrance can help people improve their own living space with a lifestyle often getting more and more stressful.
In the first half of 2017, the home fragrance industry in China reached RMB12.45 billion with a growth rate of 23% over the same period last year.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, there are about 280 million households in mainland China and people spend an average of 3500 yuan annually on fragrances for their homes. About
“Home fragrance is booming in China for three reasons,” said Chinese millennial Grasse institute of perfumery student, Wanqiu Chen.
• Traditional culture and habits.
• A new generation of Chinese consumers that 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.
Retailers: Home fragrance is available at department stores, grocery shops, Online stores… There are more home fragrance choices than ever before.
Celebrities and KOLs have been sharing their decor and candle purchases on Chinese social media.
Men fragrance in China: a growing market
The men’s beauty buying rate in China has been steadily growing in the past years with its number of users reaching 45 million in 2017, according to an annual report by Nielsen and consulting firm Euromonitor International.
This increase is partly due to emerging male-oriented brands entering China’s market such as Hugo Boss on popular eCommerce apps.
Men consume fragrances differently from women. Statistically, over 50% of men perceive perfume as being a seduction tool while the same proportion in 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.
Read more on this segment here
Women fragrances market trends in China
The number of female consumers has also been on the rise, with an increase from 56 million to 64.66 million over the same period. One reason for this is that more women are working outside and have increased buying power, according to Euromonitor International’s report. This demographic change can be seen in the shift away from traditional female fragrances, with floral and fruity scents accounting for just 44% of all sales.
Compare to their male counterpart, Chinese women, most time enter perfume stores knowing what they are looking for. They are more likely to be shopping for their own interests and less likely to buy fragrances as a present.
Millennials and Gen-Z seeking customized fragrances
What we know from the market figures is that Millennials and Gen-Z 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
As a professional of the fragrance industry, you know that perfume is a really personal experience and a perfume will act differently in every individual. This is where offering custom-made fragrance 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 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, An estimated US$15.7 billion worth of luxury perfumes and cosmetics were sold to Chinese consumers in 2020 and is expected to see a 10% growth in the next five years.
China is, after all, the biggest market for a luxury brand, and many have not hesitated in widening their offering by including perfume and cologne in their collections.
See our Guide for Luxury Brands in China
How Perfumes and Fragrances Brands can make it in China?
Chinese consumers 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 digitalize nation. Even if a big chunk of perfume and fragrances sales still happens offline, brands can’t afford to avoid online channels anymore.
Keep in mind that you are not the only one 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.
- Brand awareness
- Online presence
The fragrance market in China is not yet mature. So, there are many opportunities and challenges for international brands to explore. If you want to sell perfumes in China, here is our best tip:
Use Chinese channels to communicate & engage with your target audience.
Chinese Search Engines:
Chinese Social media:
- Wechat: Set up an official account & a mini-program
- Douyin & Kuaishou
- Little Red Book/ Red
Forums and Q&A
- Baidu Zhidao
- Baidu Tieba
Chinese eCommerce platforms:
- Red Store
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
Some Baidu figures on the perfume industry:
- The average daily volume of the perfume segment in Baidu reached 290,000 searches in 2017, an annual increase of 9%.
- Mobile devices accounted for 90% of these searches.
- Peaks were observed around women’s day and mother’s day with occasional peaks during Qixi festival and New year.
- Brazil and Indonesia are two countries with similar behaviors to Chinese online shoppers when it comes to perfume queries.
- These figures show that there’s a huge potential for brands in China.
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) sand one or several mini-programs (1+ million).
For instance, Lancôme (who has been on Wechat since 2015) launched a limited-edition lipstick on wechat to celebrate the Chinese lunar new year (2021). 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 500 million active users. The average time spent by each user is 30 minutes a day with mobile devices accounting for 80% of all usage. Brands find it very effective to spread the news about their perf
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 who 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.
Xiaohongshu/RED: Perfumes brands have to be there
It has over 700 million users as of December 2018, 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 one for any brands 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.
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.
RED Kols now represent an important communication channel for perfumes 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 & Kuaishou: Short Video and live streaming apps
With the rise of both app kuaishou & 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.
- Kuaishou is one of the famous apps in terms of live streaming video platforms for Chinese netizen to share their daily life with friends & families or to follow celebrities’ daily lives. Compared with the Douyin app, Kuaishou has a bigger focus on e-commerce (or at least used to) and appeals more to smaller Chinese cities.
- Douyin is more know as TikTok in the west. Compared with the Kuaishou app, Douyin 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 targetted paid advertising. The most popular perfume brands on Douyin are CK, Burberry, and Versace.
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 whispers 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 “ reviews”. The results will go from bloggers’ reviews to Q&A and forums discussion.
As a perfume brand, you’ll benefit from having content generated onto 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 app. For instance, look for YSL on Zhihu and you’ll find a discussion on the application.
Sell Perfumes on Chinese eCommerce 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 brand with a budget and that is willing to work on their awareness in China.
Tmall has also launched “Perfume Route” in December 2020 aiming at facilitating the logistics for perfume& fragrance brands selling cross-border.
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 also 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 Fragrance on Jingdong:
Jing dong: Jing dong is China’s second-largest e-commerce platform in terms of revenue with an average basket at $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 on the cosmetics/fragrances/ Maternity and groceries sector.
The perfume section of JINGDONG has been growing at a steady rate since 2017. Looking at the perfume section of JD you’ll find brands such as Guerlain, Lancome, Dior, and more. Most of these stores are beautifully design and are not shy of sending visitors to ongoing live-streaming.
Pinduoduo: Social Ecommerce & Group Buying
Pinduoduo is a Chinese e-commerce platform which 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 live shopping experience for its customers by encouraging people to chat with each other while they shop online (which makes it very addictive)
Many perfumes brands (hermes, lowe, gucci, addidas…) 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 biggest e-commerce app in China to Tmall when its comes to users. It is safe to assume this is a place not to miss (even apple as a store there)
Kaola: Sell perfume with Cross Border Ecommerce :
Kaola is a cross-border ecommerce platform by Alibaba which 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 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
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 Chinese market 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.
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.
Work with Chinese distributors to sell your perfumes in China
The last channel we will explore is distributors. 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 perfumes and fragrances, getting a distribution deal with beauty franchise such as sephora or watson ‘s is a good way to get your products in the hands of consumers.
Perfume distribution channels for China:
* Distributors – these 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 competition from international brands with strong presences 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 look for brands that won’t be difficult to sell. Keep that in mind when doing your research.
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 being double 11 which is now worldwide and the biggest day of the years for most brands in China.
The fragrance marketing data from 2018 tells us that an overwhelming majority (85%) of Chinese consumers prefer fragrances as gifts for their loved ones at Lunar New Year time. It also seems like they will spend more money on high priced products during the May holidays compared to other occassions.
In short, China does not lack shopping festival: Any occasion is good for e-commerce platform and App to push promotions. See our article on Date to know if you are selling in China. (link)
Perfumes & Fragrances in China: Conclusion
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 on making sure that your product reflects local tastes while also maintaining quality standards.
Read also: Cosmectic & Beauty Market Guide for China
Interested in launching your perfume & 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 businesses