Every Western globetrotter will have experienced it: at the Chinese supermarket, hygienic pads packets overflow on two shelves, but not a slice package of hygienic tampons is to be seen. With around 2% of users, the tampon market in China is still far from a nationwide development, an absence justified by a great lack of knowledge on the topic.
When Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui announces her participation in the competition during – and despite – her periods, the media impact feels pretty much different between China and the West: Whereas Westerners praised her for daring to publicly express herself on a taboo subject and take a feminist approach, the Chinese netizens relay the information on Weibo and mostly wonder about the possibility to swim during her periods without coloring the pool in red!
A wide ignorance around menstruation in China
Barely 2% of Chinese women would use tampons as hygienic protection: on the contrary, more than 70% of Westerners would be regular users. A gap that remains considerable taking into account the density of China’s population compared to Europe and its recent economic development.
There is no shortage of misconceptions about the harmful use of tampons for health. Admittedly, the fear of losing one’s virginity because of a tampon is almost not in the current anymore, in an urban Chinese society where having sex before marriage is a practice less and less questionable. However, concerns about tampons’ use among teens in full growth remain, including the reluctance to insert an outside object into a poorly understood part of the body for young Chinese girls themselves.
The debate is much more violent in the West since the publication of a documentary in August 2017 entitled “Tampon, our intimate enemy”, which points out the presence of dioxins and other toxic products, such as pesticide residues or glyphosates inside the composition of tampons.
Many users suspect their use to cause fungal infections, headaches, and migraines (although these symptoms can also be attributed to disorders caused by menstruation) and to fear the well-known syndrome of menstrual shock toxic, highly publicized since Californian model Laura Wasser was amputated with one leg after being a victim in 2012.
Despite several petitions, there is still no legislation requiring tampon manufacturers to indicate the composition of the products on their packaging, and this lack of transparency is consequently highly denounced by activists.
Fighting the negative representation of tampons for the Chinese market
To ensure a successful establishment in the Chinese market, it is first necessary to fight against the bad representation of tampons and all the associated negative beliefs, especially by proposing better transparency in the composition of these products.
Chinese consumers are more and more conscious of their health condition, a progressive awareness that follows the various controversies spread over the last few years, from air pollution in major cities to recurrent food scandals (like fake bio and melamine milk scandal).
Tampon is a product that has currently no credibility, there are few scientific studies that can hold in favor of its use. Thus, it is a product that will attract above all the suspicion of consumers. It is essential to deconstruct the received ideas around.
In general, the use of tampons conveys the image of a greater ladies’ freedom of movement, it suggests to potential Chinese consumers an easing of the physical constraint that their rules represent.
Making tampons a vector of feminine emancipation, especially by associating its marketing image with female sport, can be an advantageous solution. Sport is indeed synonymous with good health and physical resistance, the exact opposite of diseases in the consumer’s mind; this association of ideas thus counteracts the concerns related to its effects on the body.
Tampon market future evolution in China
For the forecast period of 2021-2028, the Asia Pacific tampon market is predicted to experience a growth of between 5.33% and 5.98%. The major factors attributed to this growth include the rising income of Chinese citizens, the increase of women in the Chinese population, and the growing use of these types of products.
China’s market observes slow growth, mainly due to the ignorance of Chinese consumers towards the use of tampons. Menstrual products in the country are subject to 13% of sales taxes, similar to the majority of other types of consumer goods. As per the report issued by Period Helper, a Chinese period-tracking application, tampons accounted for only 2.9% of the country’s feminine hygiene product market.
Moreover, the lack of awareness and the taboo associated with using tampons and periods, in general, are major factors restricting the country’s market growth. Chinese consumers are also highly skeptical and suspicious, in terms of using lesser-known products and brands. As a result, they depend on other users’ recommendations, reviews, and experiences when introduced to a new product. This is especially true concerning the reluctance in the use of tampons, due to the lack of tampon culture.
Increase in demand for Tampon in China?
There is a positive, yes, the market is still small but it grew by 342% between 2014 and 2018. This is attributable to the increase in demand for tampons among women, owing to their compact size. Moreover, a surge in awareness towards maintaining menstrual hygiene further propels the market growth for the tampons market.
Ecommerce is another diver of growth for the tampon market in China, like positives figures from 2017 11.11 shows us:
Procter & Gamble of the U.S., promoted a China-specific branded tampon during Alibaba Group Holding’s Singles Day shopping festival last November, and its sales during the day increased 39% over 2016.Source Asia Nikkei
Creation of websites for tampon brands promotes brand credibility and awareness
Communication around tampons could also get a pedagogic aspect, by explaining with more clarity to the consumers the good use to have with it. Not tampon brand but for instance, the Pampers website has been designed to meet the needs of moms: it offers free to users a pregnancy calendar, a pregnancy calculator and a names’ generator program, and a dedicated space gathering information and advice in response to the questions of young parents. The content of the website is even adjusted according to the age of the toddler, one of the first consumer data collected straight on the homepage.
In the same way, one could very well imagine a tampons brand innovating on its website by offering users a calendar calculating the approximate date of their next periods, giving advice against painful menstruation, or explaining the influence of the lunar cycle on menstrual cycles.
Note that a Wechat Mini program would be a great and achievable alternative to this.
To go further, faced with the concern and ignorance of the users’ majority, the brand could dedicate a tab of its website to gather the different symptoms of urinary tract infection, toxic shock, cystitis, mycoses, and dysmenorrhoea, and their possible treatments, in order to clearly distinguish these cases. Easily accessible information gathered at the same place would reassure consumers and asserts the brand credibility as well as increase its popularity.
The creation of a website in mandarin is critical for brands to promote themselves on the Chinese Internet.
E-reputation is extremely important for tampon brands in China
The Chinese consumer is very suspicious of unknown brands and products. When they are in front of a new product, they rely on others’ user experiences and recommendations. Especially when it concerns the tampon, a product that the Chinese are reluctant to use because it is rare in China and the lack of “tampon culture” in China.
As the above picture shows, the Chinese consumer is seeking more information about the use of a tampon. The word of mouth works very well in China. So your brand e-reputation is extremely important if you want to enter the market.
Build eReputation for your Tampon Brand:
- Chinese social media e-reputation management
- Banner display on Baidu
- Baidu SEO
- Q&A and forums Press Release
- Social Media (Wechat/ RED/ Weibo)
Tampon Brands in China should use RED
Social Media in China is an excellent way to reach out to your target audience as well as build your reputation and doing storytelling.
One social media we would absolutely recommend to Tampon brand in China (that is not WeChat) is Xiaohongshu aka RED aka Little Red Book. The app has a focus on beauty and wellness and particularly appeals to women as indicates its users base (+80% of RED users are female).
The app is also mainly used in first and second tiers cities where sexual and menstruation is somewhat less taboo and imported products more accessible. Not only that, the purchasing power of women in those cities is higher than elsewhere in China.
RED is also a great app to collaborate with Kols and win consumers’ trust through consumer reviews (called Shopping Note – as can be seen in the picture below).
Note: You can also become a seller on Red Store.
Need a Communication Agency in China?
Tampon culture still has a way to go to China! One can then wonder if the menstrual cup would have a better chance of setting up on the Chinese market or would face the same cultural reticence. What are the trends in the Chinese market? How to market your brand to be in front of your competitors?
Our Agency, based in Shanghai, is specialized in Chinese marketing.
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Sanitary Pads (Feminine Hygiene) Market in China – Outlook to 2023: Market Size, Growth and Forecast Analytics
Hello, this article is amazing! Could you please specify where the statistics in the article come from? I ‘d like to know those resources and they would mean a lot to me. Thank you so much!