In recent years, China has been a hot spot for the development of lingerie brands. The Chinese market is largely untapped and offers great opportunities to those who are creative enough to think outside the box. This blog post will give you some tips on how to promote and sell your brand in China. First, it’s important that you understand what makes this audience tick, what is trendy, what are consumers looking for? Secondly, we will look at the strategy to start selling your underwear/lingerie brand in China and the best practices to improves your awareness using locals social media and tools.
Characteristics of the Chinese lingerie & underwear market
Chinese mainland’s lingerie market is in the midst of consolidation. Chinese women now spend around 10% of their clothing spending on lingerie, which illustrates a rapidly opening upmarket. On one hand, the growing demand for lingerie, especially in the high-end market, has been drawing big international brands to the mainland. On the other hand, the lower-end market has been saturated with domestic products and brands, few of which stand out. The resulting fierce competition has left domestic lingerie companies with falling profits, though some are finding ways to set themselves apart.
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China Underwear & Lingerie market continues its growth
The market increases each year by 20% since 2009, a big opportunity for foreign brands to respond to the needs of Chinese people. China’s Lingerie Market is expected to experience rapid growth in the next 10 years.
The Chinese Lingerie market was valued at $26.36 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $42.51 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 6% (source). In fact, that year, china women’s lingerie market represented over 60% of the overall market.
Read Also: China Fashion Guide
China underwear and Lingerie Market shares
Although the Chinese underwear and lingerie market is growing and full of opportunities, there are quite a bit of local competitors that should not be ignored:
Here is a list of some of the most popular Chinese lingerie brands:
China’s top local seller of lingerie. The brand main sales channel is Tmall and JD. The brand is more high-end and was designed for women’s comfort as stated by its founder.
It would be a little exaggerated to call it feminist. But I wanted to create a brand that doesn’t twist, suppress, or objectify women’s bodies. Instead, it makes them comfortable and happy, which I think is a higher form of sexinessLiu Xiaolu to China Daily
- 爱慕 Aimer
The brand liking would be more in line with competition from the Etam brand since the price ranges meet and the brand also makes ready-to-wear.
- « 曼妮芬 » Maniform
The group maniform includes :
- Coyeee: simple range, fashion, quality
- Enweis: international, lifestyle
- Lingerie: young target
- « 爱伦娜 » Ai LunaRange of bamboo fiber underwear, the brand plays on two variables: love and the environment
- «古今 » Gujin: We could find it in the big malls in China next to Zara etc.
China underwears & Lingerie buyers profile
The main buyers are women between 24 and 35 years old, they represent 78,94% of the users compared to the men, with only 21,06%. Most girls in China run in between a size A or B cup. Youthful consumers in China are driving up the sales of wireless bras, according to Pascal Martin. With their insatiable curiosity and strong consumption power, young women make attractive targets for lingerie brands says Mr. Martins from OC&C Strategy Consultants.
However, it’s not just comfort that is prized but also a change away from sexiness towards personal satisfaction as well which can be seen by younger shoppers who prize more than just aesthetic standards when purchasing such intimate apparel. Indeed, Chinese women care most about fashion style, comfort, and personalization needs. Peggy Marlene Lim, a Hong Kong-based designer who spoke to the SCMP noted how both older and younger generations were placing greater emphasis on comfort than fabric. “They look more natural too,” said Peggy of wire bras which she believes are not as popular with millennials or those in their 20s because they feel uncomfortable when worn during activities like yoga where it is hard to adjust one’s clothes between poses while wearing such an item.
China Men Underwear Segment
The Asia-Pacific region has recorded the fastest growth in the global men’s underwear segment, with China and India sharing 70% of the share. In 2004, sales of men’s underwear in China had reached 40 billion Yuan. By the end of 2011, that same turnover has risen to around 70 billion and is continuing at an accelerated pace. It seems there will be more and more opportunities for male lingerie manufacturers across China as well as greater competition between them.
According to a survey conducted on the spending habits of Chinese men, 43% spend an average of 500-800 Yuan per year on underwear. 22.7% budget around 800-1500 Yen, while 8.8% or about 1 out every 12 people in China spends more than 1500 yuan annually for their lingerie. The reason behind this is that as living conditions improve and standards rise across the country’s male population it has been found they are beginning to demand better quality products with innovative designs no matter what price you have to pay.
Still according to the survey carried out by TNS-Worldpanel but this time concerning the degree of satisfaction of Chinese consumers, it is revealed that the first three reasons why Chinese consumers are not satisfied with their purchases: lack of models, high prices foreign brands, old-fashioned colors. The perfect and comfortable fabric is what the Chinese are looking for. One consumer said he was looking for a garment that “hugs the body, the silhouette”. The graphics on male lingerie also plays an important role in determining which product to buy among foreign products; elastic waistbands with brand labels printed were popular as well. Cotton is the most comfortable and popular, followed by lycra and elastane which has recently appeared on the market.
China Lingerie market & Underwear growing trends:
- High-end Lingerie
- Comfort over “sexy”: The push-up bra segment slowing down in China
- Sustainability is an untapped niche market
- As well as Body Diversity – exept for few brands, there is not much inclusivity in the chinese lingerie market at the moment.
Rise in Online purchases of lingerie & underwear in China
The Chinese lingerie market is segmented into two major channels: offline and online. The offline channel is further categorized into hypermarkets and supermarkets, independent retailers, etcetera. Meanwhile, the online section includes large e-commerce sites like Alibaba in addition to a variety of other small-medium enterprises (SMEs). In recent years there has been an emerging trend where more women are preferring shopping for intimate apparel online over traditional retail stores because they can get better prices or discounts while also having access to products that may be unavailable at their local store. Lingerie companies are also preferring to launch their new collection on their website and other e-commerce sites before launching it in retail stores. This trend also corresponds with the rise of brands answering better to women’s needs that are selling mainly online such as Ubras.
The number of men who order lingerie for their women on the internet is much larger than most would expect. They enjoy purchasing sexy items for their loved ones but do not enjoy the experience of going to the store to rumble through piles of intimates, so online stores give them complete privacy. Surprisingly, the proportion of men who buy online from Groupon-type sites, these men, quite embarrassed, prefer to shop from a distance rather than going to the underwear shops. 73,5% of online buyers are between 20 and 39 years old.
Distribution of Lingerie brand across the country
Chinese consumers’ taste for high-end lingerie is often influenced by international fashion trends and big cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai. In China’s high-end lingerie segment, these major three cities are prompting trends and the current trends favor internationals lingeries brands. Of course, every Chinese region has its different expectations in terms of lingerie, while the cities mentioned above demand high-end, other regions prefer the mid-range at more accessible prices (Shan Dong, Jiang Su, Fu Jian) or still low prices.
Foreign brands of underwear in China
In the top 10 selling brands of lingerie, foreign brands are winning at the moment. Groups like Etam lingerie; Triumph or Victoria secret is doing particularly well for instance. Let’s have a look
Zoom on Foreign Lingerie brands implantation
Etam arrived in China in 1994 through an association with a Chinese family, a good way to come into the Chinese market. Now, the group ETAM offers 2500 shops in China and three brands Etam Lingerie, Etam Sport, and Etam Weekend. The shops are more luxurious than in France with store spaces exceeding 500 square meters in the luxury malls. They made sure to present ETAM with a luxurious French image, even more so than in their own mother country in order to upmarket themselves in China.
Etam has good implantation in China with its online store on Tmall and JD as well as official accounts on China’s biggest social media. To truly preserve the foreign image Etam doesn’t have a translated Chinese name unlike other foreign brands with a strong presence in China.
Implicit stores are located in the four most metropolitan cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Hong Kong. There, people have a higher salary and more buying power. So we have two different marketing strategies: on one side like ETAM, a mid-range brand with stores all across China. On another side, luxury brands are only located in large metropolitan cities.
Triumph or « 黛安芬 » (« dai a fen ») means the same thing in Chinese and English. Triumph has shops in luxury malls, with a selective range of products. It is also present on Tmall and Chinese Social Media.
A lot of people make the mistake that Triumph is a Chinese brand due to its long presence in China.
La Perla: Lingerie & Luxury
La Perla is an Italian Luxury brand of Lingerie founded in 1954. As of 2021, the brand already has 9 stores and 4 outlets in China and is planning to open 30 by the end of 2023. On top of brick and mortar store, la Perla is also selling its products on Tmall and has an official account on WeChat, Weibo, and RED.
How to Promote your Lingerie brand in China?
Use Chinese Social Media to Promote your Lingerie Brand
The international social media scene is a bit different in China than it is elsewhere. In fact, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have no presence here at all. Rather, China has its own social media platform including WeChat (a messaging service that’s popular with over 800 million users), Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter), and Xiaohongshu. One study showed that 68% of young respondents said their buying choices were affected by social media influencers.
Following the heating up of digital channels and get frequent contact with customers and interesting campaigns on WeChat can be easily widespread. By sharing a brand story, product information or some beauty trend can increase engagement significantly. Sometimes, it generates different segmentation inside your community by a certain interest in a different section of underwear.
- WeChat: WeChat is an application that has classic functions like sharing photos and videos, but it also allows online shopping and other types of payments. The great thing about WeChat is that it works like Instagram, Facebook, or WhatsApp, and all the other retail apps put together to make a really big app. It has been designed to centralize user activities and provides an ideal online environment for brands that want to gain exposure in the Chinese market.
Lingerie brands to gain visibility, use mini-programs in particular. Users can access these mini-programs either by direct search, by scanning a QR code, or through links on an official WeChat account. Users of the mini-program request it to search for information, read articles, watch streaming videos, play video games or make e-commerce purchases.
- Weibo: Weibo has seamless integration with Taobao, stemming from Alibaba’s involvement in the platform. Brands can directly use KOLs to link Taobao stores and products in their publications. With many users already having Alipay linked to their Weibo accounts, they can purchase featured products with just one click. The Calvin Klein brand, for example, used KOL Yixing as a muse to promote them on Weibo.
- RED: It also has an e-Commerce feature as we will see later in this post. With a real boom during the confinement of early 2020. The Little Red Box is a social network, little known in France. It is used by many consumers and particularly female consumers. These users consult the application before making a purchase. The Little Red Book is the perfect meeting of social and e-commerce and is a serious avenue to study for fashion brands, especially lingerie.
Lingerie brands in China need a Chinese Website + Baidu SEO:
The website is today the administrative value of your business on the internet. It will firstly allow you to inform your customers, prospects, and suppliers about your contact information and about the services and services you offer.
Your website must therefore confirm the communication established and propel it on a larger scale. Having a good SEO will allow you to position yourself in your market and monitor the results obtained.
- Update your website regularly to improve Baidu referencing. This referencing will allow you to have maximum visibility and in particular to appear on the first pages of Baidu and to be highlighted by the algorithm.
- In order to have the best possible referencing, it is interesting to use keywords relating to the lexical field of the theme of your brand. Here, for a lingerie site, you will have to rank as much as possible on words like: “underwear”, “lace”, “Chinese market”, “bra”, “underpants” etc.
- These techniques for gaining visibility will also give you credibility for users. Indeed, well-referenced sites seem more legitimate in the eyes of potential customers. They will have more confidence and will not think it is spam.
- Press Release and Backink are key for brand legitimacy and website authority which ultimately will results in your website ranking higher on Baidu’s SERP.
Collaborate with Kols to promote your lingerie brand in China:
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are people or organizations who have such a strong social standing that their recommendations and opinions are taken into account and listened to when making important decisions. In the field of lingerie, influential people can be young women affiliated with the world of fashion as the iconic models of Victoria’s Secret who are very followed on social networks.
Victoria’s Secret worked with Yang Tianzhen, an entrepreneur who was previously a celebrity agent. She is a leading advocate for embracing female body shape and body confidence in China. Yang Tianzhen posted Victoria’s Secret’s campaign video on her Weibo account with the phrase:
“Feeling sexy is not based on appearance and body shape, it comes from women’s confidence. The beauty of the world depends on how much we love ourselves.”
Adopt China’s Craze for Videos and Live Streaming:
While some believed it was just a fad, it seems, on the contrary, that live streaming is becoming an essential tool for business digital communication. And what’s more, it’s an affordable strategy for everyone, from the general public to businesses of all sizes: all you need is a smartphone.
Live streaming allows a direct exchange with the potential customers who can interact with the brand or the influencer who presents the lingerie.
When looking on the internet for ways to start your promotion without major investment, the usual answer is to use forums: simple, free, fast, and directly accessible to the public. However, what we usually forget to specify is that using a forum for promotional purposes must be strategically organized.
For example, the forum must correspond to the theme of lingerie, the forum must be popular and to gain the visibility it is necessary to constantly update its content, or the forum must be as interactive as possible with its community.
Distribute and Sell your Lingerie brand in China
Offline exhibitions are the more traditional way to meet with resellers. However, with the democratization of the internet, it has become harder to get the attention of distributors during these events. However, any brands that have prepared the field well ahead of a salon shuld definitely be present at such an event. By preparing the field we mean: having a WeChat official account and brochure as well as a website in Chinese that ranks well on Baidu. Being ready will optimize your chances of converting and therefore justify the cost of a fair.
- Direct distribution: Strategy adopted by Etam or Triumph that consisit of openning physical store and selling the product directly to the customers which can now be achieved more conviniently with eCommerce.
- Indirect distribution: local partners, partnerships, international distributors. The brands which are not sure about the Chinese market could begin with an intermediate like an agent or international distributor to experience the market, get some information and find some channels to sell the products.
Online Direct Selling your Underwear brand on Chinese e-Commerce platform:
- Tmall: In China, having a flagship store on Tmall is best – at least if you now how to optimize it for sales. For world-class companies looking for an increased presence in China without opening a store in every city, Tmall really is a stepping stone. Tmall, one of Alibaba’s platforms, leads online sales in China. Tmall is recognized as a prestigious platform that only offers its services to branded products. Clothing, household products, accessories, and lingerie are the best sellers on the platform. Read: Tmall Guide
- JD.com: Direct competitors to Tmall, the app is host to the same type of brand as Tmall and the merchants fees as well are registration process is similar. Just like Tmall, JD.com is a top otpions when doing considering ecommerce in China.
- Kaola: It is a cross-border e-commerce platform. The app buys products from brands abroad and sells them on their ecommerce platform. Kaola offers a wide range of baby products, health maintenance products, beauty care, and cosmetics. All this is accompanied by a fast delivery service. It also hopes to bring users an increase in the standard of living, with fewer expenses thanks to everyday low prices and a guarantee of the authenticity of the products sold.
- Pinduoduo: The app, often used with Tencent’s WeChat messaging service, offers 20% discounts. Most importantly, it allows consumers to buy directly from manufacturers, eliminating the middleman, marketing, and acquisition costs. There are frequent items of fashion, clothing, accessories, and lingerie. We can consider the platform as a Chinese version of Groupon. Although the app has the most users (as of 2021), note that the average basket is a lot lower than on Tmall for instance.
- Taobao: Taobao also belongs to the Alibaba group. Entry requirements are nevertheless easier. The platform is suitable for young designers for example. There is a wide variety of products, secure payments, user participation, and secure and fast delivery. There is also an integrated live streaming application: the new trend used by brands to promote themselves.
- RED: The app targets working women between 18 and 35 years old. It is therefore a dynamic and connected clientele, exclusively female, mostly city-dwellers rather aware of new trends. These are foreign products: a great help for Chinese buyers who find it difficult to navigate the fake brands and attributes of each country. It sells skincare, beauty products, clothing, and underwear particularly well.
Underwear & Lingerie Market in China: Conclusion
The Chinese brands have different tastes in the colors, padding, and overall style compared to western countries. In China, you will find many bright colors like purple and pink while in Europe women prefer wearing sexy colors like black and white. Chinese women look for padding in bra while western women look for lace details.
As far as communication is concerned, one common point between western and eastern brands: the model comes from western countries, with curvier busts and waistlines. By choosing a western model, it gives a western touch to the product to convey a sense of luxury Chinese people often associate western products with. And even Chinese brands use the western image to make people believe that it is a foreign brand.
The bottom line is the Chinese consumers are ready to shell out money to get lingerie with a fashionable design and quality. But in a relatively new market, the consumers are looking for a direction. So it is the perfect time for lingerie brands now to make their mark in the Chinese lingerie market. With the right marketing strategy, maybe you can be the next big brand in China.
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