Douyin and RED: How social media is shaping China’s beauty market

by | Nov 16, 2022

Social selling and key opinion leaders – or KOL for those in the know – are leading the way when it comes to selling beauty products in China, here’s how

The personal care market in China is nearly double the size of the UK’s, hitting a net-worth of $59 billion. Impressively, retail sales of beauty products in China grew by 1.8% in the first quarter of 2022, with e-commerce beauty sales increasing by 8% despite the country’s zero covid strategy.

In the same period, beauty product sales on Douyin increased 164% and XiaoHongShu – or Little Red Book (RED) – welcomed an annual influencer investment growth of more than 100%. Conversely, Shiseido’s Q1 sales in China, its second-biggest market after Japan, dropped 21 percent year-on-year due largely to low store traffic.

These figures show the Chinese consumer’s clear acceptance of social media platforms as their new shopping arena. However, how much do you know about these exponential beauty opportunities?

What are Douyin and RED?

In a recent webinar, Gusto Luxe a leading Chinese marketing company collaborated with the UK’s China Department for International Trade to uncover the power of social commerce in the territory. The key take away was: although there are eight key selling opportunities, each one has to be approached in unique and strategic ways.

What’s more, just when you thought you’d got to grips with Weibo and WeChat, Douyin and RED are taking centre stage on consumers’ phones.

Douyin is the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, a platform dedicated to short-form video content and live streaming. Whilst RED is a luxury selling space where users can share content and reviews of their favourite products. Users are also encouraged to save content to their boards – proving Pinterest is nowhere near a thing of the past.

Despite their key differences, brand performance on both apps is heavily reliant on influencer marketing. However, it must be approached differently across the two. Gusto Luxe says what whilst ‘content creation is as important as KOL selection on Douyin… influencer seeding is still the key essence in RED’.

How are brands using the platforms in tandem?

Now that we know how Douyin and RED differ, the reason why brands (notably Lancôme and Too Faced) are using them in tandem becomes clear.

First, brands reach a specialised beauty audience and increase brand awareness via RED thanks to its beauty obsessed downloaders (in May 2022, all makeup-related posts received 193.33 million interactions). Then, they blast content out using Douyin which targets consumers with a preference and interest-based algorithm.

Finally, thanks to an in-house payment solution Douyin Pay, Chinese consumers are able to complete their purchase journey – importantly – without leaving the app.

What can we learn from this?

Content is key if you want to make this work. The NPD Group says that: ‘When Lancôme launched onto Douyin in May this year it hosted a livestream every day from 4:00 p.m. to midnight, harnessed a membership program and user chat rooms to grow private domain traffic and to engage its consumers directly.’ Sure, this isn’t possible for everyone, particularly if you are yet to make the jump into the Chinese market.

Wether you’ve opened up shop over there or you’re still grappling with UK socials there’s still been loads to learnt here. You should try to tailor your approach across platforms, continuously engage and make use of the diverse range of social tools available to you on each app to reach new and engaged social audiences.

It doesn’t stop there, ‘establish a well-organised omni-channel strategy so that you can convert your offline and traditional e-commerce customers to social platforms. This will not only sell product but also to help spread content to new customers,’ finish the NPD Group.

Find out more here and here.

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