Everything you need to know about decoding the Chinese beauty market

by | Feb 24, 2023

In the second instalment of their ‘Decoding’ event series, BeautyMatter and the British Beauty Council invited leading beauty trading experts to share their expertise on how to trade in China. Here’s everything you need to know… 

Hosted at Spring Studios, Decoding the Chinese Beauty Market took a deep dive into the nuances of the current China beauty landscape. From unpicking the legalities of expansion and understanding GMPC to getting to know one of the savviest beauty consumers in the world, the summit surfaced the immense opportunities available in the China market. 

The afternoon of content was split into three sections, which were presented by experts from the likes of Azoya – a Chinese e-commerce enabler – Alibaba, and Jing Daily. The event touched on key trends, the importance of brand positioning and social media in Chinese beauty purchasing, and the all-important legalities of expansion into an often misunderstood market. 

Part one: The state of the China beauty market

Before leaping into new territories, brands need to have a clear understanding of the economy. Brandon Pemberton, President of Market Defense and Luis Galan from 2Open China trashed out the numbers in the first section before Franklin Chu of Azoya took to the stage to share exactly how brands can plan for expansion. 

Sharing detailed flow charts, Chu uncovered the logistical steps brands should consider before launching in China. Opening, he said: “At the beginning of every conversation we have with clients, we ask them the same question. ‘Are you offering something different, or, is it just another me-too product?’ 

‘A me-too product is okay, it just has to be cheaper! Or, you have to have a clear, identified strategy or niche.’ 

Part two: Legal considerations of doing business in China 

One of the biggest hurdles facing brands when entering the Chinese beauty market is the differing legal measures they must consider. From newly developed GMPC paperwork to packaging expectations, this content section unpicked some of the most asked legal queries. 

A representative from the UK’s newly-formed Department for Business and Trade shared how their team negotiated with equivalent Chinese departments for the dropping of animal testing before entering the market.

Fittingly, this was followed by a digestible presentation from Baker McKenzie’s Of Counsel, who brought the audience’s attention to trademarks, IP laws, and the importance of due diligence. 

Reach24H, a global market access consultant, closed off this section with unique insights on packaging restrictions and animal testing, that got the audience head scratching. 

Part three: What it takes to succeed, and trends driving the market 

The third, and final, section of the summit saw success stories, trend reporters, and analytics experts lay bare what makes the Chinese beauty consumer tick. 

Founders of Zelens, ARgENTUM Apothecary, and Shakeup Cosmetics sat on a panel with BeautyMatter’s John Cafarelli. Sharing anecdotes on their unique entrances, surmounted challenges, and small wins, the speakers inspired attendees – with a measure of grounding advice.

Then, onto trends. Alibaba’s Kristina Hui, Founder of Red Ant Elisa Harca, and Global Editor-In-Chief of Jing Daily, Jing Zhang, charted the key trends characterising the Chinese beauty market today. Whilst touching on the unique expectations of the consumer and the proliferation of platforms including Douyin and Red, the panellists gave three top bits of advice. 

Jing Zhang shared: ‘One advantage that European brands have over Chinese ones is their R&D, at this point. If you do have this, make sure to communicate that. In China, people are geeky about beauty so take advantage of this.’

Elisa Harca said: ‘Do your due diligence, find out what your USP is, and don’t run into it. Now that we can go out and meet people again post-Covid, make sure to do so and get to really know your consumer. Buckle up, and be ready for the ride.’

Kristina Hui finished, saying: ‘Understanding the Chinese beauty standard is important because it is so unique. For example, anti-ageing products are adopted much younger in the market. I’m not saying by 20-year-olds, but even younger.’ 

The event was closed off by an actionable and digestible presentation on 7 key considerations brands should take before expanding into the market by Sally-Anne Limb, Head of Insights at Spring and Coco Yu, Co-Founder of CP Concept. 

Resources from the event can be downloaded here!

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