What can we learn from China’s beauty and skincare industry? by Foundation

by | Aug 5, 2021

British Beauty Council Patron Foundation explore the successes in China’s beauty and skincare industry from the Department for International Trade beauty webinars.

 As the second-largest skincare industry in the world, the Chinese skincare and beauty market has grown significantly over the last few years. With streamlined customer service and rapid payment processes, there are arguably many aspects from the industry that Western brands could really learn from.


Our team recently took part in the Department for International Trade beauty webinars, exploring many aspects of the success of skincare and beauty within Chinese markets. Our article explores the ease of purchasing quickly, supplying all product information upfront, focusing on trust as a brand and using eCommerce data to create an omnichannel experience for your consumers online.


What does the eCommerce journey look Like?


First, let’s take a look at what the eCommerce landscape for Chinese consumers looks like, and how consumers engage and interact with the content they’re served on sites like Taobao, Small and JD, or Jing Dong.


With over 90% of all purchases made on mobile across all three sites, the emphasis on an easy and fast online payment for consumers is essential. In fact, the online process across sites like Taobao is so fast, a simple finger scan capability allows users to pay almost instantly for their products. As time is of the essence for consumers within the Chinese market, brands have adapted their user journeys to be responsive, fast and easy to navigate, ultimately increasing conversions. Having a seamless online payment, such as the finger scan approach cuts out any further steps and means users have an almost uninterrupted experience with their favourite brands online.


The focus of quick purchasing journeys may also stem from the huge popularity of WeChat – the app for everything in China – that allows users to chat and buy and sell anything they want, all from one platform. The convenience of “super app”, WeChat, has been coined as the “key in the path to purchase” helping meet consumer expectations when they’re at the research and discovery stages of exploring new things to buy, see and do. 


Chinese consumers have expectations from the technology they interact with on a daily basis; to connect them to brands and products they’re interested in quickly and seamlessly. This is definitely something Western brands can adapt for their own digital strategies, reviewing online journeys and payment processes to ensure they’re quick and easy to complete.


Detailed Descriptions Are Gold Dust


A feature that benefits brands both from an SEO and user experience, is having detailed product descriptions upfront. Within the Chinese beauty and skincare industry, the descriptions are ideal for searches as they’re detailed and clear. Users are more likely to search “red mouth”, as an example, when looking for red lipstick, so the products meet this style of search. Product listings across sites like Small and JD typically include a range of imagery, a video, colour options of products where appropriate, additional information like how many sales have been made that month as well as those all-important reviews. 


Product listings for the skincare industry in China provide a reel of additional information to meet consumers’ demand for a higher level of understanding for each product. This is definitely something Western brands could adopt for their own product listings, we only tend to feature a star rating and product name at first glance- there isn’t even a buy now button for quick-buy options.


Within the skincare industry, reviews are particularly important, and for Chinese consumers, they’re deemed essential. Consumers feel it’s their duty to share their own experiences with others, and the details they share provide a real insight into what they expect from customer service too. Buyers comment on packaging, general usage, their expectations of the product, and to top it off, brands will always respond. Customer service is essential to their market and Western brands could learn a lot from this level of service from brands online. Whilst Western brands typically share reviews too, users have to click into a product for more detail and often brands don’t respond to each review left on their website.


Another successful aspect of user-generated content for Chinese consumers is the huge popularity of micro-influencers, who create regular, highly valuable content sharing their honest reviews on products and brands. This is another key part of the growing success within the industry that Western brands should pay particular attention to. Brands should focus on including influencer contributions within a wider brand strategy and develop a community of micro-influencers for user-generated content. Micro-influencers and consumers who will share honest reviews.

The Power Of Micro-Influencers 


It’s not simply the ‘power of celebrity’ that helps influence Chinese consumers when it comes to using micro-influencers, as consumers actively look for peer reviews, not celebrity endorsement. The website that started off the trend of micro-influencers for Chinese consumers, “Little Red Book”, began as a place for recommendations for shopping overseas, Since then, it has grown into a 100,00-strong user-generated review site with an eCommerce platform. Communities such as Little Red Book, don’t want celebrity influencers, but instead focuses on smaller communities sharing honest reviews. Trust is an important factor with consumers in China, which is another key feature brands could focus on when reaching new potential audiences.


As well as written reviews, video reviews have really taken brands within the Chinese markets by storm, with high volumes of micro-influencers or ‘Key opinion leaders’ (KOLs) influencing young people more than ever. Unlike Western brands which typically rely on using superstars like Blake Lively and Helen Mirren to advertise their products, Chinese brands instead use smaller household names, utilising more relatable people to represent their products. This is another key element Western brands could easily adapt for their own marketing strategies, using smaller but trusted influencers to review and share their experiences on social media.

The importance of live-streaming products


The use of key opinion leaders, known as KOL, sharing product reviews coupled with the rise in live streaming product shares has generated huge interest amongst consumers. Whilst live streaming makeup and skincare has been adopted by some Western brands, it appears they’re generally more hesitant to use live streaming and influencer marketing as an alternative channel. By contrast, Chinese consumers have taken to live streaming in a big way, with the Single’s Day festival bringing in 10,066 years worth of live streaming content across China in just 3.5 weeks. It’s a big part of how consumers interact with each other and subsequently their favourite brands so it makes sense for brands to harness this huge audience reach by using the platform.


Chinese beauty and skincare brands use live streams to position their products as well as share information and beauty related content. Consumers want helpful content covering the latest beauty trends, how-to guides, top tips and techniques, as well as expert advice and tutorials. This type of additional content is easy to interact with on live-streaming platforms and creates further opportunities for brands to reach and engage with new consumers, as well as loyal customers.


Blending Gender Conformities


Another key feature Western brands could highly benefit from is the focus on male skincare, and the general inclusivity brands have when it comes to using men and women to advertise their products. Chinese skincare and beauty brands blur the more traditional gender conformities of excluding men from advertising beauty products. A great example of this was the Chinese boyband, TNT, who proudly showcased the beauty brand, Florasis. This isn’t something Western beauty brands have been brave enough to try yet. Male makeup products soared throughout 2020 in China, with sales increasing by 31% and set to continue to grow over the next four years. Much of this growing interest is said to be a combination of cultural trends, with liberal Gen Z consumers’  much more likely to actively engage with make-up and skincare. Whilst Western consumers are behind this huge increase in China, we’ve previously explored the rapid rise in interest in male grooming products and skincare throughout 2020 in the UK.


Key take-outs for Western skincare and beauty brands to adopt;

  • Live-streaming is key to engaging and sharing products and experiences which is exactly what skincare and beauty consumers want. For Western brands to really harness the power live-streaming has, they need to work on their presence across social media platforms that feature streaming. With over 1 billion active users daily, Instagram is one of the more obvious choices of social channels for brands to try live-streaming
  • Influencer marketing is another really interesting strategy that is having a real impact in China. Western brands should adopt this style of using key opinion leaders that consumers actively engage with and follow
  • Reviews are essential for trust-building and should be a focus for a lot of Western brands, particularly the placement of reviews. Having customer feedback prominent for each product will help decision-making during the purchasing journey. Brands could also learn a lot from Chinese consumers who engage with their favourite brands via reviews.
  • Optimising ‘buy now’ journeys are also key for Western brands as more consumers choose to purchase on mobile devices. Improving the buying journey across your website is a key part of improving the overall user experience and Western brands have a lot to learn from the quick-purchase journeys many Chinese brands are already using.



Find out more about British Beauty Council Patron Foundation here.

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