How to sell and market in China

9 Min Read |

About the Author: Federica Crescenzi is part of Gentlemen Marketing Agency, a digital marketing agency that helps foreign companies to establish or strengthen their position in China. The agency supports companies with market entry strategies in to China; and to reach and communicate with Chinese consumers.

China is the world’s second-largest beauty market after the U.S. in terms of revenue and consumption value. Thanks to the growing urbanization and influence of social media, the beauty market is one of the fastest growing and most promising business sectors in China for the foreseeable future.

The China’s beauty market is facing a burgeoning demand for higher quality, premium, high-end brand products. This is a hugely profitable industry for brands looking to expand their business globally.

Consumers born in the 80s and 90s are the leading force of beauty consumption. This consumer group knows and buys products through Chinese digital channels, moreover, they tend not to trust products and brands that they do not know, so to be successful within the Chinese beauty industry brands should understand the value of brand building on chinese digital channels.

What Are The Latest Beauty Trends In China?

Companies in the beauty sector that want to enter the Chinese market absolutely must keep up with the constant changes in the needs of Chinese consumers. These are some of the latest Chinese market trends to keep in mind when selling your products in China.

  • Increased demand for natural beauty products

Nowdays, the word “Natural” is spreading profusely among Chinese influencers to promote beauty products on Chinese platforms. Chinese consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of natural products and are much more careful to use products that are good for the skin and the body.

  • China’s male beauty market is booming

Male consumers, especially Chinese millennials, are spending increasing amounts on beauty products.

Their beauty product needs have gone from a simple facial cleanser to a rigorous beauty regimen that includes lotions, toner, creams, face masks and cosmetics.

On Tmall (the most used e-commerce platform in China), the total number of Chinese men who are buying beauty products is growing faster than that of women.

As you can see in the picture below, many international brands are collaborating with male influencers and brand ambassador to target this market.

Estee Lauder
  • Live streaming and KOL to increase sales in the Chinese beauty market
KOL Livestreaming

Using live streaming to sell products is not a new trend, but it’s increasingly popular year-after-year. Live streaming, through video apps, is very popular in China and is particularly loved by Chinese users. But why?

As we said before, Chinese consumers tend to not trust new brands, therefore reliability is everything for them. Through live streaming, users can see what they are buying live and also trust more of your products and your brand.

KOLs are the key that drives listening, they are perceived as trustworthy by consumers and have great power to drive both brand awareness and sales.

For this reason, many brands are now partnering with Chinese KOLs to promote beauty products and share product tips and tricks.

Li Jiaqi, known as the “King of Lipstick”, is a clear example of KOL’s successful digital strategy in China. He sold 15,000 lipstick products in just five minutes through Taobao live streaming.

He has worked for Perfect Diary, Fenty Beauty, Yives Saint Lauren, Gucci and other famous brands.

  • Increase of beauty devices and artificial intelligence

According to Vynz research, the Asia-Pacific beauty devices market is expected to reach USD 36.9 billion by 2024 and China is the largest beauty device market in the region.

Artificial intelligence is increasingly intertwining with the beauty industry. The customer experience is enhanced by the digital transformation of the beauty industry in China, such as automated retail, virtual make-up testing and removal, and voice-guided mirror.

Therefore companies should take this new trend into account to develop innovative and interactive functions.

  • Growth of the premium fragrance segment in China

This segment has experienced steady growth in recent years as more Chinese women have started using perfumes.

Many experts believe that the premium fragrance market will continue to grow due to the luxury position of fragrances and its e-commerce availability. In fact, the demand for fragrances is being driven by the increasingly sophisticated taste of Chinese consumers.

Chinese Beauty Consumers Tend Not To Be Loyal

Chinese consumers are less and less loyal to brands given the wide range of choices between domestic and international beauty brands in the Chinese market.

Therefore, both local and foreign brands need to find more relevant ways to establish a lasting image and relationship with Chinese consumers. Localization is the key to establishing a lasting relationship with Chinese consumers. The biggest challenge is understanding the difference in Eastern and Western consumer behavior.

In China, you can’t just translate your message and expect the same level of interest you have from your established audience.

Brands should follow beauty trends in the market to be competitive and incorporate a digital strategy that speaks specifically to Chinese consumers.

Chinese consumers discover brands and products through social media interactions. Chinese beauty consumers really take the time to research and analyze product reviews before making a purchase decision. Therefore, an omni-channel presence is needed in China.

Foreign social media and e-commerce platforms often don’t work in China, and the Chinese platforms are unique as they offer many opportunities for brands to promote and sell beauty products.

Examples of relevant Chinese social media platforms and e-commerce platforms for beauty brands are Wechat, Weibo (Social Networks), Xiaohongshu (social e-commerce platform), Douyin (short-video platform), Zhihu (Q&A platform) Tmall, JD and Pinduoduo (e-commerce platforms).

For example, Estée Lauder’s success in the Chinese market is related to its focus toward:

  • A younger demographic group (As we said before, this is the main consumer group of beauty products),
  • Digital engagement and the use of Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and Wechat,
  • Collaborations with high-profile local celebrities and KOLs.
  • Selling products on e-commerce platforms like Tmall and JD.com

Creating An Omni-channel Presence in China

Create a Chinese website and invest in Baidu SEO to make your brand known in the Chinese market.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on Baidu, the most used Chinese search engine, is essential to reach Chinese consumers because one of the places where a consumer is looking for a type of product and therefore a brand is Baidu.

To appear in Chinese user searches, you need to optimize SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO specifically for Baidu. Consequently, the rules to follow will be different from those that are applied to Google.

SEO and SEM techniques are an integral part of any digital marketing strategy. In fact, they allow companies to improve their brand awareness and brand identity online.

To be visible on Baidu Chinese search engine:

  • Your website should be hosted in China
  • You should get ICP license
  • Your website should be in Mandarin

Social media is the best place to create engagement and drive brand loyalty

China has the highest number of concentrated social media users globally. The main platforms include WeChat (1.165 billion monthly active users), Weibo (520 million monthly active users), Xiaohongshu (85 million monthly active users), Douyin (475 million monthly active users).

Chinese people spend a lot of time on these platforms, using them to –

  • look for places, brands and people
  • share their opinions
  • ask for product advice
  • chat with others
  • buy products

For this reason, brands are expected to have brand pages on these platform to increase brand awareness, brand loyalty and increase sales.

Most Chinese social media are unique in that they offer the ability to sell products directly on these platforms. In particular, Xiaohongshu, even though the monthly active users are much less than other social media, is one of the best social e-commerce platforms to sell beauty products. By using these channels, brands should manage their community and should not forget of using live streaming and collaborate with KOLs to boost sales.

Leverage User Generated Content (UGC) To Recommend Your Beauty Products

This is the best way to get more social media mentions, more traffic, and build customer loyalty. User-generated content is critical to your brand growth because Chinese people trust advice from people who are like them. In fact, they trust a product recommendations by other customers moreso than branded advertising campaigns.

Chinese consumers are not impulsive buyers and will always look for information before purchasing new products. One way of conducting research is through forums and Q&A platforms like Zhihu. Brands should use these platforms to ask questions in a fun and engaging way and incentivize members engage with you, sharing ideas about your brand and product.

PR is one of the most cost-effective solutions in China to increase brand credibility. Through reliable PR newspapers and blog you can talk about your brand giving you more credibility and exposure.

How To Sell Beauty Products In China?

E-commerce in China has been doing very well in recent years and is also one of the easiest ways to sell your products, especially using cross-border e-commerce platforms such as Tmall Global, JD Worldwide and Kaola.

Ecommerce platforms like Tmall, Pinduoduo, Xiaohongshu and JD.com are fundamental to selling beauty products in China. These platforms are very useful for international brands to reach Chinese beauty consumers.

Many international beauty brands are using these platforms such as Sephora to engage with Chinese consumers. Tmall, JD.com, Wechat, and its own Chinese website Sephora.cn are also popular sales channels.