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Cosmetics brands should be wary of Chinese distributors

Chinese beauty

Small and Medium Brands need to work with a Chinese distributor usually in China.

Entering a new market is a thorough mission and brands need to manage all the aspects of their strategy in this new country. When getting into China, there are many elements a cosmetics brand needs to adapt, in order to succeed in this very demanding market. Besides product offer or marketing and communication strategy, one very important matter to determine is the distribution strategy.

Chinese distributors

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How critical is a beauty brand’s distribution strategy in China?

You first need to understand the specifics about consumption habits regarding cosmetics in China.

You must keep in mind that there are many counterfeit products on the Chinese market, and that the beauty sector is not an exception. Therefore Chinese consumers do not trust brands and products anymore, unless they can make sure they are authentic ones.

When buying cosmetics products, they like being able to try them in shops or at department store counters. However, even if they can try them in a shop and get advice from a salesperson, Chinese consumers will look for information about the product prior to making a purchase. And this is even truer when they are about to shop online: getting informed is an important step in their buying habit and the information they will find will determine whether or not they choose to buy. They will mainly look for information on the Internet: search on Baidu or on social media.

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What you should remember here is that:

  • Chinese consumers like the whole shop experience when buying cosmetics, and advertising is really effective
  • They are wary of new brands and will be very cautious when buying online
  • Their buying decision process relies heavily on what is said about the brand or product, among their friends or online.

A beauty brand therefore needs to be either present in shops or online (or both), in places regarded as trustworthy ones by Chinese consumers. The brand’s marketing strategy should be well-thought, since consumers will not buy a new product unless they are convinced it is good. Finally, the digital marketing part is essential too.

Making your products available in shops is not enough.

[4] Internet user 2

How do cosmetics distributors work?

Now that you know what is important to Chinese consumers, we can move on to what is important to distributors.

Since there are so many cosmetics companies trying to make it in China, distributors can choose which product to sell amongst a long list of brands. Just like buyers, they will ask for trustworthy products: they expect quality products with nice packaging, a precise positioning and a good reputation among users. This reputation element is crucial: they know that if one product is not recognised by consumers, sales won’t take off.

Chinese distributors are business and short term-oriented: they want to make profit, and they want it to happen quickly. However, even if they are interested in successful brands and products, they will not take part in the operations and will only focus on their part of the business: distribution.

What should a beauty brand expect from its distributor?

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Seeing that so many beauty brands are eager to enter the Chinese market, distributors will choose whichever product they like. They are not going to take any risk and will select the products which look the most promising and the most reactive brands marketing-wise.

Since they want quick results, their modus operandi is the following: if it does not work, they will move on something else. It means that if your products do not perform well, your distributor will not hesitate to abandon them and choose more encouraging ones, even if you have been working together for years. What matters is short term profit, loyalty is not really a thing.

Another thing to consider is that the cosmetics market follows trends, meaning that beauty products’ popularity can sometimes be unstable, therefore you cannot always be sure that a product will last in the long run. Because of this, Chinese distributors will refuse to get involved: if sales drop one day, its efforts would have been pointless.

Who should care about your Branding in China ?

A beauty brand should therefore not rely on its Chinese distributor /resellers for any marketing action in China: he will only focus on distribution. A cosmetics brand needs to ensure that all aspects of its marketing strategy are covered inhouse or by an agency. If by any chance, a distributor accepts this part of the job, you should not expect a lot of involvement from him or very well-thought marketing actions.

So what is the right way with Chinese distributors?

Before even trying to find a distribution that could introduce your products in many different points of sales, you should ensure your online reputation is good: brand and products should appear on Baidu results, it should be talked about in forums or blogs and you should be able to find active official accounts on social media. If a distributor cannot find information about your products online, it means that consumers won’t be able to either: if they do not know a brand, they will not trust it and definitely not buy it. For a distributor, that is a big risk and he will not accept your products in the first place.

You can contact us if you need guidance regarding your strategy in China for cosmetics products.

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3 Comments to "Cosmetics brands should be wary of Chinese distributors"

  1. Reply
    Anna
    March 22, 2016 at 4:44 am

    So true. Very Good article.
    I have so much trouble with my Chinese distrobutor, we have choosen this bullshit company and we are blocked for 4years.
    Terrible mistake

  2. Reply
    Nicolas
    February 1, 2017 at 4:51 am

    It is a wonderfull article. Actually it is true most beauty brands are facing problems with their Chinese distributor… it is cultural.

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