South Korean beauty products are currently witnessing a growing interest among the Chinese customers at the expense of western brands.
South Korea, the challenger in beauty industry
As China’s economy was slowing down by a notch, Chinese outbound tourists reconsidered their choice as regards their destination, South Korea stood out. This recent trend for tourism in South Korea led the countries beauty brands to be more exposed to the Chinese consumers. It ensured a gradually growth of the South Korean beauty products popularity among the Chinese customers. According to a recent report from the luxury bench marker L2, Chinese interest for western beauty & cosmetics products is slightly declining whereas the South Korean beauty has seen strong results. Figures show that about one quarter of the cosmetic imports in China come from their neighbor South Korea. The research director of L2 declared that South Korea is the source of beauty innovation and that numerous products originating from it were copied by several western brands (including bb cream and cushion compacts).
South Korean cosmetic products are on the verge to seriously contend with western brands as the online and offline brands are developing their market. Chinese beauty bloggers and vloggers already started to talk about these rising beauty products, introducing them to a broad audience made of millions of Chinese potential customers.
K-pop & Cosmetics : more fashion
The rising popularity of fashion magazines, beauty bloggers & vloggers, the K-pop celebrities is furthering the expansion of the South Korean beauty industry in China. Reports showed that the value of South Korean products imported to China has increased by 250%, 126% of which come from the beauty products only. The western brands that had settled on the Chinese market long ago, are witnessing a fall in the Chinese interest. In 2014, skincare products sales declined by 4.8%, while color cosmetics sales decreased by 3.8%.
It appears that South Korean beauty brands are mastering the online channel, ensuring a better reach in the Chinese market. Maybe the fact that South Korea is closer to China in terms of culture, helps the beauty brands to better grasp the expectations of Chinese consumers.
The war for the Chinese internet
Further research carried out by L2inc showed that Korean brands’ popularity on Chinese search platforms is growing, especially on Baidu and Weibo. This recent rise in popularity includes search, social and e-commerce platforms. Several of the most famous Korean brands such as Innisfree, Laneíge are doing quite well on the Chinese web. Laneíge had an index on Baidu of 11,194, a growth of 89% during just about a year. Although western brands like Kiehl’s, Estée Lauder, Sephora and Lancôme (owned by LVMH) still lead the Baidu index. Laneíge stand at the top of Weibo, being mentioned on the blogging platform more than 2,100 times every month. South Korean beauty products are mentioned more than 42 times the Index average.
Digital-savvy Korean brands
Apart from their ascendance to the search platforms, Korean brands already secured a good position on Chinese Alibaba’s Tmall e-commerce platform. The three of them are among the top 10 searched brands, competing famous western brands as L’Oréal Paris, Chanel, and Estée Lauder as well as local brands and Japanese Shiseido. Innisfree is the current king, leading the search volume on Baidu, Taobao (Tmall) and Youku. Innisfree successfully complied with the Chinese market characteristics as the brand used K-pop celebrities to advertise their products, and formulated a campaign with social content featuring WeChat. One of the WeChat post had over 10,000 views while the campaign had around 17.7 million impressions and 36,000 mentions on Weibo.
Korean Brands have invested on the Chinese Web Communication
The South Korean brands really know what is up on the Chinese internet. Laneíge has been reported to currently increase its reach on WeChat and Youku, further increasing its view index quite above average. Laneíge’s effort on the Chinese internet platforms was successful as their video “Fashion in Seoul” featuring someone using WeChat, was seen more than 2 million times on Youku. Furthermore, Korea drama shows are witnessing a strong growth in popularity among the Chinese people, the TV-show “Descendants of the Sun” in March 2015 strategically starring Laneíge’s spokesmodel Kang Mo Yeon, reached over 440 million viewers across China. All in all, South Korean brands do know how to appeal to the growing Chinese market, their firm stand on the online platforms are already bearing fruits and still, they are still willing to expand their reach.
Western Brands are more traditional
Western brands may have to re-evaluate their options on the Chinese market and adopt their strategy accordingly. It might be wise to consider following South Korean brands example regarding online marketing in China.