Guide to Selling your Brand on China Cosmetics & Beauty Market

Cosmetics brands are always looking for new ways to attract customers. China’s cosmetics and beauty market is a billion-dollar industry that’s growing fast, so it’s no surprise that companies are rushing over there. We’re here to help you navigate the Chinese beauty landscape with this guide!

How does a brand enter the Chinese cosmetics market?

  • Market Research: What is the demand for your products, who are the consumers, who are the competitors, how is the pricing, what platforms are they using to promote their brand, which retail channel or combinaison of channels is the best to sell your products and so on.
  • Regulations, trademark and Business License: China has its own sets of regulations and legal status that you’ll need to be aware of when entering the Chinese market. Your capacity to fullfil this regulations or not will impact your selling strategy on the market. We invite your to read this post about trademark and this post about chinese business license. You can also contact us right away. We can help you register your company and trademark in China as well as getting you a Chiense business license at a competitive price.
  • Classic retail and distribution: Many of you do not wish do to direct selling and would rather have distributors taking care of everything. If that is you, please read this post carefully and then drop us an email so we can discuss your needs.
  • Online retail/ecommerce: We have seen in the beggining of this post, that the online sales penatration rare keeps increasing for the Chinese cosmetics market and the trend won’t stop any time soon. Online retail offers brands more flexibility and control on the whole selling process. Cross-border ecommerce also come handy for cosmetics brands that are looking to just try out the chinese cosmtics market or are not ready to fully comit yet.
  • Branding and eReputation: Cosmetics are one of product type that demand a lot of budgets to control your reputation. Most of the time, sales depend on it. To do so, you need to know where the Chinese go to find information. If you control the source of information, you can successfully control your reputation.

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Now that we’ve got the basics cover, let get right into the topic with some more detailed information

  1. In the first half of this article we will covered the market and growing opportunities for cosmetics brands
  2. In the second half we are taking a look at the most efficient way to enter the market and promote your brand.

Why should you enter the Chinese Cosmetics Market?

China is the world’s second-largest cosmetics consumer market (behind the United States), with retail sales rising by 4.2% year on year. Not only that but the channel available to sell your cosmetics brands are more and more numerous and barriers are slowly falling making it a lot easier to enter the market.

On top of ease of doing business in the market, several segments of Chinese cosmetics are recording impressive growth. It is the right time for smaller and niche brands to fill the gap before international beauty brands totally put their hands on these market segments. (Bear with me, we will see each of these segments a bit later in this post)

China Cosmetics Market growth

China cosmetics market size from 2012 to 2025 – Source: Statista & Globenewswire – graph by GMA

Cosmetics brands doing business in China already know the importance of eCommerce and beauty brands looking at the market, should most definitely start thinking of their eCommerce plan of action for China:

  • In 2019, the online retail sales value of cosmetics products in China amounted for approximately 194.4 billion yuan.
  • In fact, this number is forecasted to exceed 350 billion yuan by 2024.
  • The penetration rate of online cosmetics sales has been increasing rapidly in China since 2009, reaching 25.3% in 2018, compared to UK (12.1%), the US (10.9%), and Japan (9.2%).
  • The online penetration rate of cosmetics in China is expected to be 31.4% in 2022.

China Cosmetics Market: Post Covid-19

Despite the health crisis, cosmetic manufacturer Global Cosmetics believes that China will remain a major supply chain hub for the cosmetic industry. Brands like L’Oréal reported that its sales in China have seen progressive signs of recovery since the country was hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, potentially marking that the cosmetic market is headed for a quick recovery post-pandemic. This means that, despite Covid-19, the Chinese cosmetic market is still an excellent opportunity for brands.

Chinese cosmetics consumers

From the perspective of Chinese cosmetics consumers, people born in the 1970s-1990s are the leading force whose consumption accounts for nearly 90%, of which nearly 40% is contributed by those born in the 1980s.

However, in recent years, people born between 1995 and 2000s have had a growing demand for cosmetics as they enter colleges, universities, and society. Compared with other age groups, they are passionate about online shopping, have a diversified preference for the brand, and attention to high-end and affordable brands.

Foreign brands still play a dominant role in the Chinese cosmetic market, with an 86% share of total retail sales. To meet the demand of Chinese cosmetics consumers and acquire greater market share in China, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Shiseido, and other foreign brands have constantly adapted new strategies and intensified the channels’ promotion. Meanwhile, Chinese companies led by Jahwa and Marubi are also stepping up the layout of the cosmetics market.

Cosmetics Market trends in China: Growing Segments

Currently, the Chinese market is dominated by skincare and makeup products. However:

Skincare products are the largest segment among cosmetic products in China, accounting for 55.2% of industry revenue in 2019, while hair care products are ranked second with a proportion of 18.8%. In the skincare and haircare segments, male grooming products have been growing in popularity.

The fragrances segment also has experienced steady growth in recent years. Other products include deodorants and depilatory products, accounting for an estimated 5.3% of industry revenue in 2019.

Skincare Goods dominate the chinese cosmetics market

Skincare (a segment that can itself be broken down into many subcategories), by itself, represents 1 fourth of the total revenue of the Chinese cosmetics market.

With the rising of fine living and skincare consciousness, Chinese female consumers are increasingly focused on product effectiveness. They want products that clean and protect their skin while keeping it healthy. Moisturising, hydrating, whitening, and cleansing are the most valued product functions for consumers. Anti-aging effects and pore tightening are also growing.

Chinese Men are more and more into Skincare

In an environment where there is a traditionally skewed gender ratio and preference towards males, cosmetics that target men have seen remarkable growth in the Chinese beauty market in recent years. Men’s willingness to use skincare and make-up products and consequently spend on such products has surged due to their growing consciousness about their appearances and looks.

According to Euromonitor International’s estimates, the male skincare and cosmetics retail sales in China reached a whopping 13.5% annual growth rate during 2016-2019! Those numbers are even more impressive when compared to the rest of the world where the global average rate was 5.8%.

This data is also verified online. For instance, in 2018 on Tmall, men skincare recorded the fastest growth as sales increased by 70% and makeup sales by 15%. This is not only a trend but a profitable opportunity to seize for cosmetics brands. There is a huge demand that has yet to be answered.

Read more about China skincare market & Male Skincare Emerges as a Market Leader in China

The Rise of Make-up in the Chinese Cosmetics industry

Historically China’s focus was on skincare, but there’s been a clear shift towards more makeup products and not just with female consumers.

  • Base Makeup is one of China’s fastest-growing beauty categories. In fact, in 2019 the basic makeup category grew by 257.9% year on year compared to the average growth rate of 151.3% across all categories.
  • The eyes-make up catergory is interesting. As afordable chinese make-up brands Perfect Diary and Florasis become more and more popular on the Market so did eyes-shadows. In fact, the eye makeup category, is projected to record a CAGR of 7.9% during the 2020-2025 period.

When it comes to make-up online shopping is the main retail channel accounting for 36.7% of the market share in 2020. Online retailers are followed by department stores and hypermarkets (22.5%) & supermarkets (13.8%.)

Premium fragrances in China

The Perfumes and Premium Fragrances segment is interesting because it is mainly untapped and is still very young thus having an enormous potential for growth.

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 increasing sophisticated taste of Chinese consumers.

Few Chinese people still use fragrances, however, this segment is expected to grow in the future with the influence of globalization and with the development of perfume products that fit Chinese consumer preferences.

Read also: the Chinese perfume market

Eco friendly and natural cosmetics

Health awareness, environment awareness and sustainability, pollution rise, and so on are some of the reasons for “green beauty” growth in China. This segment is a real opportunity for foreign cosmetics and beauty brands that benefit from a better reputation when it comes to these criterias while Chinese brands still suffer from the scandals of the past. But foreign Brands should not wait for too long, as made-in-China brands such as the Herborist have been working extensively on changing this bad rep.

In China, there is a stronger demand for skincare products with natural ingredients as these consumers are able to pay for a premium based on the benefits of organic beauty products. As a matter of fact, 54% of Gen-Z consumers say they value plant-based skincare when asked about skincare concepts.

Many brands have already started adapting their strategies to Chinese consumers’ needs and demands for more “natural” cosmetics goods. For example, Shiseido’s new R&D center is focusing on the development of green products for the Chinese market.

Children’s & baby skincare/Personnal Care

Baby skin care products on Tmall
Baby skincare products on Tmall

Over the last few years, China’s baby personal care market has witnessed rapid growth due to its newfound purchasing power and freedom from the one-child policy. The market was valued at:

  • RMB9,617 million in 2018
  • RMB18,888 million by 2023 (Mintel Forecast)

Within the baby care industry, skincare is the largest segment, with bath and hair products close behind. And just like for “green beauty” foreign brands still have the edge on this specific segment. Organic cosmetics, and products that contain baby safe ingredients are especially in demand. In fact, the most important aspects that influence the decision of parents when purchasing products for children’s care are convenience and organic aspects.

Sell your Cosmetics Brand on Chinese Online Marketplacs

E-commerce in China has been going really well in recent years. China’s turnover increased by 60% and reached 12 billion euros last year. The Chinese Internet offers different types of sites where to do your purchases like professional cosmetics sites (Jumei), company online stores, and cross-border channels.

Omnichannel, such as Tmall, Wechat, and JD.com is fundamental to selling cosmetics products in China. These platforms are very useful for western brands to reach more consumers, however, you need to promote your store and try to increase the traffic.

Many brands use these platforms to reach Chinese consumers and increase sales. For example, Sephora integrates various platforms and marketing strategies to engage with its customer base on a variety of different channels including T-Mall, JD.com, WeChat, and its own website Sephora.cn.

Sell your Cosmetics Brand in China with Tmall

Tmall (天猫) is a Chinese e-commerce platform for business-to-consumer (B2C). It is a platform for local Chinese and international businesses to sell brand goods to consumers in China.

During the Tmall Beauty Awards, online sales of cosmetics, skincare, and personal-care products in China grew 46%, 40%, and 37% respectively.

Tmall has now become the de facto, primary e-commerce destination for premium cosmetics. Some premium brands, like Shiseido, are using Tmall to reach consumers.

JD: an alternative to Tmall to sell cosmetics online in China

JD.com is one of the leader’s e-commerce platforms in China. JD sells a wide range of products that also includes cosmetics products, therefore it offers incredible opportunities to foreign brands that want to sell their cosmetics products in China.

Jumei: chinese online marketplace specialized in cosmetics

Jumei mainly provides consumers with cosmetics and luxury products. Every day, the platform recommends a dozen of popular cosmetics. The platform particularly welcomes foreign companies that are having great success with Chinese consumers.

Read also: Guide to Jumei eCommerce

Cross border e-commerce platforms

Besides Tmall global e JD worldwide, Kaola is one of the best cross-border e-commerce platforms for cosmetic products.

Read: Introduction to China Cross-border eCommerce Landscape

Kaola: Number one of Chinese crossborder eCommerce

Kaola is often considered by cosmetics and fashion brands as a choice to sell products in the Chinese market.

It provides international companies the opportunity to sell their products securely to Chinese consumers and is known for cost-effective and trustworthy products among shoppers since the platforms buy products directly from foreign companies.

Most efficient way to gain in popularity with your cosmetics brand in China

Chinese Website + SEO = improve the reputation of your Cosmetics Brands

Having a Chinese website is essential for any company looking to do business in the country. Reasons include that most of China’s population can’t speak English. Getting a Chinese website will also be key for your indexing on the Chinese search engine Baidu. Keep in mind that no matter how strong your brand awareness is at home when entering China as an outsider company it can get lost amongst all of those other businesses with their own loyal followings already built up there first – so getting good keywords early and keeping them updated through frequent content updates are essential!

To appear in Chinese user searches, you need to optimize SEM and SEO specifically for Baidu. Consequently, the rules to follow will be different from those that are applied to Google. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) techniques are an integral part of any digital marketing strategy. In fact, they allow companies to improve their brand awareness and brand identity online.

Why do you want to rank on Baidu?

  • Visibility: you need to set you brand appart and you want consumers to find you when entering your choosen keyword in the baidu search bar. Not only you’ll get more view but SEO is a long term cost-efficient solutions that will help in reducing aquisition cost.
  • Credibility: The more relevant requests your website is referenced on, the more credible your company look. And credibility is key to conversion rate.

On top of your SEO effort, you can also use Baidu Paid ads. Paid Ads will reinforce your organic results but it can quicly become pricey especially with competitive keywords.

We would also suggest that you make good use of PR and undercover marketing. By undercover marketing, understand third parties websites and media validating your brand on their own channel but the results should look organic, typically, “UGC” ( Users Generated Content). This posts because relevant for users, are highlighted by Baidu and will rank high.

Promotion on Chinese Social Media

WeChat & Weibo will always be great picks when it comes to brand recognition in China because they are the first social media platforms that Chinese users will use to learn more about your products and brand. Besides Wechat and Weibo, there are many other interesting platforms where you can increase brand awareness and promote your products like Douyin and Xiaohongshu.

Weibo, Best Place to Organically Promote you Beauty Brand but in a Commercial Fashion

The social media platform Weibo welcomes 216 million active users daily to its platform, it is the place where societal debate happens, the app is truly influencial within China. 94% of these people come from mobile devices, making it the ideal place for marketers looking to promote their brand and products among China’s younger generation with 54% being under 30 according to IResearch.

The app offers varied marketing tools to business accounts: Lucky draw, flashsales, native ads, hashtags, ecommerce. Weibo is also appreciated by users and brands for its well-developped network of KOLs and live-streaming function.

Users are used to seeing commercial content on Weibo and engage with this content. For a brand to win in visibility and grow a following, weibo is also preferred to Wechat because of its open nature (à la Twitter) which allows for content spreading like wildfire.

Reach out to Gen Z on Douyin 抖音 

Douyin is a short video app well known in China. On Douyin videos of cosmetics products are very popular. To promote brands many experts or better called Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) explain all the tricks to always look your best.

As a matter of fact, KOLs play an important role in this platform. Funny and creative makeup tutorials can now be found everywhere on live streaming platforms like Douyin and Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu).

On top of that, Douyin has ecommerce ambition and brands can now have their own flagship store while users can pay with their Douyin waller.

Cosmetics Brands should be on Xiaohongshu

The Little Red Book is a social e-commerce media boasting over 300 million registered users and 85 million monthly active users focused on beauty and lifestyle sharing their experience with goods on the app.

In China, the biggest consumers of luxury cosmetics are young women under 35, and guess what? The largest users of Xiaohongshu are also female under 35 from mainly large wealthy Chinese cities.

The need for recommendations is important when selling products as well as acquiring new customers within this market where people rely heavily on word of mouth advertising with friends or family members before making purchases online, coincidently, the core business of RED is UGC, specifically product reviews.

Xiaohongshu’s (RED) user-generated content plays a big role in helping Chinese consumers shape brand perception and build brand loyalty. It encourages users to share their personal experiences with products, gives tips, and provides discounted information. This app is turning into the social commerce hub for beauty beginners and professionals alike.

For marketers, Xiaohonshu also proposes a native ads system, as well as live-streaming and short video content, official account, and ecommerce store. Definitly a platform to explore cosmetics brands in China. And if you do not wish to personnaly be on the app, collaborate with inlfuencial Little Red Book KOLs.

Read more on the topic here: Guide to Xiaohongshu marketing

Live streaming key to selling Cosmetics in China

Using live streaming to sell products is increasingly popular year after year.

Live streaming is very popular in China and is particularly loved by users for its ability to be transparent and authentic. In fact, in China, many brands integrate live streaming into their marketing strategies to engage large masses of users in a few minutes. The KOLs are the key that guides the listening.

Due to these reasons, live streaming might be the perfect choice when it comes to showcasing the personalization and authenticity of your cosmetics products.

Cosmetics brands in China need KOLs marketing

Chinese KOLs in cosmetics are taking over China’s beauty market. They are producing watch-and-learn videos to share the most important tips and tricks.

KOLs marketing is widely used by cosmetics and skincare brands in China.

For example, Austin Li, a famous makeup influencer, who is famous as “Brother Lipstick” on social media, has successfully promoted multiple products. He has over 31 million followers on Douyin and has earned 100-million likes. On Xiaohongshu, there are 40-thousand articles related to him. Many cosmetic consumers refer to their product comments as guidelines before buying cosmetics. Austin has proven to be an impressive KOL for brands that sell cosmetics in China.

Read also: Master Kols Marketing in China

To conclude on the Chinese Cosmetics market

If you’re struggling to enter the Chinese market for cosmetics, don’t worry. You can still do it with a little help from experts! The trick is doing your research and preparing in advance; you’ll need to be prepared for long procedures on e-commerce platforms (which we would love to assist you with). So seize this opportunity by learning more about what’s happening in China today – they might just become your most promising market in terms of sales!

Don’t be shy, Contact us and feel free to ask about our solutions, our prices, and our cases studies

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1 thought on “Guide to Selling your Brand on China Cosmetics & Beauty Market”

  1. Step 1: enter the Chinese market.
    As of 2021, China has become one of the largest cosmetics market in the world right after the USA. To add on this great take by GMA, the following are some ways to enter this lucrative market-
    1) Know your demographic. The majority of consumers in China are millennials, so emphasizing trendy brands is important for businesses who want to sell products there. You can also tailor your marketing strategy towards other different demographics, such as rural or elderly people if you have a product that benefits them too.
    2) Expand distribution channels- there are an abundance of distribution channels operating in mainland China which can be leveraged by foreign companies for greater distribution.
    3eCommerceExamples include e-commerce websites like Taobao, Tmall and so on

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