With Korea’s close proximity to China and its neighbour’s huge population and growing disposable wealth, the country and its K-beauty phenomenon has witnessed a significant spike in products and services.
As many of these Korea-based products and services feature in the beauty and personal care categories, Korean brands are looking to “target the new segment of emerging middle class, which accordingly has more money to spend,” said Nicole Fall, Founder of Asian Consumer Intelligence.
“It would appear that K-Beauty, both conceptually and as a category, will continue growing over the medium term. There is the possibility for a response from other markets, such as India and Indonesia. The volume in those markets is enormous, so just a small percentage of it would be a huge gain for Korean manufacturers,” added Fall.
As e-commerce continues to play a significant role in the popularity of the K-Beauty trend, Fall emphasised how “travel has also made a major impact”. Today, consumers experience increased exposure to more brands, whether it be online, in the airports or product availability on the planes themselves.
Fall noted that “there are statistics that demonstrate South Korean companies now develop more skin care-related patents than any other country each year”.
Fall goes on to say: “On the R&D side, there is a huge drive from the manufacturers and ingredient suppliers to both develop their own Korean brands, service the OEM market as well as create new brands for private-label retailers, so the opportunities are seemingly limitless.”
As the Korean sector and the wider Asia-Pacific (APAC) market sees rapidly changing consumer attitudes, it is crucial that brands use extensive R&D to meet these demands and prove competitive.
“Development is fast-moving, in order for the industry to respond to consumer needs in a timely fashion. The old model of NPD was that the companies and brands would dictate the direction of the market, and the consumer would buy into it. Now consumers are driving the trends, and Korean brands, especially, are more product-focused rather than brand-centric,” emphasised Fall.
Consumers demand skincare
Skin care remains a top trend within Korea, as beauty beliefs and regimes highlight the importance of good skin.
“The main demand in South Korea is for skin care products. The skin care category is key and more relevant than ever and whitening remains a huge market in this part of the world. The belief is that if you have great skin, you’ll look younger and more beautiful. In Asia, being beautiful starts with great skin and that starts with disciplined skincare regimes,” said Fall.
“There is a higher emphasis placed on the regimes around skincare that South Korean products can help to provide. While lengthy skincare rituals are a cultural anomaly mostly seen in South Korea and Japan, people across Asia know that to stand out and gain an advantage, having good skin and grooming techniques are key.”
Perhaps surprisingly, cosmetics and make-up play a “smaller part of the market in Asia”. Fall put this down “in part to cultural and climatic reasons – it is simply harder to wear make-up in the humidity or wear a face-full of make-up if you need to remove it for religious reasons several times a day”.
It appears that the Korean cosmetics market is as much about beauty as it is about practicality, and may well be a growing consideration for brands in years to come.