What are consumers of today looking for when it comes to K-beauty products and solutions?
I think the average American consumer that buys K-Beauty is looking for effective products at a reasonable price with a great sensorial experience. By sensorial I mean textures, product name, packaging, fragrance and visual cues. I don’t think the average American consumer will go for the exotic ingredients like snail mucin or donkey’s milk, for example.
What opportunities does this present to brands?
For brands, when creating your brand story or product line up, you must keep in mind that creating a sensorial experience is a really important part of success. I feel there are many products that were geared towards the Chinese tourist consumer that won’t work for the US. Product strategies and development should keep in mind the local market and their habits and interests.
What challenges does this create?
What we’re seeing now is a lot more Western brands “K-Beauty-ifying” their products. For example. Glam Glow launched a gel moisturiser, which is a texture popularised by K-Beauty. But also, it added mineral water sourced from Jeju Island. Western brands are also quickly bringing new product formats and categories that were popularised by K-Beauty into their product portfolios. All this can be flattering, however, Korean brands, especially small ones, should always ensure the protection of their IP and trademarks.
Are Korean K-beauty brands different to US ones?
I don’t think there can be a US K-Beauty brand. I define K-Beauty as having to originate from Korea and be manufactured in Korea.
What are the specific needs of the Korean vs. the US consumers?
The US consumer is relatively new to skincare. They need a lot more education and hand-holding to know what to buy, how to apply it and the order in which to apply products. They need more storytelling and romancing to buy a product. They also need a lot of social proof and need to have seen products and brands on social and in the press before purchase. I think Korean consumers are much more sophisticated skincare buyers and are savvier in what they buy.
Can you indicate some of these winning tactics?
I think Korean brands need to show a tight story that flows through their entire product portfolio. I find a lot of them lacking in this regard as they prioritise speed of product development and launches over cohesion.
Another one is that it is critical is that they control their distribution. There are many grey market sellers in the US and this makes for a confusing shopping experience for the US consumer.
A third is to not discount all the time or chase discount channels. Often, Korean brands prioritise sales volume rather than brand building and unfortunately, by discounting all the time, they cheapen their brand.
How important is marketing?
Marketing is critical. If a Korean brand is not going to support with marketing, they should not bother entering the US market.
This year's in-cosmetics Korea will take place from 13th-15th June 2018. For more information, visit http://korea.in-cosmetics.com/.