Chinese cosmetics, or C-beauty, have escalated in popularity thanks to the wave of nationalism that has swept the country.
“Pride in China is getting stronger which means that local brands are increasingly appreciated,” said Florence Bernardin, founder of Information et Inspiration, a French consultancy that specialises in the Asian cosmetics market.
Bernardin added that Chinese beauty consumers were turning to local brands for products that resonate with their specific skin needs and concerns.
She noted that C-beauty brands have been quick to respond to this need by developing innovative cosmetic products specifically for Chinese skin concerns and tones.
“Iconic brands are able to be highly reactive with product development, combining both the latest worldwide and local trends to offer products that caterer directly to Chinese consumers’ needs,” said Bernardin.
She added that Chinese consumers also appreciated most C-beauty brands’ naturally-derived ingredients.
“TCM-based and herbal formulas are integrated into Chinese culture and consumers’ minds. As most products from local brands are derived from natural ingredients, this appeals directly to consumers,”
One of the biggest strengths of C-beauty brands lies in their command of marketing.
“Traditional beauty is being modernised to create a new beauty concept, integrating Chinese-specific culture and identity. We’re seeing the return of iconic brands and a new way of communicating and building marketing campaigns based on Chinese millennials’ unique language,” said Bernardin.
Many local brands prefer to collaborate with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), which have proven to be cost-effective yet very successful at tapping into consumers’ needs, said Bernardin.
She believes there is still plenty of opportunities for C-beauty brands to tap into such as ampoule serums, freeze-dried powder and nutricosmetics.
Obstacles to expansion
The competitive market place, however, is hindering the growth of C-beauty brands, said Bernardin.
“One challenge is building a longstanding brand as there is fierce competition between local, international and Asian brands.”
Despite their strengths, Bernardin noted that C-beauty brands can be short-sighted.
“There is sometimes a focus on short-term profit rather than long-term product development. This means that a large volume of ‘star-selling’ products are brought onto the market to appeal to the mass market as opposed to long standing products. Often, brands spend too much on communication and distribution rather than R&D, which means there can be a lack of sustainable vision,” she said.
In order to globalise, Bernardin believes the first step a C-beauty brand should take is into the wider Asian market before heading west.
However, C-beauty brands need to improve their product safety as there are currently “no certification for bio or ‘clean’ beauty products,” said Bernardin.
This is significant as the demand for such products opens up more opportunities for C-beauty brands.
“On a wider level, ‘green’ beauty, ‘clean’ beauty and ‘safe’ beauty are all set to continue to grow. There’s also an opportunity to develop products formulated to address sensitive skin, pollution and stress, as well as anti-ageing, as these concerns are growing among modern consumers,” said Bernardin.
She added: “I also think there will be a move from the mass market, to more premium products which have the level of quality and safety that’s in line with Japanese and international brands. I also expect brands to focus more on building a greater level of consumer trust through ingredient and production transparency as well as sustainability.”
Florence Bernardin, Founder of Information et Inspiration, will lead two sessions at in-cosmetics Asia; ‘India, the emerging beauty giant’ on Tuesday 5 November at 17:00 and ‘C-beauty, the rise of a bueaty empire’ on Wednesday 6 November at 14:00, both in the Marketing Trends Theatre.