China, colour and COVID-19: Merck breaks down how pandemic outbreak has changed make-up market

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Merck believes the market will see a shift in China’s colour cosmetic trends in the aftermath of COVID-19. GettyImages
Merck believes the market will see a shift in China’s colour cosmetic trends in the aftermath of COVID-19. GettyImages

Related tags China market Colour cosmetics merck

Cosmetic ingredient supplier Merck believes the market will see a shift in China’s colour cosmetic trends to more attention-grabbing, long-lasting and skin-loving in the aftermath of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While the company has observed sluggish make-up sales in China in the first quarter, it is confident that the colour cosmetics category will return to form soon.

“For sure the entire cosmetics industry took a hit, particularly make-up because people have to wear masks and stay at home. [The decline] is pretty circumstantial. We do see already that the demand is coming back, starting with eye shadows and mascara,” ​said Vivien van de Water, sales director of Merck commercial cosmetics, Asia.

Last year​, van de Water spoke to CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ about the plentiful opportunities the company saw in China’s colour cosmetics.

Despite the crisis, she maintains that the company still continues to see huge potential in the make-up category in China.

The biggest change van de Water expects to see is the accelerated shift to e-commerce sales.

“They way people buy make-up products have changed and evolved because of the circumstances. Even though everything is normalising, the portion of people buying online will still be much more than before,” ​she said.

Van de Water highlighted that online live streaming has been effective in selling colour cosmetics online during the pandemic when consumers were unable to see and try colours out in person.

“[COVID-19] has triggered online sales and live streaming has become more dominant. With so many live streams, brands must differentiate themselves and stand out. Yes, products much be high quality but on the other hand, the appearance must be really attractive to immediately grab attention.”

As such, the company is eyeing a lot of potential for high-value pigments, such as Golden Lights, the latest addition to its Ronastar Lights portfolio.

The company has also observed more interest in make-up setting sprays due to COVID-19 circumstances.

“In general, because people are wearing masks more often, it has triggered a demand for setting sprays. They are becoming really important because when you wear a mask, foundation tends to come off easily,” ​said van de Water.

 Additionally, the increased usage of masks has caused consumers to seek out more products for sensitive skin.

“This resulted in what people call ‘mask face’, which brings out a lot of skin issues like sensitivity or redness. For those, active ingredients are very important to relieve the skin of this stress and make the skin feel happy,” ​said van de Water.

This need will trigger more make-up products with skin care ingredients such as the company’s newly launched, RonaCare Balmance, a natural ingredient that claims to stabilise sensitive and stressed skin, said van de Water.

A call for transparency

Moving forward, the company expects to see an increased demand for transparency among consumers.

This will lead to more communication opportunities between suppliers like Merck and consumers.

For instance, the company has a consumer-to-manufacturer (C2M) programme which has given them opportunities to pair up with local brands and mutually promote each other on e-commerce platforms like Alibaba.

“These brands have ambitions, not just to be strong in the Chinese market but have a position in the global market as well. We join our efforts on platforms like Alibaba to promote the product to the consumer. These brands will mention Merck because we are a prestigious tech-driven company,”​ explained van de Water.

She noted that this is one of the ways the company’s strategy to work with local cosmetic brands has shifted.

“That strategy has not changed, it has just evolved and become more dynamic because of the market trends.”

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