China expansion: SENSAI leads with e-commerce strategy to accelerate growth of brand awareness
SENSAI is a high-end beauty brand owned by Japanese personal care major Kao Corporation. The brand, considered one of Kao’s most prestigious names, was launched for the European market in 1983.
It only recently made its Asia debut in 2019 as part of Kao’s bid to strengthen its position on the global market.
The brand first launched in Japan and eventually entered China via the Alibaba-owned cross-border e-commerce platform Tmall Global in September 2019.
In April this year, the company strengthened its footprint in China by launching SENSAI on Hainan Island, China’s duty-free shopping mecca, to capitalise on its booming travel retail trade.
As part of its plans to strengthen its place in China’s lucrative luxury beauty market, the company has launched a flagship store on the Alibaba-owned Tmall.
Unlike Tmall Global, Tmall requires its merchants to have local China entities and register its products with the local authorities.
The launch of a flagship on a major e-commerce platform is a crucial step in the company’s plans to tap into China’s luxury beauty market.
“The opening of the Tmall flagship store is an important step for the SENSAI brand. We will thoroughly strengthen our domestic e-commerce, duty-free and inbound approaches to the rapidly growing Chinese prestige cosmetics market,” said the head of SENSAI, Soichi Yamaguchi.
In addition to the Tmall flagship, SENSAI is also available via an official e-commerce website for China.
The brand will use e-commerce to lead its brand development in China under its digital transformation (DX) business model.
Kao has experienced strong e-commerce sales in China with its other cosmetic brands, including freeplus and Curél.
SENSAI has been primarily available through high-end brick-and-mortar retailers like Harrods. However, since the pandemic, the brand has been strengthening its e-commerce channels.
In April, it announced that it had launched an official store to service European markets including the UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.
Pop-ups replace brick-and-mortar
Despite the strength of e-commerce, the brand recognises that a physical retail presence is essential for a prestige beauty brand where it can offer personalised beauty consultation services.
Such services as crucial to building personal relationships with consumers and foster loyal brand followers.
The company is already planning to open physical stores in China starting next year.
In the meantime, the company plans to launch pop-up stores to introduce the brand and its products to new customers in person.
Its first pop-up was launched in Tsutaya Bookstore in Shanghai to coincide with the Tmall flagship launch and will last for a month. The company said it will continue to implement pop-up activities as needed to deepen the bond between the brand and consumers.