CEO Interview

Three lessons on moving into the Chinese market, according to SuperOrdinary

By Ravyn Cullor

- Last updated on GMT

SuperOrdinary currently operates in China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Southeast Asia. © Getty Images - yanguolin
SuperOrdinary currently operates in China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Southeast Asia. © Getty Images - yanguolin

Related tags China market entry market access Cosmetics Skin care Personal care products

SuperOrdinary paved its way in beauty helping US brands move into the Chinese market, and as Honest Co begins that journey lessons can be learned by the industry.

The clean beauty-focused brand announced in September​ the company would be expanding into the Chinese market with the help of SuperOrdinary, which has guided more than 30 brands through similar moves into China and other markets in Southeast Asia.

CEO and founder of SuperOrdinary Julian Reis said after being closely involved in the rise of social commerce in China, the company aims to be a partner for brands it determines viable in Asian markets.

Before moving forward with a brand into foreign markets Reis said it’s important that a company has the appropriate corporate infrastructure to withstand organizational stresses like cash flow and demand planning.

Meeting consumers in their retail environment

One of the biggest adjustments for brands moving into China from the US is their key retail environment. DTC is increasingly important in the US market, but physical retailers like Sephora and Ulta are still important players.

However, social commerce is the retail powerhouse in China, Reis said. 

Because most of the brands SuperOrdinary brings to China are relatively unknown in the market, Reis said focusing so strongly on social commerce and creators is an effective way to create brand recognition. 

“We create the demand for the brand by working with over 100,000 creators over the last four years,”​ Reis said. “With our technology, we're able to identify which creators to work with. We're able to really build from the grassroots up the messaging and the story about the brands.”

As the brand manager in foreign markets for companies they partner with, Reis said it’s important that SuperOrdinary build a consistent message with local creators.

Localizing the brand

Reis also said it’s a priority for SuperOrdinary to make American brands feel natural in foreign markets.

In the US The Honest Co has a level of awareness because of its celebrity founder, actress Jessica Alba. However, because she is not as well known in China, Reis said the cost of customer acquisition will be higher because they have to build another avenue of brand recognition.

SuperOrdinary also has experienced beauty professionals in each foreign market they work in who can guide brands through integrating into local markets.

“The brands that we localize feel like Chinese brands, even though they're American brands,”​ Reis said. “It's not using the same marketing billboard that we would see in Melrose Place in LA and just put slapping it into Shanghai … because that's where brands lose momentum.”

Taking these steps helps brands build trust in foreign markets like China, which Reis said is an essential step for established brands who already have their product lineups figured out.

Patience is a virtue

While some young companies are very excited to enter foreign markets within the first few years, Reis said it’s important to have patience in making those moves.

“It takes a long time to build a brand,”​ Reis said. “I think that's something that most people forget. In my view, it always takes five years plus."

Before considering moving into a new market he said brands should lock down their key branding points, hero SCUs, product formulation, corporate structure and other central factors in the brand.

One of SuperOrdinary’s strategies as a partner for transitioning into foreign markets is giving honest feedback as to whether a brand is ready. Reis said brands can express their ambitions in Asian markets and SuperOrdinary will monitor it to determine when and if the right time for a move comes along.

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