While some of our readers outside of China will be looking as beautiful or handsome as ever, many of you are likely to be a little unkempt, sporting a COVID-cut and just off a video call wearing your pyjama pants. That was the situation for many in China during its lockdown too.
When the confinement ended and green QR codes flashed, one of the first places many Chinese consumers went was to their local beauty salon for that long-overdue makeover. Online sales for dental and cosmetic medical services rocketed 3,000% from March 18 to 27 compared to the previous 10 days. There have been reports of long queues for hairdressers, with some barbers skilfully sculpting hair with their snippers, combs and other tools attached to long sticks – appearing less than comfortable for the customer.
It makes sense that sprucing oneself up again is high on the list of to-dos when life gets back to normal. For a start, China has long been obsessed with beauty; it is the second-top spending priority for millennials after socialising. It is also a way for people who had been cooped up, to feel a little more normal and self-confident again.
Many cosmetics and skincare brands were banking on consumers swiftly getting back to their beauty regimes. Although beauty sales dropped 30% on Alibaba’s platform over the lockdown, beauty brand advertising dropped just 14%. Brands used creative and adaptive marketing campaigns to keep consumers engaged with their brands. Livestreaming sessions were particularly popular channels, such as those featuring make-up face mask tutorials amassing 8.2 million viewers on one day, helping drive a 150% increase of eyeshadow palettes sales that week.
Beauty brands who adapted well during the crisis were rewarded. Despite the lockdown, L’Oreal’s China sales between January and March actually increased 6.4% from a year earlier, with skin and haircare products doing well during the confinement period. With things steadily getting back to normal, other beauty items are selling well again, although products such as lipstick are lagging due to consumers wearing face masks in public. Presently, some of the most popular items are eyeliners and eyeshadows which have seen 40% growth for foreign brands on Tmall in Q1 this year.
Like many categories in China, consumers are increasingly seeking out natural, healthy beauty products. These claims were already trending, but have gone up a gear as Chinese consumers are increasingly wanting to live a healthy lifestyle, of which beauty is a part of. This was affirmed by Shiseido recently announcing their new Shanghai R&D centre which will focus on green products.
Like so many things in China, technology, big data and AI is playing an increasing role in marketing and connecting with beauty consumers. The nascent concerns around data privacy from Chinese consumers have subsided due to consumers’ approval of how big data was effectively used to contain the virus. L’Oreal is one company riding on this trend, evolving from just being a beauty company, to pursuing leadership in the ‘beauty tech’ space.
Some of the most exciting consumer innovations in artificial intelligence and augmented reality have come from the beauty segment in China. Yet the opportunities to integrate beauty tech aren’t just the realm of the multinational giants. There are a host of companies creating solutions that can be cleverly incorporated into smaller beauty brands’ propositions. One example is Megvii AI, which launched last week allowing virtual applications of makeup on smartphones integrating into Mini Programs and apps – watch the launch demonstration here.
The promising signals from beauty in China represent a positive direction overall: most consumers aren’t just going to swan around in unkempt states, taking video calls in their underwear – they are making themselves feel good again, looking their best, and getting back to life. China Skinny can assist you with your strategies to ensure your brand is part of that new life, contact us to explore how we can help.
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