Last Updated on June 14, 2023
The rise of brand-savvy buyers has forever changed how Chinese shoppers consume media, especially when talking about female beauty and cosmetics. To succeed in the Chinese beauty industry, you don’t have to be a famous cosmetic brand like L’Oréal, Estee Lauder, or SK-II. Nowadays, smaller brands have a higher chance to excel if they understand the value of personalization.
As most Chinese women continue seeking new cosmetics to match their consumer-centric lifestyles, brands must predict their needs to get one step ahead of the ever-changing beauty trends. Foreign brands who want to enter the Chinese market must also utilize an innovative and personalized marketing strategy to captivate these on-the-go consumers.
In this post, let’s find out if Chinese beauty standards affect how women buy cosmetics in China and how brands can take advantage of it.
Is the Beauty Industry Big in China?
Looking at the recent Beauty & Personal Care statistics in China, you’ll notice that the market grew by 5.41% compared to the past year, with a total of $25.52 billion in revenue. The beauty and cosmetics market in China has experienced a remarkable transformation, propelling the nation to the forefront of global beauty trends and market dominance.
Let’s delve into the factors that have contributed to the enormous success and rapid growth of the beauty industry in China:
- Booming Middle Class
The expanding middle class in China has led to a surge in purchasing power and increased demand for luxury goods, including cosmetics, beauty products, and plastic surgery services. As more Chinese people have disposable incomes, they are investing in personal grooming and self-care, fueling the growth of the beauty industry
- Changing Attitudes and Perceptions
For the longest time, the Chinese culture focused more on inner beauty and modesty. However, in recent years, there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards beauty and self-expression. Because the younger Chinese market embraces individuality and self-confidence, today’s beauty standards aren’t as restrictive as in ancient China. Advertisers and marketers can use these changes to form a strategy for positioning their services or products within the market.
- E-commerce and Social Media
The rapid expansion of e-commerce platforms and the widespread adoption of social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo have revolutionized how beauty products are marketed and sold in China. Chinese beauty influencers, known as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), wield immense influence in shaping consumer preferences and driving sales through engaging content, reviews, and product endorsements. They are one of the main components that determine the meaning of beauty in China.
- The Rise of Chinese Skin Care Products
Smoother and fairer skin is the foundation of most Chinese aesthetics. More than typical makeup innovations, the beauty standard in China aims to maintain youthful-looking, pale skin. While the milky-white skin trend led to an influx of whitening and skin care products, it also attracted interest in natural and traditional Chinese medicine-inspired brands.
- Localization Strategies
Besides conforming to Chinese beauty standards, marketers must understand that they’re not only catering to a typical Chinese woman. Like any sizable country, every region in China has unique needs and preferences; this is where localization strategies come in. You may not know, but the China beauty standard includes different facets. While most Chinese social media channels can help you determine the general gist of your target market, remember that only some of your potential consumers are basing their purchases online. Whether they like having a fair complexion, a narrow chin, or a melon-seed face shape, you must align your strategies with these beauty standards to launch a successful product or service.
- Male Grooming Market
The ideal Chinese beauty found in women isn’t the only factor that can affect your marketing strategies. Nowadays, the male grooming market is seeing significant growth. According to China Daily, this budding market reached 16.59 billion yuan in revenue last 2021. Looking at these numbers, it’s apparent that the industry will continue to grow from here.
What is the “Beauty Standard” in Chinese Culture?
It’s a no-brainer that many young women in China base their cosmetic purchases according to the widely-accepted Chinese beauty standards. Like South Korea, beauty ideals within Chinese society still play a crucial role in shaping tradition, history, and modern influences.
You may not know, but the ideal Chinese beauty refers to a specific skin tone and body shape. From fixing single-fold eyelids to coveting a goose egg face, here are the key elements many Chinese women aim to achieve by using cosmetics or plastic surgery procedures:
- Porcelain or Fair Skin
Like in most Asian countries, having lighter skin is a quality every Chinese woman aims to achieve. From ancient China up to this day, a pale skin tone is associated with wealth, social status, and femininity. Due to the ardent obsession with fairer skin, global trends like herbal teas, face masks, and Chinese skin care products quickly entered the local market. While Western beauty standards give more preference for tanned skin, Chinese people openly embrace whitening innovations to achieve light skin.
- Delicate Facial Features
Besides pale skin, Chinese beauty ideals highly regard symmetrical facial features. Most Chinese women desire an oval shaped-face, double eyelids, a tall nose bridge, a very thin chin, and almond-shaped eyes to be considered attractive. Although South Korea is still the world’s plastic surgery capital, these Chinese ideals drive China to be one of the largest markets in the field. Besides Chinese beauty culture, the growing market for cosmetic surgery stems from the influence of Chinese social media platforms. On top of that, the rise of Chinese beauty influencers also plays a massive part in shaping what regular consumers accept as the standard of physical attractiveness.
- Slender and Balanced Proportions
On top of facial features, a slim body shape, lean physique, and balanced proportions are often part of the typical Chinese beauty standard. Typically, men in China don’t carry the same pressure to stay thin as most Chinese women. Because of these beauty standards, eating disorders have become a hidden epidemic that plagues every Chinese woman in the country. However, their appreciation for different body types grew as Chinese beauty standards evolved in the new era. Chinese girls in today’s generation put more emphasis on natural beauty, convincing some to forgo the idea of excessive plastic surgery.
Understanding The Modern Chinese Beauty Shopper
The rise of the millennial generation has played a significant role in the increased demand of the Chinese cosmetics market and health-conscious consumers. It has also caused changing attitudes regarding brand loyalty in the cosmetics sector.
Modern-day Chinese beauty consumers are much less loyal to big international brands due to their growing curiosity about niche brands. In addition, Chinese girls are paying more attention to the usefulness of skin care products and are looking for products that can solve specific needs.
These beauty shoppers take the time to research and analyze product reviews before making a purchase decision. When finally deciding to make a purchase, it usually comes down to 3 categories; buying more expensive products from the same brand, buying more expensive products from a different brand, or adding additional steps to their beauty routine. The decision to upgrade typically comes down to wanting products with better ingredients and enhanced functionality. Prices don’t play a factor in the decision-making.
Attracting The Attention Of Chinese Beauty Enthusiasts
Building a solid brand community around a signature product is essential for brands to stay on top of changing consumer habits.
Considering how personalization and health-conscious products are of great value in China, your signature product should be customizable by skin type and function. Chinese beauty shoppers pay more attention to products with these traits over an all-in-one product. Product characteristics such as organic ingredients, oil control, pore refining, whitening, and brightening, as lighter skin is preferred in Chinese tradition, are highly sought after by female consumers.
Once you have a signature product, you can quickly build a community around it by offering product sets and free samples with orders to showcase other products your brand has to offer. Along with this, it’s recommended to encourage your customers to engage with each other by rewarding them for referring other users.
It adds to the community experience and will allow you to tailor the user experience even more by creating tags with CRMs that are based on preferences such as skin needs, type of hair, and ingredients. You can proactively speed up the likelihood of repeat customers by sending automated messages when consumers are out of the product with special offers. Special offers can vary from sample-size cosmetics kits to on-the-go packaging, which has gained much traction recently.
Future Trends in Chinese Beauty Standards
- Organic Beauty
Organic beauty and skin care products are familiar concepts for consumers, but they are becoming a massive business in China due to the changes in consumption habits. Listing natural ingredients alone is not enough to win over this audience. Brands need to commit to converting these users. It’s crucial for your brand to clearly communicate your production process and even go a step further to incorporate creativity from traditional Chinese ingredients, which will increase the likelihood of consumers viewing your brand positively. Ingredients such as Chinese Angelica Root, Ginkgo Biloba, and Chinese Wolfberry are good places to start.
- Cosmetics for Men
Inner-city Chinese men, particularly millennials, are increasingly focusing on their appearance. They are starting to equate personal success with sophisticated grooming, and it would be wise to include Chinese men in your cosmetics marketing strategy. Lotions, moisturizers, creams and light makeup are great products to sell to male beauty shoppers.
- Domestic Partnerships
The lack of brand loyalty in the cosmetics industry has allowed local Chinese brands to emerge and share some of the cosmetic and skincare market shares. Chinese brands such as Maogeping, Chioture, and Perfect Diary have all made a name for themselves. Despite the credibility of international brands, consumers are willing to give local brands a shot, mainly because they understand the beauty standard in China better than anyone else. As a result of the increased competition, it’s wise to consider partnering up with a domestic brand when launching your cosmetic products or services. Through this, you can stay ahead of the ever-changing China beauty standards.
- The Decline of K-Beauty Standards in China
It’s no secret that the rise of the Korean wave has influenced Asian and Western beauty standards in the past decade. Chinese women also used to have these preferences, from the goose-egg face shape to the double eyelids. However, beauty enthusiasts in China are getting more in tune with authenticity. Without the typical restrictions of old Chinese beauty standards, small and medium-sized international brands can redefine the preferences of a regular Asian woman and attract beauty and cosmetic shoppers.
How To Build Brand Exposure Aligned with Today’s Chinese Beauty Standards
- Engage with Millennials & Gen-Z
Chinese women often gain exposure to cosmetic and skin care products before they reach the age of 20. They also crave new and niche products that are less known or available on the market. These niche products could be anything from the products’ application to the specialization of a brand. It’s essential to catch this group during the early stages of their skincare journey.
- Hire the right KOLs
Whether you are interested in boosting awareness or generating leads, a KOL can do wonders for reaching your ideal audience. If you have a fixed budget, Chinese beauty bloggers have the reach to get consumers interested in all the skincare and cosmetic products that your brand has to offer. Consumers are usually on top of the latest content posted by professional bloggers and are likely to purchase repeat exposure to quality products. Your KOL search should include choosing an influencer with quality content and deep insights about Chinese beauty standards for their viewers. Don’t rely solely on production experience to make your decision.
- Get familiar with omnichannel
Given the reputation of e-commerce in China, it’s essential to have a strategy that creates a seamless experience for self-care products. Cosmetic and beauty shoppers make purchases online and offline these days, and cross-channel shopping dominates the skincare industry. Your brand must include free samples, exclusive products, discounts and some form of loyalty program when shoppers visit your products online. Take advantage of the Chinese third-party platforms and consistently offer a quality customer service experience. Chinese netizens are willing to pay premium prices for products online if it represents the current beauty standards. However, offline channels are still important because of the in-store experience and product authenticity.
- Build trust with live streaming
Livestreaming might be the perfect choice for showcasing the personalization and authenticity of your cosmetic or skincare product. China leads the world in this category, and KOLs also utilize this feature to expand and interact more with their fan base. It has become the go-to choice when shoppers seek out new beauty products, allowing the audience to ask questions and receive a response instantly. Both domestic and international beauty brands utilize live streaming to host events and embrace social shopping on Tmall and other social media platforms.
- Don’t forget about WeChat & Weibo
These two platforms will always be great picks for brand recognition. They are some of the first social media platforms that Chinese users will use to learn more about your products and brand. You can use these platforms’ CRM capabilities to segment your target audience and offer personalized services to meet individual needs. You can also launch special-day campaigns targeted explicitly at Chinese girl audiences and utilize WeChat advertising to offer coupons and vouchers.
Top Cross-Border Platforms To Sell Your Products
China’s cross-border e-commerce industry has become extremely popular among beauty consumers and a significant gateway to buying international cosmetic products.
Cross-border e-commerce can efficiently and inexpensively showcase your beauty products without setting up an offline store.
Here are some of the top platforms to consider selling your products on and engage with consumers in China:
- Kaola: Cosmetics and fashion brands often consider Kaola as the gateway to the Chinese beauty and skincare market. It allows international companies to sell their products securely to consumers. It is known for cost-effective and trustworthy products among shoppers since the platforms buy products directly from foreign companies.
- Meizhuangxinde: Meizhuangxinde has become a great reference platform for cosmetics in China, where many Chinese women share their experiences and advice on the best use of beauty products. Some of the platform’s primary functions include branding discounts, cosmetics ranking lists and testing, and a product library.
- Little Red Book (RED): RED’s user-generated content plays a significant role in helping Chinese consumers shape brand perception and build brand loyalty. It encourages users to share their personal experiences with products, give tips and provide discounted information. This app is becoming a social commerce hub for beauty beginners and professionals that play a role in shaping China’s beauty standards.
For skincare, beauty, and cosmetic brand that wants to stay relevant in China long-term, a strong signature product committed to personalization is critical to reaching Chinese shoppers. It’s about intimately approaching your potential customers while offering a unique experience that caters to their individuality and the ever-changing Chinese beauty standards.
The potential for SMEs in China is there, but there is little room for error. Brands that are transparent and willing to keep product offers relevant can attract and maintain the attention of Chinese consumers for long-term success.
Unlocking Insights and Expertise: We Can Help You Understand the Chinese Beauty Market
With our comprehensive knowledge and expertise, we provide valuable insights and guidance to help you navigate and thrive in the dynamic landscape of the Chinese cosmetics market by utilizing the country’s evolving beauty standards.
From consumer behaviour to local preferences, we unlock the secrets of the Chinese beauty standards and market, empowering you to seize new opportunities, build brand awareness, and cultivate a loyal customer base.