Just a few decades ago, few Chinese women put on makeup. But rapid growth has brought big lifestyle changes and made beauty products an essential for many young consumers.
Big international brands have seen the potential of this market and digital channels like e-commerce are helping them quickly attract the attention of Chinese shoppers.
Many international brands are entering China through its popular online marketplaces. According to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., whose Taobao and Tmall marketplaces account for a majority of online shopping in China, there are about 3,000 cosmetics brands operating stores on Tmall, which is geared to larger brands.
Chinese consumers can shop from about 80% of the world’s major cosmetics companies on Tmall.com, Alibaba says. Among those selling their complete line of cosmetic products on Tmall, Alibaba says, are consumer products giants Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever.
Alibaba also says that compared with brands targeting a mass audience, luxury brands recently have been more aggressive in digital expansion, a product of the strong demand for quality goods from China’s online consumers. For example, LVMH introduced its cosmetics brand Fresh into China via a Tmall brand store in February.
Alibaba also says that, while demand for skincare products has been tepid, sales of makeup products consistently have grown by 50% annually in recent years. And it’s not just women buying cosmetics: Sales of beauty products designed for infants and men are also growing, Alibaba says.
But demand for cosmetics is growing the fastest among Chinese consumers under the age of 20, according to data from Alibaba. The number of consumers in this demographic who have purchased beauty products on Tmall grew by more than 100% year over year in each of the past several years.
Besides Alibaba, international brands also sell through other Chinese e-commerce sites, like Amazon.cn and JD.com in China. Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide and No. 4 in the China 500, earlier said beauty products is one of the fastest growing segments on its Haiwaigou section, which features imported goods. Launched in 2014, Haiwaigou enables shoppers to browse and buy products on Amazon’s U.S. site in Chinese and to access Chinese-language customer service. The beauty category moved up to No. 4 in 2016 from No. 9 a year earlier in category sales on Haiwaigou, behind only apparel, shoes and maternity and childrens’ products, according to Amazon.
For more Chinese e-commerce data, please click here for the Internet Retailer 2016 China 500.