From the ancient Egypt to modern society, people’s ardent pursuit for beauty has never ceased. As a result, cosmetics and personal care products have always been sought after, starting from day one they came into existence. Today, the global cosmetics & personal care product market is estimated to be an over USD 500 billion business, and it is expected to grow up to USD 750 billion solely five years later, in 2025. So far, the top three spenders of the category on the global list is the US, China and Japan – in China, the growth rate of the beauty sector in 2019 has reached 17%, far exceeding the average growth rates of other consumer sectors – the beauty & personal care sector has been strong, and will only be stronger.
In this article, we are going to share some of the most updated insights into the beauty & personal care industries, from both the global perspective and from a local point of view.
#1 DTC brands are not to be ignored
When it comes to skin care and cosmetics products, we are used to hearing a string of big names that over the years have dominated the market – L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Shiseido, Coty and so forth. It is true that these multinationals lure a whopping 81% of the worldwide beauty revenue in 2019, however, this does not mean that the digital-based new up-comers are muffling their voices against the new generation of consumers.
In the US, DTC (direct-to-consumers) beauty brands are flourishing. While the established brands occupy the Top 10 beauty list, the Top 10 – 20 list is taken by newly emerged DTC brands, such as Kylie Cosmetics, Birchbox, Drunk Elephants and Glossier. These brands raised themselves up by grabbing the attention of the customers on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, and they do not rely on the ordinary brick-and-mortar retailer distribution model. Instead, they talk and sell directly to their consumers, often through their own official websites or online shopping platforms.
This business model is enabled by today’s established E-commerce landscape and delivery systems. The typical purchasing journey of these brands starts from a consumer getting to know the brand from his/her trusted celebrities or influencers on social media, and will complete with the consumer making the purchase directly on the brand’s website, avoiding any middleman or any fee generated accordingly. Thus there is no surprise that this model first appeared in high-profit industries that are dominated by several unicorns, such as back then the glasses (there you have the Warby Parker) and mattresses (Casper the disruptor).
In China, we see a similar trend as local digital-native disruptors are invading the original foreign-brand dominated marketplace. One perfect example will be Perfect Diary (完美日记), a local beauty brand that was founded in 2017 whose parent company is an Internet retail company based in Guangzhou. According to the statistics Tmall provided, this brand has been one of the best-selling beauty brands in this year’s 618 Online Shopping Festival, followed by HomeFacialPro, Winona and Floraisis (all three are local brands founded after 2010).
As the shopping platforms such as Tmall and JD.com have rooted prevalence locally, these cosmetics disruptors in China sell less directly through the brands’ websites, which draws a distinction with the DTC brands. What they do have in common, however, is the fact that these brands would start from consumer insight and aim at the specific unresolved needs of the consumers, and would offer enticing brand stories and social media strategies. Many might still remember the cross-over campaign of Perfect Diary x Discovery Channel, and the resulting Explorer’s 12-Color Eye Shadow palette. Another example is the collaboration between Biohyalux and the Forbidden City Museum, during which jointly-produced face masks and lipsticks are released and attracted both soring sales and attention from consumers.
#2 Influencers are influencing
If we take a closer look at the DTC beauty brands, there is a realization that many of these brands are celebrity/influencer-owned. Among the most well-known are Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, Haus Beauty by Lady Gaga, HUDA Beauty by Huda Kattan (make-up artist and Youtuber), Jeffree Star Cosmetics by Jeffree Star (make-up artist and Youtube celebrity) and Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner.
As social media increasingly becomes part of our life, big beauty brands are seeking cooperation with self-made online celebrities – Camila Coelho has worked with Lancôme for a lipstick collection; Chiara Ferragni played hair ambassador for Pantene and has been selected as Lancôme’s Global Muse. In China, the KOL/influencer-backed brands are so far less prominent, as the beauty market is still unfolding its potentials. However, we do see how Dayi Zhang (张大奕), the former Weibo celebrity, has gained success when she opened Tmall beauty store Big Eve Beauty, with 20 thousand lipsticks sold out in the first two hours.
#3 Clear-headed consumers
Today, consumers have become smarter than ever – they are more educated, better informed and pretty clear about what they are after. Perhaps you have already heard the word “ingredient party” (成分党), which is a self-description referring to a group of consumers whose main focus when selecting skincare products is the products’ ingredient lists.
Nowadays, “ingredient party members” might appear less special as the niche trend has become the mainstream, thanks to our science-driven ladies (mostly). According to CBN Data, some of the most popular skincare ingredients based on online sales in 2019 are Nicotinamide, Oligopeptides, Ceramide and Vitamin C. A skincare brand might want to advertise both its actual components and functionalities in order to be convincing to the consumers.
On the other hand, as the awareness for health and nature heightened during recent years and especially after the Covid-19 outbreak, consumers are not only focused on what is on the list, but also “what is not”. Potentially toxic components –minerals, alcohol, preservatives, hormones…these are indeed worrying factors. Instead, key words such as organic, herbal, natural, neutral, fruit/herb extracts are quickly gaining popularity.
Additionally, the pandemic and the need of constantly wearing masks have created new series of skin problems such as acne, sensitive skin and allergies. As a result, skincare products that address these skin problems experienced a quicker re-bounce after the initial hit in 2020 Q1 from the virus shock, compared to color make-ups. This is another perfect example of how the pandemic has accelerated certain market trends that had been taking off years before – Functional Beauty, a beauty product category blurring the line between healthcare, healthy food and cosmetics, has been quickened by Covid-19 outbreak and is definitely a crucial trend to watch.
#4 Men’s care on the rise
Once upon a time, the beauty & personal care industry was only associated with the female gender, and men were ashamed to show concern about their skin conditions. The only viable men’s skincare product was the grooming category, and it was easy to distill its aesthetic into one single word: manly. However, as the society proceeds and while the gender-neutral Gen Z fluxes their muscles, men are increasingly outwardly care about the shape of their skin, hair and bodies.
According to Grand View Research Inc., the global men’s skincare products market is anticipated to reach USD 18.92 billion by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 6.2% from 2020 to 2027. Demand for cleansers and face wash and sunscreen outpacing that of shave care essentials suggests that the trend of male grooming is moving beyond the basics of fragrance and shaving.
This is only more true in China. According to Euromonitor, from 2016-2019, the Chinese male beauty market increased at an average annual rate of 13.5%, far higher that the global average of 5.8%. We can also see this trend by the increasing number of male consumers who take part in discussion of beauty-related content on social media. According to data, the proportion of male Weibo users who mentioned beauty-related keywords (“cosmetics”, “make-up”, “male skincare”, and “men’s make-up”) almost doubled between from 2014 to 2018. In terms of specific topics, data from Red shows that contents of “personal care” has the highest growth rate, followed by “nail oil” and “fragrance”. Male beauty KOLs also started to rise on the main Chinese social media platforms. On video-based platforms like Douyin, Kuaishou and Bilibili, 20% of beauty KOLs were men as of December 2019. As for graph-and-text-based platforms like Weibo, 16% of certified beauty KOLs are men.
#5 Beauty tech attacks
When L’Oreal stated in 2018 that it no longer wanted to be the number one beauty firm in the world, but “the number one beauty tech company”, it was clear that things in the industry have shifted. As the advancement of the technology and consumer behavior, consumers are looking for an interactive and personalized experience with their brands to look for solutions for prevalent problems such as choosing the right foundation shades or choosing the right cosmetics for a specific type of skin.
In 2018, Shiseido has developed an Internet-based personalizing system app called Optune. The app allows users to take a picture of their skin and will accordingly analyze individual skin condition including water contention, acne condition and skin tone. After the initial analysis, the app will move forward to producing a unique mix of essence and cream for each user based on their skin condition, as well as environmental factors such as the weather, UV intensity, air humidity and the user’s mood. Based on this intelligent data gathering and analysis, Optune is able to offer 80,000 skincare patterns matched with each individual. Back in 2018, this subscription beauty service has hit a large sensation.
According to Cosmetics Design-Europe, a quick scan across some of the biggest names giving a nod to technology include Unilever with its Tinder-like Swipe app and digital factory goals, L’Oreal’s and ModiFace’s diagnostic tool enabling consumers to “try on” make-up and its subsequent team-up with Amazon; and Coty’s AI tool for finding the ‘perfect scent match’. Now, in order to keep attracting consumers’ attention, a cosmetics company will need to put their feet in technological fields such as AI, VR, 3D printing and biogenetic technologies.
Aventura is a China focused venture builder and market partner. Aventura offers holistic solutions to launch, manage and grow businesses in China, drawing upon competences across marketing, sales, e-commerce, and logistics. Founded in 2011, the Group’s client base comprises a wide range of multinationals, international consumer brands, startups and investors. Aventura is headquartered in Shanghai, with additional representation in Hong Kong and Stockholm.