Beauty in times of pandemic: China’s consumers develop new cosmetics buying habits

With COVID-19 sweeping the globe, we have been forced to adapt to a world of reduced income and spending most of our time at home. In a post-pandemic world, the global beauty and cosmetics industry is accelerating towards digitalization and innovation. In China specifically, both local and international brands have been quick to adjust by strengthening their online presence and by capitalizing on “mask-beauty”.

The global beauty industry has suffered as a whole while online sales have grown rapidly

With the implementation of various countries’ travel blockade policies, a large area of duty-free shops in airports have been closed, and the offline retail of beauty products driven by tourism has suffered a heavy blow. Global sales are expected to fall by 20-30 per cent this year as a result of the epidemic. According to a recent beauty industry study, purchases in offline stores in major global beauty markets before COVID-19 accounted for 85 per cent of worldwide purchases made.

Store operations have been seriously affected by the epidemic, and online sales channels have become a lifeline for retail brands. During COVID-19, there was a huge expansion in online beauty sales. In the first half of this year, global online sales of beauty products from Sephora and Amazon increased by 30% compared with last year. The online beauty market in the Chinese mainland also grew by 20% to 30%.


New trends in the Chinese Beauty&Cosmetics consumer market

In China, the Spring Festival is often a national holiday to boost the overall consumer economy. During the outbreak of the epidemic at the beginning of this year, sales in offline stores were sluggish during the Spring Festival, and their performance fell sharply. The supply chain was also hit by the delay in resuming work. Data from Gridsum shows that as the Chinese people’s social behavior decreases, consumption of beauty products decreases, and the desire to buy beauty products is all but forgotten. Online sales of beauty products fell by 30% year-on-year from the first day to the third day of the first lunar month this year, with high-end beauty products even dropping by 40%.

While the epidemic has temporarily suppressed some impulse consumption, high-end beauty brands hold a positive attitude and are optimistic about a rebound in consumption. Some brands, such as L ‘Oreal, have continued the advantages of the previous e-commerce channels and continuously strengthened their online layout. Many domestic brands started online live broadcast to save themselves, digitalized their sales across the board, and conveyed the brand’s social responsibility and established emotional connection to consumers through a series of actions to support the “anti-pandemic” campaign.

The pandemic has given rise to many new consumer habits: safe, healthy, online and convenient are now key decision factors. Wearing masks has become a normal part of people’s lives in China. And masks do not seem to hinder people’s love of beauty; in China “mask makeup” – light base makeup with heavy eye makeup – has attracted much online consumer attention. Tmall data in mid-February showed a 150% increase in sales of eye makeup products compared to the previous month. Personal cleaning after taking off the mask is also more valued by consumers; basic skin care products are being consumed a lot.

In the post-epidemic era, the growth rate of the beauty makeup category is considerable. In 2020, Tmall 618 Beauty&Cosmetics sales section increased by 55% compared to the same period last year. It is predicted that the market size will continue to increase in the next two years, bringing good opportunities for brand development for both local and overseas companies. Although overseas beauty cosmetics and personal care have taken the lead in this year’s 618 shopping festival, emerging domestic brands have also performed very well. There has been an online explosion of niche brands which is increasingly noticeable, making the future of domestic beauty and cosmetics brands in China promising.


The outlook of China’s Beauty&Cosmetics industry

Experts predict that consumers will spend less on beauty products in the short term as the economic crisis hits, but the beauty & cosmetics industry has proven to be more resilient than other industries. After the pandemic, the beauty industry would do well to focus on marketing and sales through digital channels as global consumers shift from offline to online consumption. In terms of operation, because safety and health considerations fundamentally break the link between product testing and on-site consultation, brands can try to use artificial intelligence to ensure the safety of sales. As a new marketing channel, live broadcast is also completely changing the rules of the beauty industry. It not only broke the traditional market margin of beauty makeup retail, but also exceeded its geographical limits. Many predictions show that after the outbreak, live streaming will become as regular a channel as e-commerce.

Beauty brands need to realize as soon as possible that the impact of the COVID’19 crisis on the beauty industry is irreversible. Consumers are increasingly demanding in terms of experience, and the challenge for the beauty industry is how to make consumers enjoy a high-quality shopping experience while staying at home. At the same time, consumers’ definition of “beauty” is also advancing with time, caring more about comfort in life.

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