Sue Feng, [email protected], 010-5912-9195
Shanghai, March 25, 2015 – According to a latest report by Nielsen, six-out-of-ten consumers from Mainland China discovered Korean beauty brands in only the last 2 years. Since then, the popularity of Korean products continued to increase. In fact, more than 40% of Korean beauty brands shoppers from Mainland China are planning to spend more on key Korean brands in the next 6 months.
Nielsen’s study on the perception and success of Korean beauty brands analyzed the shopping behavior and experience of female consumers of Korean beauty brands from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. The survey is based on online interviews with 1,900 women (including around 1000 women consumer from mainland China, covering tier 1-3 tier cities across the country), aged 18-55, who have purchased Korean beauty products for their personal use in the past 6 months. Apart from brand perception, it also explores consumers’ beauty routine and purchase journey, such as their usage and purchase frequency, reasons to buy, shopping experience, beauty basket composition, budget and their future shopping.
The Popularity of Korean Culture Promotes the development of Korean Beauty Brands among Mainland consumers
According to the findings, among the four markets covered in the survey, consumers from mainland China show stronger need for basic skin-care products. Over the past six months, on average, Korean beauty shoppers from mainland China are buying more skincare items than other respondents from the other three markets, including face cleanser (2.1 items), hydration lotion (1.8 items), cosmetic water (1.7 items), anti-aging facial (1.9 items) and eye-cream (1.8 items).
According to Nielsen’s knowledge, recommendation from friends (63%), brands websites (42%) and fashion/beauty websites are top 3 information channels mainland consumers consulted most when looking for information about skin-care or make-up, followed by TV Ads (39%) and TV Shows (36%).
Accordingly, Nielsen’s findings also show that advertisements (39%) and TV dramas (25%) also rank the 2nd and 4th most influential channels for mainland consumer to discover Korean-made brands.
“Our study showed a direct correlation between interest in Korean entertainment and interest in Korean cosmetic brands, particularly among consumers in China” said Georgia Zhuang, Vice President of Nielsen China. “With the gaining popularity of Korean pop-culture in China, Chinese consumers have more opportunities to get to know Korean brands, which finally, will influence consumers’ choice for beauty products in the end.”
Respondents from the four markets showed similar perceptions of Korean-made cosmetics, describing them as “very innovative”, “trendy” and having “value-for-money”. For mainland respondents in particular, 74% of them think Korean-made cosmetics are “new and trendy”, 69% think they are “adapted to my skin”, 68% think they are “very innovative”, 64% say Korean-made cosmetics are “made with natural ingredients” and “with proven efficacy”, while 63% regard them as “value-for-money”.
For non-Korean brands, mainland respondents, in particular, believed that French beauty products enjoy higher quality (73% vs. 65% for Korean brands). Consumers from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore show higher preference for Japanese brands instead.
“Compared with the past, Chinese consumers today have become smarter and more sophisticated. Their choices not only rely on the reputation of the brand itself, but more on whether these products meet their very unique needs,” said Zhuang. “On the other hand, the Korean brands’ leveraging of natural ingredients fits in well with the Chinese consumers’ increasing demands for natural and healthy products.”
Consumers Today Care More about Customer Service and the Benefits of Beauty Products
While cultural or climate differences would have a change on the buying decision, Korean-brands buyers from the 4 markets shared the same perspective: they all considered hydration, deep skin cleansing and anti-aging as the 3 top benefits in terms of beauty products. Compared with other markets, mainland respondents also paid great attention to the whitening function, 13% of the mainland respondents considered it as a key benefit, closely following hydration (25%), deep skin cleansing (15%) and anti-aging (15%). When it comes to Korean brands shoppers from mainland China who only use Korean-made brands, oil control (11%) ranks higher than whitening (10%) benefits.
“For international beauty brands, in particular French brands, they are still perceived by consumers as good quality with sound reputation,” said Zhuang. “Whether they can be successful in the market relies on their strategies in terms of innovation and product variants. In particular, a strong focus on hydration benefits is more adapted to the Asian market,” Zhuang added.
When it comes to where to shop for beauty products, department stores (63%) remain the most preferred store of the choice, followed by brand stores (53%) and Duty-free Airport stores (46%). If talking about evaluation of beauty channels, the beauty advisors’ expertise (35%) was most essential for mainland Korean beauty brand users, followed by beauty advisors’ being friendly and welcoming (16%) and beauty advisors who proactively give information about items (13%).
Besides offline channels, Nielsen’s information also shows that as many as 61% of mainland respondents have purchased cosmetic brands, whether it’s Korean-made cosmetic brands or other international brands, online over the past six months. This ratio is much higher than consumers from the other three markets.
Loyalty to Korean-made Brands Yet To be improved
In terms of the beauty products shopping basket, Korean brands were top choice among mainland consumers for personal use. However, when it comes to gift purchases, consumers from mainland China prefer gifting international brands.
The survey shows that 39% of mainland respondents were willing to try different brands in the long term, while 32% paid more attention to the product (texture, ingredients, smell) before brand. While only 29% mainland respondents claimed they would remain loyal to Korean brands.
“In order to sustain as a winning brand, both Korean and international brands will need to increase investment in understanding their consumers, in exploring effectiveness of various channels, and in innovating to constantly meet emerging needs and trends,” Zhuang concluded.
 While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration is still growing, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population. In addition, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.
Nielsen N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. Nielsen’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content — video, audio and text — is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance. Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90 percent of the world’s population. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.