As more beauty consumers shop online during the pandemic, global beauty brands are now seizing opportunities to sell to the biggest retail market in the world: China. Increasingly, affluent Chinese consumers turn to the wildly popular social media platform WeChat to discover brands, as beauty remains a bestselling category among online shoppers.
WeChat mini-programs are increasingly e-commerce friendly
Over the past year, WeChat mini-programs have rapidly emerged as a popular alternative for US and international merchants selling to China. As offline fell during the global pandemic’s lockdowns, customers have been spending more time and money online. Global beauty brands now leverage WeChat mini-programs to drive e-commerce growth in the Chinese market despite the pandemic.
WeChat is the must-have social commerce platform in China, with over one billion users. Launched in January 2017, WeChat mini-programs are mini-apps that can be developed and accessed within WeChat. Mini-programs are less resource-intensive than an app. As of June 2020, the number of monthly users of WeChat mini-programs reached 830 million, soaring 11.6% from 2019, according to Chinese data provider QuestMobile. Users embrace mini-programs—convenient to access, use, and share—in place of the mobile app to shop online, customize their own personalized products, collect coupons, and many more daily services. In total, there are 3.2 million mini-programs online today with approximately 410 million daily active users (DAU) (roughly 82% of Instagram’s DAU in 2019).
As of September 2020, the number of users of WeChat e-commerce mini-programs reached 538 million, up 27.5% from last year. E-commerce WeChat mini-programs account for the largest proportion at 22% of WeChat mini-programs on the market. The e-commerce mini-program segment is fast-growing and used by a large number of retail companies and consumers. As of August this year, the WeChat mini-program grew steadily, with a 115% year-over-year increase in gross merchandise value (GMV) for WeChat mini-program merchandise transactions.
Beauty brands target online consumers with WeChat mini-programs
Ease of accessibility and social sharing features have been critical to the success of e-commerce mini-programs. WeChat mini-programs are an increasingly important tool for beauty brands to enhance brand engagement and offer an interactive shopping experience.
Since physical stores closed during the COVID-19 outbreak, beauty brands want their businesses to recover quickly. WeChat’s colossal user base gives beauty retailers an exciting platform where they can build their official WeChat mini-programs to target online consumers and boost their resilience during the pandemic.
To help US and foreign retail companies understand WeChat mini-programs, Azoya Consulting recently published “The WeChat Mini-Program Playbook for E-Commerce 2021.” The report showcases how leading beauty players, such as Armani Beauty, La Roche-Posay, and Sephora, are using WeChat mini-programs to sell more to this large, lucrative market.
Sephora Leverages WeChat Livestreaming Feature to Reach Chinese Customers
Livestreaming, which involves promoting products using real-time, interactive video, is now indispensable in China’s post-pandemic e-commerce industry. Livestreaming is part of the essential function of the WeChat mini-program, which is also embedded with other functions to make social commerce fun, interactive, and lucrative. WeChat mini-programs livestreaming update is a game-changer for e-commerce. Now retailers are savvier than ever, adopting WeChat mini-programs and livestreaming to sell to Chinese customers by being where consumers already spend an abundance of time.
Back in August 2019, Sephora began livestreaming on the WeChat mini-program. By the end of October, the newly upgraded Sephora mini-program had successfully hosted more than 80 broadcasts, attracting a cumulative total of more than 3.5 million viewers.
The livestream campaign is just one of Sephora’s tools to reach potential consumers beyond the retailer’s core audience. Relying on the WeChat ecosystem, Sephora has been able to communicate and connect more deeply with its regular and potential customers.
Sephora China launched various livestream campaigns with sponsorship from brands. As for the Singles’ Day campaign at the end of October, 230,000 people flocked to Sephora with Estée Lauder’s livestream event, which attracted beauty enthusiasts’ engagement, including more than 60,000 comments and likes alone.
This special session presented a wide range of Estée Lauder’s popular merchandise and new arrivals. Beauty brands often struggle to garner traffic in brick-and-mortar, while the livestream feature helps merchants establish deep and direct communications with customers. During the campaign, Sephora also used a limited-time promotion code to spark a sense of urgency to encourage viewers to make purchases.
The livestream campaign is just a snapshot of Sephora’s presence in the “WeChat world.” Digitalization is one of the secrets of Sephora’s success in China, and WeChat is a crucial driver in Sephora’s digitalization process.
Armani Beauty Wins Over Beauty Shoppers with AR Virtual Experience
Armani Beauty integrates its augmented reality (AR) virtual try-on experience within its official WeChat mini-program. This immersive WeChat mini-program combines the in-store and online experience for consistent, seamless service. Armani Beauty launched its AR virtual try-on for lip and eye makeup products. Customers only need to open their camera to try on a large selection of lip, eye, and face products anywhere and any time. Consumers do not need to visit stores to test whether a color flatters their complexion.
In the past, customers felt confused and overwhelmed by several shade choices on the market, even when trying on beauty products in stores. In response, Armani’s WeChat mini-program streamlines the AR try-on feature and improves the customer experience. Consumers can visualize personalized results with a virtual mirror and even compare multiple shades to find the perfect match. The virtual mirror feature also provides a download button so users can save their try-on images and share them with others.
La Roche-Posay’s Group-Buying Promotion
The core characteristic of WeChat e-commerce is social sharing. Tapping into consumers’ networks on social commerce is vital for beauty players to garner traffic. France’s leading active cosmetics brand, La Roche-Posay, encouraged social sharing on WeChat by hosting a 19-day group-buying campaign. This sale encouraged customers to pull in friends or their families for a group-buying promotion.
For today’s digital-savvy Chinese customers, group buying through e-mail does not work effectively, as it’s too fragmented. WeChat lets customers share and pay for products in one closed-loop transaction. As such, consumers can enjoy steeply reduced product prices if their friends join the group-buying deal and successfully place their orders.
The main reason retailers and brands create group-buying campaigns is that user acquisition costs are soaring. The cost of gaining new customers on Alibaba and JD.com are RMB812 (US$123) and RMB176 (US$26) respectively. Group-buying promotions lower user acquisition costs and improve customer engagement.
- Beauty brands and retailers alike are using WeChat livestreaming to reach customers. Sephora and Estée Lauder’s livestream events help them to develop interactive communication and create a multisensory, immersive shopping experience that boosts online sales.
- WeChat mini-program’s AR Virtual experience is becoming increasingly crucial for beauty brands to provide an interactive, personalized virtual experience for online shoppers.
- Brands can use group-buying campaigns and the social sharing function to decentralize customer acquisition and lower marketing costs.
Photo: via Azoya