The Chinese market presents both enormous opportunities and significant challenges to brands trying to capture their piece of the China beauty prize. The consumer and the market’s digital ecosystem are arguably the most sophisticated in the world. While the market may be fueling global beauty sales, make no mistake— it’s equally competitive—and without an insider’s understanding of how the China market works, investments can be substantial, but results can remain elusive.
China’s online ecosystem perpetually one step ahead and moves at breakneck speed. Understanding the constant evolution of behavior, trends, and market shifts is requisite for success in China, but it can also provide a competitive advantage globally. We tapped China expert Queenie Yao who is responsible for overseas marketing at Ayoza, to tackle the top questions related to launching a beauty brand in China.
Does a brand need to have some level of brand awareness in China before contemplating a launch in the market?
Yes, that's always the first question many international brands may have in mind. One of the first things we do is scour the China social media landscape to see the quantity and the quality of the mentions of that brand. If there's very little social traction the first step we advise before enter the China market is building brand awareness or seeding among Chinese social media platforms.
Dominant western social media platforms are unavailable in China. The main driver of brand awareness happens within the unique Chinese digital landscape. A localized brand marketing strategy is indispensable for international brands to win the digital-savvy consumers' trust and attention.
What is the best way to develop relationships with individual KOLs?
Firstly, finding the right KOL for your brand is pivotal. Make sure your targeted KOLs are consistent with your business target. Brands need to research whether a KOL's persona matches the brand identity and whether KOL followers are their target consumers. The brand should also check KOL's previous content to see if they have promoted similar brands to gauge their respective performance and engagement.
And, you need to get a KOL to be confident about the quality of your brand because what KOLs fears most is endorsing a brand that turns out to have a negative association. This is especially important for top KOLs, they are looking to have a win-win collaboration with brands.
How does a brand integrate KOC's into its KOL strategy?
Part of the strategy should be looking beyond the face value and have people on your team dig into the profiles to find partners that will bring the right people into your brand. KOLs can be worth the monetary investment when you reach a certain threshold of brand presence and credibility. Sometimes KOCs generate awareness that is elusive in quality but is perceived as authentic.
KOLs generally create topics and set the tone for further discussions, while KOCs can facilitate deeper engagement. The end goal is to encourage customers to share their brand experiences on social media. If you build the right KOC foundation and then plan for the right KOL intervention at key major events the result should be a spike in your sales.
What are the differences between live-streaming in the US versus China?
To date, US consumers have not yet formed the habit of regularly following livestreams. There are several critical differences between online shopping in the US and China. For one, online celebrities ineffectively position themselves as content providers rather than sellers. Moreover, the developing logistics network in the US makes it difficult to replicate China's experience with livestreaming.
Conversely, many Chinese online platforms provide a livestream feature for e-commerce, such as Alibaba's Taobao Live, WeChat mini-program, and JD.com. In addition, short-video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin are vital players in livestreaming e-commerce business. The difference is at the moment China is much more targeted in terms getting the right product in front of the right audience.
The Chinese market moves so quickly what should brands should be thinking about now?
Localization. In order to grow and build a successful, large-scale beauty brand in China requires sustained brand-building efforts, both in terms of the operations and in terms of the financial support necessary to spread that brand on a more global basis.
Flexibility. Keeping an eye on marketing trends, local consumer behavior, and market demands. Based on the above elements, brands should be more prepared to make informed decisions on marketing and product strategies.
For deep learnings and insight watch our Workshop: Brand Building in China’s Digital Ecosystem
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