L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetic company, entered China market in 1997. Since then, L’Oreal China has expanded and become one of the nation’s most loved and purchased luxury cosmetic brands, charting 17.3% of market share in 2012. With the firm’s high-end brands such as Lancôme, YSL, Shu Uemura, L’Oreal is making the most out of the world’s first country in luxury good consumption. But they’re not planning on stopping so soon: one billion new global customers, that’s the goal they’ve set for 2020; and we believe Chinese consumers will hold a significant part in this number.
France is known for being a leading country in skincare and makeup, and L’Oreal’s brand identity also benefits from this image : 欧莱雅 (European/herb/elegance), the brand name phonetically translated from French, relays not only the European origins of the brand but also the ideas of skincare and well-being, often associated in traditional Chinese culture with herbal medicine.
L’Oreal China has adapted its marketing strategy to fit the needs of the Chinese consumer: in 2004, it acquired the first modern cosmetics brand of China, Yue Sai.
The cosmetic world is a market that keeps on growing: numerous new patents rhythm the life of each skincare line, and trends come and go as quick as they do in fashion. While luxury cosmetics are still being associated with Europe for Chinese women, the clientele is becoming more and more interested in skincare lines from Japan and Korea: herbal medicine they’re familiar with, needs that are similar to theirs… and L’Oreal China has well understood this fact. With Yue Sai, which holds the image of traditional elegance thanks to its founder, Madam Yue-Sai Kan, L’Oreal aims at adding a new type of products to its never ending line: one that’s at the same time innovative with scientific improvements inspired by herbal medicine, glamorous, and widely accessible.
Indeed, though assigned to the luxury product division of L’Oreal China, Yue Sai remains more affordable than imported goods such as Lancôme or YSL but promises just as much. « Nobody knows Chinese skin more than Yue Sai », that’s the brand’s longstanding motto, on which L’Oreal is outbidding : with the launch of skin care lines such as the Vital Essential Line, that promoted the use of the ganoderma mushroom known for restoring the skin’s internal energy and balance, Yue Sai aims at relaying the image of a new and modern Chinese woman, one who is still attached to the deeply traditional culture of China, but who is also at the same time independent, self-confident and proud.
Lancôme is the number one luxury cosmetics name brand in China : phonetically translated as 兰蔻 which means orchid, symbolizing elegance and beauty, Lancôme targets middle-aged women who not only care about their skin aging but also about clarifying their skin tone, just as most Asian women do.
To meet the needs of this clientele, which don’t really translate to those of Lancôme’s European and US consumers, the brand launched special skincare lines dedicated to its Asian market: its newest Énergie de Vie line focuses on miniaturization and clarification thanks to Rhodiole roots extracts, and is inspired by the traditional Asian layering skincare method. The advertising campaign that came with the launch of this line also relays the same ideas : the main color used for the ad is vibrant green, standing for natural and herbal medicine and the clear and moist-looking yet slightly rosy toned skin of the model is the exact image of what Lancôme’s clients want to acquire.
Thanks to globally admired and glamorized icons such as Emma Watsons, Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet…, Lancôme has appealed to many Chinese women who idealize western beauty but who also want traditionally beautiful Chinese features : clear pale skin, moist and pink cheeks, plump but discreet lips…
Another plus to Lancôme is that it has adapted its commercial strategy to the Chinese market:
Unlike other high-end imported brands like Estée Lauder, for example, they’ve changed their selling methods: in China, e-shops are very popular as shipping is faster than in European countries. Therefore, Lancôme launched an e-shop in China that’s at the same time effective and secure, without losing the high-end image of their brand.
Following this effort, they’ve continued to put great emphasis on the digital marketing: with their key opinion leader campaign, Lancôme has succeeded in drawing many curious netizens to discover their products via social networks and thanks to internet celebrities like Michelle Phan and other well-known beauty bloggers who they’ve chosen to review and talk about their skincare and makeup lines. Even more, Lancôme has even created its own beauty forum: RoseBeauty. On this platform, netizens can talk and exchange about what they’ve liked and disliked, their very own DIY beauty recipes and a lot more.
Additionally, many occasional online and offline events are conducted, satisfying VIP clients and picking the interest of new to-be clients, for example, the Lancôme Bus event that surely made quite the buzz!
In 2013, L’Oreal China launched Yves Saint Laurent Beauté and Clarisonic in China. Aiming at widening yet again their audience, L’Oreal hoped to secure YSL’s position as a luxury cosmetics beauty brand, just like Lancôme, in Asia. Already present in Taiwan, Japan and in South Korea, YSL is well known to Chinese beauty addicts who are going abroad specifically to shop for their products : as it is, more than 3.3M beauty travelers are expected in 2014.
For now, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté focused on bringing their best global items to Chinese consumers, such as the very well-known vernis à lèvres. One color, in particular, went viral in South Korea thanks to Gianna Jung, one of the nation’s most loved actresses, who wore it in the drama « My Love from the Stars », that soon became very popular in China as well.
As more and more people grow to love the brand, YSL will launch special fragrances, skincare lines, and makeup lines just as Lancôme did.
All in all, the brand’s main focus is to cater to the needs of the clientele, placing the consumer at the center of the whole process. As such, innovations are the key to holding their loyalty and interest: Clarisonic for example, was launched in 2013 as well and, as it was already well advertised online by many beauty gurus, quickly got popular all across the nation.
L’Oreal Paris China
Apart from its high-end brands, L’Oreal China has also implanted their L’Oreal Paris brand into the Chinese market, hoping to meet the needs of a class of people that wanted luxury but affordable cosmetics. Indeed, with the high-end technology image of French skincare, L’Oreal China appeals to citizens whose income does not allow them to shop for skincare at high-end shopping malls, but who still want to buy their cosmetics from abroad.
What’s so great about L’Oreal Paris in China is that it’s available in city malls and in department stores equally. On top of that, its product lines are designed specifically to cater to the needs of Chinese women: indeed, they’ve implanted a few research centers in Shanghai, responsible for the innovations and new designs that target the whole Asian market. Therefore, a special sun cream against the strong UVA and UVB in China was created, as well as a whole line which purpose is to enhance protection against the dangerous and very strong pollution that threatens Chinese women’s skin…
Recently, L’Oreal Paris also started targeting a younger audience, in response to L’Oreal’s stopping selling Garnier products in China. Indeed, Garnier’s marketing strategy wasn’t productive enough as it placed the brand in a customer range for which the products were too expensive but not luxury enough, making it eventually fall behind local brands that sold cheaper substitution products.
Eventually, broadening L’Oreal Paris’ clientele can effectively lead them to gain more loyal customers, as the reason why Garnier sold was not because of its attractiveness but because of L’Oreal’s already well-established brand identity.
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