New social media opportunity for cosmetics brands in China?


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As some of the biggest cosmetics players outline their digital strategies in Asia-Pacific, new internet research suggests that the opportunity could be growing in China.

Traditionally China has been viewed as a tough nut to crack with digital platforms due to the supposed ‘firewall’ the country has on social platforms, and the country’s attention being taken by domestic sites such as RenRen, Weibo and Qzone, rather than global platforms Facebook and Twitter.

With global cosmetics companies such as L’Oréal and Estée Lauder now putting more behind their digital strategies, particularly in Asia, findings from internet research firm Globalwebindex suggests the times are changing.

Steady growth

According to the latest research, social media user growth in China since July 2009 has been steady, and it is now reported that Twitter usage in the country has grown from 11.5 million users to 35 million in the second quarter of 2012.

Facebook has followed a similar path, with users having grown from 7.9 million users to 63.5 million in the same period.

Globalwebindex argues that non-Chinese social media sites are more popular than most people think, and suggests that the new figures display a more positive note than we usually see about non-Chinese Internet usage.

“It only takes a little bit of desk research to discover that what is called the “Great Firewall” is actually much more porous than the Chinese government would like to admit,”​ says the research company, suggesting the channel is open for interaction.

“On closer inspection, Chinese users are using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), VCN (Virtual Cloud Networks) or connections at work that may be routed internationally. Crucially, this means that users won’t be picked up in analytics and will not register as being in a Chinese location at all!”

Big players take note

It would appear cosmetic giant Estée Lauder is taking advantage of this, having spoken of its developing digital strategy in Asia-Pacific particularly in social media and e-commerce channels.

The US is still the largest market for e-commerce, but company CEO Fabrizio Freda expects that in the next 3 years, it will be China who takes this title.

Estée Lauder has built 340 marketing and e-commerce sites with strong links to social media platforms, in more than 50 countries worldwide with products also sold through a number of retailer sites.

The benefit of online, according to the Estée Lauder chief, is that online allows the company to reach consumers where it does not have brick and mortar retail outlets.

“In China for instance, more than two thirds of our sales come from cities where we do not have traditional brick and mortar distribution,”​ he said.

The quick rise in mobile commerce is another avenue that the make-up maker will be looking to capitalize on too.

Globalwebindex notes that 78 percent of China’s Internet users access the Internet through mobile devices, far more than any other country, suggesting this is another potential avenue. 

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