Update on China Beauty Retail Innovation

Today international beauty brands already realized the importance of innovation and often try to incubate their own disruptors. L’Oréal and LVMH are often the two greate examples to showcase such a trend.

In a nutshell, beauty innovation should take place in 5 key areas, again usually propelled by the driving forces of leading conglomerates’ cash and vision.

Beauty startups’ success is not about towering over the dominance of beauty giants, but about eventually joining the luxurious family clan.

In the past, many might conjure up the perception that beauty innovation scene in China should be more vibrant in Marketing or Consumer Experience; yet pale in comparison with cutting-edge advancement in product/device in the west.

For Marketing:

China’s has its own digital landscape and unique online user behaviors, thanks to the great firewall. So whether it is viral marketing or influencer marketing, China wrote down its very exclusive playbook on Weibo, Wechat, Little Red Book, short video etc.

Last year we mentioned an interesting case of L’Oréal’s KOL marketing innovation with a Chinese startup (see link)

For Experience:

Headline news in China has often been flooded with the latest in-store technology experiments pushed by internet giants, in particular, Alibaba.

  • Facial recognition/scan
  • Selfie skin analysis
  • Virtual makeup
  • Sensor connected shelf display
  • Interactive digital signage/Smart mirror

They have become the norm for many fancy beauty stores in China. Below is an example of Sephora‘s partnership with Meitu for “Immersive virtual makeup experience” in April last year.

For Product/Device:

In fact, a new type of Chinese startup focusing on product development has been emerging as well.

Uniskin is one recent startup which is specializing in DNA testing for a personalized skin care regime. Established in 2016 in Shanghai, it now has a team of more than 30 people with solid bio-science training background from prestigious overseas universities.

The goal of the company is to create the most personalized beauty brand for Asian skin type.

In the long run, we might see more local beauty brand/tech/service startups working on the revolutionary concept at product/device level, then the intensity of manufacturing and distribution disruption should pick up accordingly.

By: Cecilia Wu