Top Selling Chinese Skincare Products Named after Organic Molecules

How did a local Chinese brand rise to eighth place in essence on Tmall and Taobao, and boost sales more than 70%? Simple chemistry.

Would you use a product called Oligopeptide Essence, or Nicotinamide Essence? Cosmetics companies have traditionally agonized over coming up with creative product names that evoke the right emotions. Something different is happening in China. 

Skin Type Compatibility is a Top Selling Point

For Chinese women, skin type compatibility has emerged as one of the most important factors when deciding on which cosmetics products to buy. Around 80% of women reported that they had used cosmetics products that were not well-matched to their skin types, according to a 2016 survey by Women’s Life Bluebook, a publication of the Chinese Social Sciences Publishing House.

There’s no better way to understand if a product is compatible with your skin than to look at the ingredients. Are they right for my oily, combination, or sensitive skin? Am I allergic to any of the specific ingredients? Have any of them worked especially well for me in the past?

As evidence of this trend, more than 10 million people have downloaded Meili Xiuxing (美丽修行), an app that lists the ingredients in cosmetics products. Brands are responding with marketing messages that are unlike anything we’ve seen elsewhere.

What’s in a Name? The Ingredients.

In the essence category, every single cosmetics brand among the top 100 in China (based on MeasureChina data), emphasizes ingredients in their marketing. 

While brands like Estee Lauder and Lancome are sticking with traditional names like Advanced Night Repair and Genifique, a Chinese brand called HomeFacialPro (HFP) is setting a different course. Ranked eighth in the essence category on Tmall and Taobao in 2019, according to our data, the brand uses ingredient-rich names like Oligopeptide Essence (寡肽原液精华), Nicotinamide Essence (烟酰胺原液精华), and Astaxanthin Essence (虾青素原液精华).

There’s no guesswork or deep reading of labels required. Sophisticated buyers can immediately understand what’s in the product by reading its name.

HFP’s brilliant marketing strategy goes beyond just product names and plays a crucial role in the brand’s success in 2019. They also recommend products that go well together, depending on what women want to achieve with their skin. Then they package these combinations into bundles.

What’s Your Goal?

HFP has made educating customers about the effects of specific ingredients and ingredient combinations central to its marketing. 

In 2019, they launched a social media marketing campaign teaching people how to combine nine different essence products with different ingredients, depending on their desired goals. Some examples include:

  • Brightening and anti-aging: Nicotinamide and Squalene Essence
  • Soothing and acne treatment: Oligopeptide and Carnosine Essence
  • Moisturizing: Hyaluronic Acid and Nicotinamide Essence

Figure1. Suggested combination by Wanghong and the official account | Source: HFP Xiaohongshu official

Bundling Boosts Business

When HFP saw the success of their educational marketing campaign, they took the next logical step by bundling product combinations and promoting their specific intended benefits. This included a two-product bundle for soothing and acne care, a four-product bundle for acne care and pore reduction, and a set that included all nine of their essence products.

This made it easier for people to get the specific combinations they saw introduced in the social media marketing campaign.

Bundling had a profound effect on HFP’s business. At the start of 2019, bundles accounted for 30% of the company’s sales. By May this was up to 50% and by October it was up to 70%. While we don’t have access to HFP’s revenue figures, it’s safe to assume that bundling substantially increased the bottom line. This is both because bundles have higher average selling prices than individual products, and because customers, understanding the efficacy of the bundles, are purchasing more of them.

“HomeFacialPro has proven that women in China not only care about ingredients to assess the product quality but also to achieve specific results,” said Holly Kim, head of MeasureChina’s data business. “Chinese women are not only willing to learn about the effects of individual ingredients but eager to experiment with new and novel combinations.”

Figure2. Percentage of set products within HomeFacialPro’s essence revenue | Source: MeasureChina

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