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China is the Next Big Opportunity for American Indie Beauty Brands

Taobao China Holding Limited
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As countries around the world explore ways to recover and reopen post Covid-19, brands and retailers in China have begun rebounding from disruptions caused by the pandemic. Its 1.4 billion consumers are still looking for unique beauty products—especially from trendy and emerging international brands. Cross-border e-commerce makes these shoppers readily available to American indie brands.

China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, with e-commerce sales totaling about $2 trillion last year, according to the International Trade Association. In 2021, China is expected to become the largest retail market in the world, with sales estimated to hit $5.8 trillion.

In beauty, China represents one of the strongest markets with beauty sales nearing $60 billion. The market has also shown huge potential for indie beauty and personal care brands driven by trend-seeking, mobile first Generation Zers in China, who are on top of the latest global trends. These young consumers are constantly on the hunt for new, exciting products and brands that can help them express their personalities and individuality.

Despite these opportunities, some indie beauty brands may think that the China market is too intimidating, with intricacies and nuances that are vastly different from their home markets. Many are also hesitant given the animal testing regulations. However, with cross-border e-commerce, these concerns no longer have to be a barrier in untapping the immense potential of the China market.

Cross-border e-commerce provides a more accessible market entry roadmap for small- to medium-sized enterprises. This channel allows brands to sell directly to Chinese consumers without having to invest significant resources or register their businesses in China, while also staying true to their brand by maintaining their cruelty free commitments.

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Alibaba’s Tmall Global is the largest cross-border B2C e-commerce platform in China, helping to connect more than 25,000 brands from 92 countries and regions with the more than 700 million consumers across Alibaba’s platforms. Demand for imported goods through cross-border e-commerce is on track to hit $184 million in 2021, with beauty, skincare, hair, body care and personal care products being particularly popular categories.

Beauty and personal care are also two of the leading categories on Tmall Global. Many smaller and indie brands have enjoyed great success partnering with Tmall Global, including Fenty BeautyKora OrganicsHuda Beauty, Drunk Elephant, Farmacy, OUAI and Smoothskin.  Beyond a mere distribution channel, Tmall Global works in partnership with brands to build their China presence, incubate brand awareness, gain valuable consumer insights in forming their overall China strategy by full power of Alibaba’s digital ecosystem and New Retail technology. 

Far beyond serving as a mere distribution and sales channel, Tmall Global enables brands to build out their brand presence in China and provides them with valuable consumer insights with which to help shape their overall China strategy. The platform also offers powerful digital tools such as livestreaming, enabling brands to effectively introduce their brand stories and engage with Chinese consumers in a direct, interactive way. For example, livestreaming drew 13 million viewers for Kim Kardashian West on Alibaba’s dedicated livestream channel, and her KKW fragrance products sold out in just a few minutes during the livestream session held prior to last year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.  

In the wake of COVID-19, brands have had to turn to digital like never before, Alibaba also announced the Spring Thunder Initiative, the program designed to enable small and mid-sized enterprises (SME’s) overcome disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic, and Tmall Global is helping 1,000 emerging beauty brands achieve $1.4 million in annual sales in the coming year.  

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