While leading Chinese social media platforms like Weibo, Little Red Book, and WeChat are key to connecting with Chinese consumers, Western brands would be wise to keep abreast of any new digital platforms if they want to retain a competitive edge in China’s ever-changing consumer landscape. Our new series, App Watch, examines rising applications and digital platforms relevant to the fashion, beauty, and general luxury space in China.
For Chinese millennial and Gen-Z skincare lovers, the beauty app Beauty Evolution (美丽修行) has become a go-to platform. Founded in 2016, it now has a community of more than 10 million users and leads the Beauty App download list on the Apple App Store. Yi Ou, the founder of Beauty Evolution, defined the app as a consumer decision platform, focusing on skincare and beauty products. It provides three main services: product ingredient inquiry, personal skin testing, and product user experience sharing. The app has a database that includes over two million beauty products and their ingredients, which allows users to not only select new beauty products, but also examine their ingredients in detail.
Another distinguishing feature is the app’s personalized skin test function, which helps users better understand their skincare needs, as well as help them make informed decisions when purchasing skincare or makeup products. As for the content shared in the app’s community forum, most of it is written by a combination of ordinary consumers and dermatologists. But most importantly, almost all of Beauty Evolution’s many users are followers of “Cheng Fen Dang.”
Cheng Fen Dang is the latest trend in the Chinese beauty market. Initiated by skincare lovers with a scientific background, this select group of people use their professional knowledge of cosmetic ingredients like nicotinamide and hyaluronic acid and how they affect different skin types. Some of them have even launched their own Weibo/WeChat official accounts to evaluate beauty ingredients and their attributes. San Mu, for example, is a chemist who launched Yan An Tang, a WeChat official account, that interprets skincare formulas, provides skincare advice, and has received more than 300k followers in two years. Another, Cheng Fen Dang blogger @kenjijoel, previously work in medicine. His Weibo account has already attracted two million followers.
Unlike traditional influencers, however, these Cheng Fen Dang KOLs use detailed, science-based explanations to demystify beauty products, which makes them more reliable and credible. For Cheng Fen Dang, the most impactful promotion of a product is not a famous brand spokesperson, but a well-explained ingredient list. According to the 2018 FIT Transparency Perception Assessment Survey conducted by Fashion Institute of Technology, “72 percent of consumers want a brand to explain what the ingredients do,” and “42 percent of respondents feel that they do not get enough information from brands on ingredient safety.”
Given this increasing need for ingredient transparency and clean beauty products, it would be smart for beauty brands to know about the Cheng Fen Dang movement. One easy and user-friendly way to do this is through a neutral and reliable third-party platform, such as the Beauty Evolution app. So far, most users are highly education with vast spending power and delicate skincare needs — an ideal customer base for beauty brands.
Beauty Evolution can help brands build a reputation through the app’s experts and real customer experiences. Take Lancôme’s Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Serum. The brand recently published a promotional article on Sephora China’s WeChat official account to promote this product, but the article was only viewed 9,027 times with no comments, which was less than a success considering Sephora’s massive follower base. The same product on the Beauty Evolution app, however, received 1,117 organic comments to date. Some of them were written by Cheng Fen Dang KOLs, the rest from customers with actual product user experiences. The KOLs helped explain the product’s ingredients and advanced microbial technology, while the customers who commented shared their personal experiences with the product, including skin types, which gives valuable data for both potential consumers and brands.
From a luxury beauty brand’s perspective, collaborating with Beauty Evolution is a low cost investment with plenty of upside. Instead of relying on expensive KOLs, the platform offers the expertise of professional KOLs to introduce their products. The app also functions as a helpful data source, collecting actual user experiences (both the good and bad), as well as having the opportunity to pass along free samples to users to review and post.
To succeed on Beauty Evolution, brands should insist on transparent, real information disclosure, which can be both an advantage and disadvantage for brands. Some products can benefit from sharing their ingredient list, others can’t. Therefore, brands need to choose the right products to advertise on the app. Secondly, brands need to adjust the way they promote a product on the app. A detailed but easy-to-read scientific article speaks louder than glossy pictures. It’s beneficial to clearly identify the target customer, such as age group and skin type.
Brands can also make use of the app’s trial & evaluation feature to expand their customer base. Beauty Evolution offers limited amounts of free samples of well-known products. Users can apply for a free sample, at the cost of providing a detailed evaluation after using. Distributing free samples can be an effective way to attract potential customers, who are considering purchasing the product.
China has become the world’s second largest beauty market, trailing only the U.S. Most Chinese women, especially millennials and Gen-Zers, spend a good portion of their income on skincare products. They wouldn’t hesitate to pay $200 for a serum, as long as the product works as advertised. To win this increasingly savvy, sophisticated, and growing group of customers, luxury beauty brands should look beyond what’s popular now and into emerging platforms that are changing the way people shop. And Beauty Evolution is a great place to start.