What Luxury Brands Can Learn From Bonnie & Clyde’s Beauty Disruption in China

The global pandemic changed the rules for beauty across global markets. With citizens stuck at home, consumer habits and needs transformed, resulting in a number of losers and winners too. Beauty brands from the mid and mass ranges faced stiff competition as new online names and multi-brand stores flooded the market. The high-end market remained relatively resilient, through which, local omni-channel retailer Bonnie & Clyde emerged as a dominant player, rapidly entering into the top tier Shanghai malls, including the prestigious HKRI Taikoo Hui, K11, and Jing’an Kerry Centre.

Bonnie & Clyde’s “try offline, buy online” model with their unique “6+365” license help international niche high-end brands develop a wider reach in China’s market. Photo: Bonnie & Clyde.

This was a move that has paid off: in just the first month, Bonnie & Clyde sales have surpassed $150,000 USD at the brand’s very first store in Kerry Centre. Their “try offline, buy online” model with their unique “6+365” license, and capability of delivering products in 4 hours has driven high online traffic, accounting for almost half of the platform’s sales.

With Bonnie & Clyde’s innovative business model, omni-channel marketing is more than a buzzword. It brings added value for both luxury beauty players and consumers. Here, Jing Daily analyzes best practices for surviving in China’s post-pandemic beauty market.

Unpacking The Luxury Beauty Consumer’s Demands

The luxury beauty industry has no shortage of high-net-worth individuals in top tier Chinese cities who are willing to pay what translates into thousands of US dollars for single purchases. Now, their needs are changing. Many of these new consumers were formerly overseas residents or outbound travelers who used to purchase global beauty brands outside of China. 

Compared to luxury lines under cosmetics conglomerates, independent labels with personalities that offer exclusive technology and ingredients are now seen as more appealing to these shoppers. In order to meet the appetite of these new luxury beauty consumers, the importance of a forward-thinking company portfolio cannot be underestimated. 

According to William Lau, Bonnie & Clyde’s CEO, brand selection is one of the most critical aspects to providing the best consumer experience. In order to be considered for inclusion, a brand must have displayed a multi-year history of quality products and be a leader in its own category. In addition, it must also have outstandingly positive feedback from influencers/KOLs, and consumers.

Currently, Bonnie & Clyde’s solid set of credentials consists of luxury beauty leaders such as Chantecaille and Natura Bissé, as well as niche fragrance labels including Juliette Has A Gun. While there is no distinct competitive pricing advantage at the store, Bonnie & Clyde has exclusivity; it is the only offline retailer in China where consumers can find niche luxury names.

“Their display is amazing, and I don’t need to worry about the authenticity of the products.”

Many of these portfolio brands are also managed from an omni-channel strategy. This ensures that promotions or gifting during online events like Single’s Day Shopping Festival on Tmall are simultaneously offered offline, similarly benefiting customers in store. This hybrid model offers a fully, holistic consumer experience.

Leveraging Unparalleled Service and Brand Connection

As the demands of Chinese beauty consumers change, it is vital that brands work with retailers who create an experience that works in this context. High-end luxury beauty customers are looking for unparalleled service and brand connection — which goes beyond product. With a one-to-one VIP service offered both online and offline — a key experience for these high-end consumers – Bonnie & Clyde can meet this need unlike services provided by Daigou or beauty retailers such as Sephora. 

Rather, Bonnie & Clyde’s product authenticity, accessibility, variety, as well as, elevated shopping experience, regularly exceed shoppers’ expectations. On Dianping (大众点评), the Chinese equivalent of Yelp, use @florawestlife shared her shopping experience on the social platform: “Their display is amazing, and I don’t need to worry about the authenticity of the products — which is the main concern when I purchase from Daigou or other online channels.”

The sleek storefront of Bonnie & Clyde’s shop at HKRI Taikoo Hui. Photo: Bonnie & Clyde.

On a deeper level, this service continues online where Bonnie & Clyde manages over 2,500 KOL micro-communities with luxury followers. A depth of brand and product communication from the KOL often results in the natural occurrence of direct group sales. Noted influencer, Benny Dong, featured in Forbes China’s 2019 Top KOL list and Top 100 bloggers of Bilibili, explained to Jing Daily how this works.

“The way that Bonnie & Clyde helps to facilitate communication between Natura Bissé and my followers is quite crucial to building up mutual trust on both sides.” Indeed, Dong’s extensive influence among his followers means Natura Bissé can have a wider reach in China’s market; his followers, on the other hand, receive a greater understanding of the line and its products. “In the end, the brand can achieve sales improvement, and more importantly, extend the customer lifecycle,” he added. 

Breaking Through China’s Beauty Market Pain Points

Since COVID-19, the Chinese beauty market’s pain points for international players have heightened. From cosmetic regulations, only navigable though cross-border e-commerce solutions, to prolonged consumer journey with weak virtual shopping experiences, Bonnie & Clyde offers innovative routes to overcome these challenges. 

For the overseas beauty companies following clean, safe, and responsible principles, Bonnie & Clyde has found an effective solution to meeting the different cosmetic stipulations on the mainland via its unique “6+365” license. 

This exclusive legislation shortens the pathway between clean beauty brands and local consumers, allowing consumers to try out all cross-border products in store and purchase online through BC’s mini program. Customers then receive the products within four hours in Shanghai – often before they have even returned home. 

Alongside digital transformation in the logistics sector, the physical interaction that takes place inside the Bonnie & Clyde store plays a significant role in luxury beauty retail too, especially in fragrance and skincare categories. Bonnie & Clyde invests heavily on training their professional Beauty Advisors not to simply sell products, but advise their customers on what is uniquely suitable for them. As the customers now have a personal Beauty Advisor, their shopping journey can be extended even beyond the physical store.

“What impresses me most about the store is the Beauty Advisors really go out of their way to help address my skin condition needs — even days later.”

This means that while the high-speed customs clearance optimizes the consumer journey and escalating sales, the Beauty Advisor and flexible payment model elongates its contact time with the shopper. For users such as @florawestlife, this makes the experience entirely unique. Again on Dianping, she noted: “What impresses me most about the store is the Beauty Advisors really go out of their way to help me address my skin condition needs – even days later.”

In a post-pandemic future, local retailer Bonnie & Clyde is finding more organic ways to connect with Chinese consumers. By cementing exceptional customer service and engagement, alongside leveraging digital advancements, it is securing a larger share of the domestic beauty market, making it a successful roadmap for any international brands to follow.   

This article is presented by Bonnie & Clyde. Please visit www.bonnieclyde.com for more information about Bonnie & Clyde

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