In Asia, the personal care sector has rebounded relatively quickly following the height of the pandemic. In China, before COVID-19 hit, the personal care market was forecast to grow 9% in 2020, but is now on track for a -5% decline. In South Korea, the market should shrink by -8%, compared with expected growth of 4.8%. The impact has been lower in Thailand, where the sector was expected to remain flat, but has declined by -2.1%, according to Kantar.
However, according to Kantar, COVID-19 pressed ’fast forward’ on developments that were expected to take five years to unroll.
Consumers are thinking beyond ’skin deep’
Increased concerns around health have changed consumers’ expectations of beauty: they expect brands to help them feel and live better, not just look better. Priorities have shifted from fixing issues - such as erasing wrinkles - to building a strong foundation.
"Consumers want personal care products to be highly effective, and offer more sophisticated functions," says Ashley Kang, Head of Beauty, Kantar Worldpanel. "Already gaining in popularity before the outbreak, derma-care products have gained further traction, and the trend is spilling over from skincare into body care and make-up. The leading country for derma is Korea, with 56% penetration."
Clean beauty has also risen in importance, with brands expected to be safe and environmentally responsible. Consumers are looking for natural, gentle and vegan ingredients.
Ecommerce is now a part of daily life
Restrictions on physical movement have forced a shift in spend from offline to online platforms. Kantar does not expects Asian consumers to move away from online channels now they’re able to visit stores again, as they’ve ’tasted’ advantages such as convenience, greater accessibility and lower prices.
Offline channels remain important, however - in Thailand, offline traffic is still 19 times higher than online traffic - and this channel is recovering, albeit slowly.
In markets where ecommerce is more mature, whereas shoppers once used one or two platforms for their beauty purchases, the landscape is diversifying with different platforms catering for different shopping missions.
According to Kantar, the rapid development of ecommerce has given smaller brands greater reach, and helped them gain traction. These include local brands, which have excelled due to being ’ecommerce ready’, combined with their understanding of local consumers’ needs: 70% of China’s top growing cosmetics brands are domestic in origin.
Shoppers seek sensible pricing and good value
With the pandemic hitting incomes hard, most Asian consumers are paying more attention to getting maximum value for their personal care spend. “This doesn’t mean they’ll go for the cheapest option, however; they evaluate their choices based on benefits,” highlights Kantar.
Whereas premium beauty was on the rise before coronavirus, mass and masstige brands are now growing their market share.
However, despite increased price sensitivity, demand for luxury has remained strong in some markets due to the fact that “the highest income consumers have been least affected by COVID-19”.