As has been the case in the West, social media platforms such as Instagram have surged in popularity in recent years in Asia. And in Japan, there is no doubt these platforms are influencing beauty product development, according to Sachi Kimura, senior analyst at Euromonitor International.
“Product development is observed in terms of how to ‘look good’ and be ‘Instagrammable’ on social media, described as ‘insta-bae’ in Japanese,” Kimura told Happi.
Development in this area can be seen via product packaging, where creations are more visually appealing.
“In late 2019, Tarte, a US brand owned by Kosé Corp, entered the Japanese market with unique and colorful packaging, already considered to be insta-bae cosmetics,” Kimura reported.
Social Media Merit
Another avenue within insta-bae developments in Japan are “tone up” sun care products. One notable example is Rohto Pharmaceutical Skin Aqua Tone Up UV, a color-correcting sunscreen that makes the skin look lighter or brighter.
“From this brightening affect, it is considered from consumers that it helps take better pictures to share on social media,” said Kimura.
Meanwhile, in South Korea, consumer obsession with social media is driving the development of beauty products that “can show instant change,” Lisa Hong, senior analyst at Euromonitor International informed this publication.
“Foundation/concealer that will instantly cover dark spots and eyeshadow that can be applied with a couple of brush strokes are notable,” Hong told Happi. “For instance, 16Brand’s eyeshadow is named ‘3-second eyeshadow’ for being able to apply quickly and is weighing on this merit aggressively through social media.”
Influencers Big and Small
Currently, the digital beauty landscape in South Korea is still pretty much a one-way street, from brand to consumer, according to Hong. But digital opportunities are expected to expand as brands increase their interaction with consumers.
“Beauty brands are managing their own social media channels and are actively using celebrity endorsements,” she said.
Influencers, such as Korean beauty guru Pony, which boasts 600,000 YouTube followers, are launching their own products, too.
Nano-Influencers Top Celebs
But, as Euromonitor International found in its 2019 Beauty Survey, South Korean consumers are most likely to be influenced by the recommendations of friends and extended family when purchasing color cosmetics. When it comes to skin care products, family or friends were ranked at the second strongest influence on purchasing decisions. Globally, with both color cosmetics and skin care, the influence of family and friends on purchasing was ranked fourth.
Consequently, nano-influencers (those with between 1,000 and 5,000 social media followers) and micro-influencers (between 1,000 and 100,000 followers) could, in fact, hold greater sway over consumers than famous influencers or celebrities.
“Digital influencers will no longer stay as a simple reviewer or window of product endorsements. While mega-influencers are acting as trendsetters, there is room for nano or micro-influencers,” Hong reported. “This may lead South Korean consumers to feel safer to listen to those whom they feel close. Nano or micro-influencers hold more intimate relationships with their followers and will have strong impact.”
While social media platforms such as Instagram are driving the development of Instagram-friendly beauty products, finding the right balance of digital and non-digital engagement with consumers remains essential for beauty brands in Japan.
“Finding the right balance of digital will be most important for Japan,” said Kimura. “Japan is a fairly conservative market, where store-based shopping is still the majority.”
In the Euromonitor International 2019 Beauty Survey, 57% of female respondents in Japan reported that they typically purchase their usual brands of skin care products at drugstores/pharmacies.
“Furthermore, the use of beauty apps or state-of-the-art beauty devices is low despite the infrastructure in place,” said Kimura.
According to Kimura, the lack of reliance on apps is due to consumers still placing importance on previous use experiences and wanting to try out products at physical stores.
“Also, due to concerns toward protection of personal information, some consumers are hesitant in sharing information with others,” said Kimura. “Beauty brands will need to understand the uniqueness or traits of Japanese consumers’ behavior and find a good balance between digital and non-digital.”
And major beauty players in Japan do understand the importance of in-store experience in Japan, with SK-II opening its Future X Smart Store, which provides unique experiences such as skin scanning using AI.
No matter what the experience, however, product will continue to be more important when thinking about consumers in Japan, said Kimura. While providing consumers with a unique experience becomes more important, product development focusing on efficacy and functionality will speak to local Japanese consumers.
For these consumers, value for money is an important factor influencing purchase in general and consumers seek clear description on what benefit the product can provide.
“From a manufacturer point-of-view, the concept of Japanese beauty is expanding globally, holding a reputation for high-quality products backed by science and technology. In order to continue this momentum, manufacturers are expected to continue developing products that will meet the image,” she concluded.
Michelle Yeomans is an award winning multimedia journalist. She has been reporting on cosmetics industry movements in EMEA, US and Asia for five years and has won an award for her coverage of the complexities of operating in the Middle East. Michelle’s passion lies in tracking the beauty culture and trends of the Asia Pacific region. Ever the AV enthusiast, she also relishes the opportunity to create engaging video and podcast content for the B2B industry.