Daily Insights

China’s Top 10 Beauty Brands in Digital

By: Liz Flora | Feb 27, 2019

Although China faces a slowing economy, top international beauty conglomerates Estée Lauder Co. and L’Oréal Group both reported strong China growth in their earnings reports this month. In Gartner L2’s newly released Digital IQ Index: Beauty China, these groups also had the top-ranked brands, with L’Oréal-owned L’Oréal Paris and Lancôme ranking first and second, with Estée Lauder in third. These brands, along with the rest of the top 10, excelled at their China digital strategies across four dimensions: paid and earned media, owned channels, search, and social media. Read below to see how the winners succeeded, thanks to strategies including social promotions with celebrity pop idols, an emphasis on lipstick, greater cooperation with Tmall, adoption of Gen Z- and millennial-focused apps like Douyin and RED, and more.

  1. L’Oréal Paris
    Digital IQ: 145

Taking Estée Lauder’s crown as the top-ranked brand for 2019, L’Oréal Paris excelled in search visibility on e-tailers including Tmall, JD.com and VIP.com. It achieved this through strong investment in Tmall ads and an e-tailer SEO strategy that focused on trending keywords including popular cosmeceutical terms. L’Oréal also generated strong social engagement thanks to China’s pop idol fever, posting about the girl group Rocket Girls from the hit idol-making Tencent Video show Produce 101 as well as a member of boy band Nine Percent from the similar iQiyi show Idol Producer.

  1. Lancôme
    Digital IQ: 143

Also surpassing Estée Lauder this year, Lancôme benefited on both social media and Tmall from the popularity of the boy band TFBoys, with a collaboration with TFBoys member Wang Junkai helping it become the top-selling beauty brand on Tmall for Singles Day.

  1. Estée Lauder
    Digital IQ: 142

With the highest Baidu Index of all beauty brands in the Index, Estée Lauder generates online buzz with high mentions on lifestyle app RED and social promotions featuring singer Hua Chenyu. Links to purchase from celebrity accounts helped the brand receive high sales on Tmall, where it is the only premium beauty brand among the top 10 for search results discoverability (a combination of rank, visibility, and real estate) when sorted by best-selling products.

  1. Innisfree
    Digital IQ: 134

The Amorepacific-owned K-beauty brand doubled down on its digital portfolio this year in an attempt to overcome challenges for Korean brands in China. It cooperated extensively with Tmall, opening a smart store with digital Tmall-integrated features. Like L’Oréal Paris, the brand generated social engagement with promotions featuring members of Nine Percent and Rocket Girls, further illustrating the power of the idol trend.

  1. YSL Beauty
    Digital IQ: 134

With 85% of the brand’s total Tmall unit sales coming from lipstick, YSL Beauty took advantage of the online buzz surrounding its lip products. It was one of the highest-mentioned beauty brands on RED, where its Rouge Pur Couture #12 shade is among the best-selling lipsticks. On WeChat, it created a Mini Program that emulates the features of RED, allowing the creation of user-generated content and product tagging.

  1. Kiehl’s
    Digital IQ: 132

Kiehl’s has invested in the Brand Zone 2.0 on WeChat, with multiple links and product listings, allowing the brand to capture more screen real estate. It is also a best-in-class example for Mini Program commerce, with multiple entry points to its Mini Program shop and customer service functionality. 

  1. Dior Beauty
    Digital IQ: 131

Dior invested in an innovative video content strategy with a sponsored challenge on short video app Douyin and the first “see now, buy now” livestream by a beauty brand through a WeChat Mini Program. Like YSL Beauty, Dior also benefited from the popularity of lipstick in China, ranking as the number one brand for search discoverability on Tmall for lipstick-related search results.

  1. Maybelline
    Digital IQ: 131

Maybelline has developed a sophisticated loyalty program on WeChat that is offered through a Mini Program, allowing store reservations and points integrated with those earned through Tmall, its DTC store, and offline purchases.

  1. Olay
    Digital IQ: 130

Olay heavily promoted its ProX essence online, which it nicknamed the “Little White Bottle” in Chinese (following the fame of Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair serum in China with its “Little Brown Bottle” moniker). The essence was a focus of the brand for Singles Day, and received 1261% unit sales growth after celebrities and KOLs posted links from their Weibo account to purchase the item on Tmall.

  1. SK-II
    Digital IQ: 128

The Procter & Gamble-owned Japanese skincare label collaborated heavily with e-tailers in the past year: it launched a physical smart store in collaboration with JD.com and served as an official Singles Day brand partner for Tmall. It also officially joined Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion.