Leferi, Leferi Data Lab
After years of being kept hidden under the face mask, K-beauty is finally ready to make its comeback in 2023. As the countdown to the lifting of the indoor mask mandate has begun, expectations for a new mask-free era are rising. The Korean beauty market in particular sees its silver lining; the domestic demand, mostly for color cosmetics is increasing and outside the country, China has eased its COVID-19 restrictions. But the global economic recession is a very bad sign for all industries, to which the beauty industry is no exception. That's why some within industry circles are against the high expectation that the beauty industry will thrive again when COVID-19 ends; they say it will take a much longer time to recover to pre-COVID levels.
K-beauty industry preparing for the global recession Accelerating online and digital initiatives
High prices, combined with high interest rates are sure to depress families as COVID-19 has done, and consumer confidence will continue to ebb. Businesses will also hurt alike. With the deteriorated economic outlook, most experts agree that the year 2023 will likely be worse than 2022. The K-beauty industry, however, has already been rocked by COVID-19 and it is now ready and primed for a solid rebound. With online and digital marketing strategies having been quickly adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, K-beauty will come back stronger.
According to statistics from the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, cosmetics exported from South Korea have increased from 2020 to 2021. Online and digital marketing strategies have contributed greatly to this increase, and decreased demand for color cosmetics has been successfully offset by other categories.
Diversified and advanced K-beauty E-commerce caused the long tail of the beauty market
While the Korean beauty market has been struggling to cope with the mask mandate, the beauty category on YouTube has continued to grow. The share of the traditional strong players, skincare and makeup products neither grew nor shrank, but other cosmetic products - body care, hair care, fragrance and beauty supplements showed a great growth.
This result implies that first, customers are greatly interested in health. And second, the beauty industry has worked to introduce at-home beauty products and devices, and to guide customers to have an aesthetic experience and better me-time at home.
Years ago, puff and brush were the only beauty tools available on the market, but over recent years, new beauty devices designed for DIY beauty treatment at home, including LED mask and the Gua Sha massage tool, have come out and garnered a lot of attention. The categories of perfume, fragrance diffuser and beauty supplements are also growing fast.
In conclusion, advanced K-beauty products have succeeded in the diversification of consumption. In other words, the long tail is happening in the beauty market.
Industries that rely heavily on offline distribution channels have used traditional marketing tactics; promoting and showcasing popular, main products to increase revenue. The beauty industry also used to allow more and better space for high-selling products in offline retail stores.
In recent years, however, it began working to bring more online customers to physical stores, mostly through mobile and digital ads. Then, COVID-19 broke out, which rather accelerated the shift to e-commerce. As a result, some products, though not very well known, were able to reach a greater number of customers. Small brands, unable to afford opening stores in physical locations, or entering big drugstores, were given a chance to introduce their products to the market and influencers in turn posted more product reviews online.
Latest content strategy: One YouTube channel, multiple lifestyle categories
Crossing the borderline between beauty and lifestyle
As consumer behaviors change, so too are influencers starting to change their content. In the past, product review content was mostly about demonstrations of products, but recently it has been given a more personal touch, and beauty device reviews have been on an upward trend. YouTube channels with creative out-of-the-box ideas are getting a good number of views.
This diversity of content leads to beauty products, not only being introduced on beauty YouTube channels, but also through lifestyle channels.
With more time spent at home, beauty brands have gone beyond skincare and makeup content. They have instead turned to more advanced beauty products, including skincare devices, and influencers have widened their circle, from product reviews to lifestyle ideas with them introducing when and where customers could use the products.
The growing popularity of beauty content creators, posting less beauty content on their channel but more content that revolves around their everyday life is another driver behind the blurring of the borderline between beauty and lifestyle categories. Having begun in the field of beauty, influencers have started to expand into fashion, lifestyle and beyond, while lifestyle vlog influencers are presenting beauty products that are aligned with their values.
Beauty creators turning into lifestyle creators!
Value-driven consumption trend and creator lifecycle
This change is closely associated with the value-based consumption trend among Millennials and Gen Z and how content changes throughout the lifecycle of a content creator.
Consumer behaviors used to be largely influenced by the general trend, popularity, or what others say. Nowadays, however, consumers rather look into themselves, act according to their beliefs, and buy products that align with their personal values and lifestyle. It blurs the borderline between content categories and consumers seek influencers whose values they can relate to.
Plus, the lifecycle of a content creator can explain the blurring of the borderline between beauty and lifestyle creators. As the first-generation beauty creators are getting old, married and becoming independent of their parents, they are now expanding their interests into other areas, like house and lifestyle and accordingly their channels change to reflect this. Beauty influencers reflect their personal values and interests into the channel, and lifestyle influencers supporting vegan beauty, fair trade and ESG trends make sure that their voices are heard through their beauty content.
How to bring forward the grand comeback of K-beauty in 2023
# Behavior pattern of lifestyle (beauty) influencers
# Pay attention to the value-based consumption trend and lifecycle of creator
2023 is another make-or-break point for the K-beauty industry. There have been some incredibly cheap, functional cosmetic brands that have been doing well, even at the deepest point of the recession, but most consumers and the beauty industry have ridden on the irreversible wave of value-based consumption through the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. Showing off is no longer a good way of life anymore; consumers would rather go through reviews online and pick one product that's consistent with their values.
The online beauty industry is being incorporated into the lifestyle ecosystem. As the growth of vegan beauty and beauty supplements indicates, not all influencers go only for color makeup. The rebound of color makeup is a welcome fillip to the beauty market after such a long wait, but unless beauty brands keep up with the consumer trend of value-based consumption at this point, it will be difficult to bring back today's consumers. Look closely into the trend among consumers, who are more thorough and meticulous online than offline, and the changing behavior pattern of influencers, and it will put forward the comeback of K-beauty.