China Perfume Market Smells like Money

China’s fragrance & Perfume market is booming and catching the attention of international companies. A reporter from China Daily reported in Shanghai that there are over 100 new brands entering this industry every year, with many specialized products targeting Chinese consumers. In fact, China is now one of the most promising and lucrative markets in the world in terms of fragrances, as consumers are willing to invest not only time but also money into their personal grooming habits. In this article, we will see how important the China Perfume market is, and we will give you as well some tips and advice to successfully launch and promote your perfume in this huge country.

History of China Perfume Market

It might be hard to believe for some people, but China is the second-largest market in terms of perfume in the world. Even though Chinese people are not accustomed to perfume themselves, the fragrance segment was able to attract an increasing number of consumers over the years. With major players like Estee Lauder and L’Oréal now operating here, it’s expected that this booming industry will continue its ascent into becoming a true powerhouse of fragrance manufacturing.

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“Perfumes turn in the evening air like a languorous vertigo”

C. Baudelaire

Fragrances: Not part of Chinese consumers’ habits

(© Shutterstock)

If we look back in China’s history, there was a low consumption in terms of fragrance. During the Cultural Revolution years, anyone caught using perfume would be tortured and humiliated as a poisonous weed. Anyone who managed to get their hands on scents or perfumes before 1967 quickly got rid of any evidence in fear for themselves and their families safety. As a result, many people grew up without the habit of using and purchasing perfume.

However China has a rich history of scent especially in the Imperial Court, Empress Cixi, in particular, was known for her very intricate beauty routine. Indeed the empress supposedly enjoyed using a large variety of scented products, such as natural oils that included jasmine, rose, orange blossom, or honeysuckle as the fragrance on her body. It is important to bear in mind that the use of fragrant products goes back centuries even before the Cixi of the Qing Dynasty.

China’s Perfume market compared to the world

All over the world, perfume has become one key industry of the beauty & personal care industry. In fact, by 2025, the global fragrance market is estimated to be worth about 52.4 billion U.S. dollars, and personal care has the second largest market share for fragrance products. As of 2016, the leading cosmetic and fragrance company in the world was L’Oréal, which generated a revenue of 25.8 billion euros.

On the other hand, it can be interesting to compare China with other countries around the world to see how China ranks in the perfume market. In fact, as the world’s most populous country with more than 1.4 billion citizens, China it wouldn’t be surprising if China was the leading market in terms of perfume. Nevertheless, China is still far behind other European countries for example, where the use of perfume is part of people’s daily habits.

The Chinese account for 20% of the world’s population, but only contribute 1% to value sales of fragrances. The average Chinese person is not used to wearing perfume unless they are extremely particular about their image, usually those who work for international companies or as high-ranking executives.

Euromonitor (back in 2014)

Following this statement, we can conclude that the china perfume market is still pretty untapped. That’s why it could potentially become one of the most lucrative segments for foreign brands in China, as consumers are willing to use perfume on a daily basis. Therefore, even though China is not among the leading market, its increasing disposable income is expected to drive the global market in the years to come.

China Perfume Market is seeing a rise in consumption

Perfum Marketing in China - Joe Malone
Jo Malone Perfume in China

Over the years, thanks to globalization, a greater purchasing power, social media, KOLs, foreign brands that have expanded their activities in China, etc. we have seen a remarkable rise in consumption in terms of perfume. Chinese consumers are more than ever paying attention to their appearance, but also smell. Foreign brands were able to tap into the market a decade ago, and more and more brands are trying to do so every year. China is no longer considering fragrances as luxurious, strange, and useless products, but as delicate and pleasant products.

According to a recent study from Statista, the Chinese fragrance product distribution industry grew by 22% in 2019 and is projected to grow at an increased rate of 6.5% annually until 2024, generating over 4.3 billion yuan.

On top of that, thanks to a rise in wages, Chinese consumers an especially the tech-savvy generation (born after 1990), are ready to spend thousands of yuans on perfume, as depicted in the following statistic.

Looking at the prices paid for perfume and cosmetics among young consumers in their 20s, around 48% of the respondents said that they most often paid between 1,001 and 5,000 yuan when buying perfume, makeup, and other cosmetics (approximately $150-$770). Thus, it is quite a significant amount of money, which is extremely interesting for luxury perfume brands.

Who are the key players of China Perfume Market

The Chinese fragrance market is booming, but the market is not in a state of a free-for-all. Fragrances are grouped into four different segments:

  • Luxury (Chanel)
  • Prestige/Mid-range ($100-$250 per bottle) (Gucci, Marc Jacobs)
  • Mass distribution
  • Fragrance – Accessories (Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden)

Some of the most popular fragrance brands in China:

  • Dior
(© Shutterstock)
  • Armani
(© Shutterstock)
  • Atelier Cologne
(© Shutterstock)
  • Chanel
(© Shutterstock)
  • Diptyque
  • Gucci
  • Hermès
  • Jo Malone
  • Calvin Klein
  • Hugo Boss
  • L’Oréal
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Yves Saint Laurent

With their strategies being so different, it’s no wonder these brands are doing well in the industry. Chanel has been focusing on luxury stores and high-priced perfumes. Meanwhile, Burberry is making waves by investing in Chinese e-commerce platforms that have grown significantly since 2012 to promote its perfume for a more diverse audience.

What perfumes are popular in China

  • Prive Pivoine Suzhou (Armani Beauty)
  • Chanel N°5 (Chanel)
  • Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet Roller Pearl (Dior)
  • Black Opium (Yves Saint Laurent)

What do Chinese consumers like in terms of scents?

Traditionally, Chinese consumers are looking for lighter fragrances that are fruitier and fresher. According to research conducted by Labbrand, over 50% of Chinese consumers would choose fragrances containing subtle fresh scents rather than heavy perfumes.

The boom of the perfume market in China

China is the world’s second-largest cosmetics consumer market only behind the U.S., settling at 261.9 billion yuan (37 billion USD) in 2018, according to a report from Research and Markets China Cosmetics Market Report 2019-2025. However, fragrances are by far one of the fastest-growing segments within all categories of cosmetic products with local research firm Forward estimating their growth rate as 14%.

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on China’s fragrances and perfume market has drastically decreased sales. As people were not able to go out, the use of fragrance was almost inexistent during the few months of lockdown. On top of that, perfumes were viewed as non-essential items as a result the usage of perfumes decreased abruptly for the year 2020 because consumers were more focused on buying important daily needs such as skincare, bath, and shower, etc…

In China, perfume is viewed as an entry-level luxury and when consumers decide to spend money, they prefer more visible products such as bags, shoes, or jewelry. Consequently, perfume’s first-time buyers are older than in Western countries and start to buy in their mid-to-late 20s, when earning a higher income.

In 2018, the growth of the luxury market was 20%, and the perfume market has grown by 15%. However, the perfume market has great potential in China. Women start to get interested in perfume by testing perfumes in shops, reading reviews online, and learning about the different types of perfume. Therefore, the potential is highest for branded perfumes because consumers are reassured by brands they know and trust. For example, Chanel no.5 has a strong success because it is an iconic perfume, a well-known brand, and a safe choice.

“Fragrance consumers in China are expanding rapidly from women to both men and women, and the market scale is projected to reach 23.3 billion yuan (US$3.28 billion)”

According to a researcher at the Shenzhen-based Qianzhan Industry Research Institute

Moreover, fragrance gifts are one of the largest segments of the perfume market that can help brands to grow. Indeed, 70% of the perfumes are bought to be offered. In China, building good relationships is important and gifts are essential.

In China, the most popular brands of perfumes are Chanel, Dior, and Lancôme. During the decision-making process, the brand ranks at 1st position while the smell of the perfume remains at the second position.

South and west, women are attracted to more fruity scents while in the North, they will be attracted by herbaceous and mineral scents. To ensure success in selling these products, the brand must take into account these differences and adapt to the local market.

Zoom on perfumes for men in China

With the men’s beauty buying rate in China increased in the past years with its number of users reaching 45 million in 2017, according to an annual report by Nielsen and consulting firm Euromonitor International, men using perfume as part of their daily morning routines has become more common in China these last few years. Moreover, compared to women, over 50% of men perceive perfume as being a seduction tool.

Last year, the men’s perfume market increased by 20%. Even if in China the word perfume is often associated with feminine connotations, young male consumers forget their conservative traditions and prefer individual expression. They are curious about perfumes and many perfumes companies have already launched specific brands for men.

It is also important to point out that that this emergence was partly due to emerging male-oriented brands entering China’s market such as Hugo Boss on popular e-commerce apps.

If you want more information about male perfume, you can click here

What are the main challenges for foreign perfume brands in China?

Calvin Klein Perfume Ad

The main challenge for perfume brands wishing to enter the China perfume market is to understand that the perfume consumption in China and in the West is not the same and that tastes are on opposite sides of the spectrum. For example, when it comes to the Chinese market, the definition of “sexy” is way different than it is in western countries, so as the same for advertisements.

For Westerners, a classic lady-killer perfume/scent is usually made of spicy or woodsy scents, used to convey passion, sexuality, strength, and power. The difference is that in China, a “bad boy” scent smells more aquatic with notes of citrus to enhance the idea of freshness. This difference can be explained because of the particular assumptions regarding sex appeal in each culture.

Customizing your products is also crucial in China, especially if you want to target young consumers. As a matter of fact, the Millennials and Gen-Z are willing to pay more for customized fragrances. For example, you can customize your scents according to different profiles. This market follows the trend of other segments allowing Chinese people to customize almost everything from jewelry to apparel. Moreover, it is also interesting to take into account that brands have greater success in China if they pay attention to culturally valued elements such as elegance and cuteness.

Overall, China’s cosmetics industry is growing and evolving. Foreign-funded enterprises still lead the way with an estimated 86% share of total retail sales, but Chinese companies are quickly catching up at 14%. Thus, new entrants should be careful when it comes to domestic competitors that are generally cheaper and are aware of all the trends in China and how to please potential customers with a localized strategy.

Marketing Strategies to market your Perfumes in China

The Chinese fragrance market will continue to experience dynamic growth, mainly driven by premium fragrances. With the onset of e-commerce in China and an increased number of international brands entering into this space, many companies are adapting their strategies to capitalize on these new opportunities. The e-commerce industry has allowed these companies to access a larger consumer base, which they have used for their best interest: more penetration of the Chinese marketplace with premium fragrances taking up 80% of total sales volume. With China still being an underexploited market, foreign businesses should use online tools to attract and promote their fragrances to Chinese netizens.

Having a Chinese website is key

Chanel’s Chinese website

A website in Chinese is necessary to enter a market and develop your branding. This is an efficient solution to increase the popularity of your perfumes, influence consumers thanks to innovative and interactive content and design, as well as develop the image of your company in China.

Moreover, having a website written in mandarin is essential. Considering the fact that Chinese consumers spend more than 40% of their daily life on the Internet and these internet users trust more Chinese websites than English websites. The website should focus on the experience of the user while being informative. Good visibility on the Chinese internet allows the brand to assert its position in the market of perfumery. It is also a key factor if you want to rank on Baidu, China’s leading search engine.

Using Chinese Search Engines to Promote your Fragrance

Guerlain Baidu Brand Zone + Product Page on Guerlain’s Mandarin Website

As mentioned earlier, Baidu, China’s leading search engine, is crucial if you want to attract Chinese consumers and convince them that you are a reliable perfume brand.

Some Baidu figures on the perfume industry:

  • With 290,000 searches per day on average in 2017 alone, the perfume segment has seen a 9% increase annually.
  • Mobile devices accounted for 90% of searches on Baidu
  • Peaks were observed around women’s day and mother’s day with occasional peaks during Qixi festival and New year, so don’t forget to seize of the Chinese special days to promote and sell your perfumes

E-commerce platforms

  • Tmall: China’s largest e-commerce platform
Tmall’s website

The development of new technologies and the increased use of smartphones and tablets allowed an explosive growth of eCommerce in China. One of the best Chinese e-commerce platforms is Tmall which is part of the Alibaba group led by Jack Ma. This is definitely the largest B2C platform in China, it offers a wide selection of affordable products and decent logistics and attracts value-conscious shoppers. On the contrary to its competitor Taobao, the company has made arrangements to ensure that products sold on Tmall are authentic. Known as the “Amazon of China”, JD.com is also one of the main B2C e-commerce platforms and is Tmall’s biggest rival. Consequently, using e-commerce platforms to develop your business is a must to efficiently enter the perfume market.

  • The Tmall Perfume Route

The Tmall Perfume Route is a new opportunity for fragrance brands to sell faster in China. This isn’t just an online asset, it’s also a logistics service that can make international deliveries easier and more convenient than ever before.

Fact: Gentlement Marketing Agency is an exclusive partner of Tmall, so, if you want to launch your perfumes in China through Tmall, do not hesitate to contact us and we will help you throughout the process.

  • JD.com: One of the biggest e-commerce platform in China
Perfumes on JD.com

JD.com is one of China’s largest online direct sales companies, even though it has less market share than Tmall. International companies can open individual online stores on JD for Chinese consumers who want to purchase products without a local presence in the country. Furthermore, unlike Tmall where brands should take care of marketing, customer relationship management and logistics (among other things), JD offers full services including the logistic and delivery.

Like Tmall, JD has its own cross-border website, called JD Worldwide.

  • Xiaohongshu: Half Social Media – Half E-commerce Platform

With fierce competition for Internet traffic, the cost of acquiring traffic continues to rise. If you want more efficient and low-cost sources without sacrificing ROI marketing, try connecting with KOLs in order to increase retention rates. Xiaohongshu is a great choice for any promotional campaign. In fact, being both a social media platform and an e-commerce platform, marketers can potentially attract more than 300 million users!

Fragrance “Zhong Cao” on Xiaohongshu

Xiaohongshu is a popular and powerful marketing tool for influencers. It’s ideal for advertising cosmetic, skincare, or perfume products because it has a large number of followers who are eager to listen to KOLs advice and opinions. In this case, these recommendations have two possible outcomes: if someone takes a KOL’s suggestion and buys the promoted product promoted, then they can be said as having been “pulled up weeds”. Alternatively taking their advice could also lead them to another path – that being called “being planted grass.”

Chinese Social media and Online Channels

Chinese customers use the Internet to research their favorite brands. Leveraging through social media can be a cost-efficient way of reaching Chinese consumers and making them aware of your brand’s existence and products.

Perfume de Versailles – A perfume brand that GMA has worked with

International fragrance brands can partner with a reputable digital marketing agency like GMA to promote their products in the Chinese market as they must have a wide range of knowledge about what consumers like and know how to adapt to the defined market. If you are looking for business partners that will help you conquer the Chinese market, you can contact us here.

Perfume Brands in China shoud use WeChat Marketing

China is the world’s largest connected country: more than 90% of Chinese people have an account on at least one Chinese social network. Wechat is the social media the most used in China and, regardless of the size of your company, it is an essential way to develop your marketing strategy in the country. WeChat campaigns are the most effective way to increase engagement in China on the nation’s number one social media tool. WeChat store gives numerous possibilities to International brands to reach Chinese consumers effectively Possibilities range from branding to creating interactive advertising campaigns. By promoting your perfume on social media, you can build a community surrounding your company, reach your target, get feedback and create a friendlier company image.

Use Weibo to Promote your Fragrance on the China perfume Market

Weibo is a social media platform that has more than 500 million active users and the average time spent by each user per day is 30 minutes. Mobile devices account for 80% of all Weibo usage with many brands finding it incredibly effective to spread the news about their products as well as some advertisements.

Guerlain & ELLE collab

Weibo provides an opportunity for brands to promote their products through paid advertising, as it is one of the cheapest and lucrative ways to reach consumers across the country. One brand that has taken advantage of this platform is L’Oreal Paris, which used Weibo in 2017 and saw remarkable results overnight – so much that they’ve become one of the most successful brands in China.

L’Oréal Ad in China

Xiaohongshu: The Place to Be for Perfume Brands

YSL – KOL Collab on Xiaohongshu

As mentioned earlier, Xiaohongshu is also a social media on which KOLs and other users can share their recommendations when it comes to cosmetics, beauty and fragrance products, fashion, etc. Therefore, if you want to target young women, you should use Xiaohongshu and collaborate with KOLs. If you want to find KOLs, do not hesitate to contact us as we have been working with hundreds of KOLs over the years.

Gentlemen Marketing Agency to Help you Sell your Perfumes in China

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We are a digital marketing agency and our team of 50 experts can help you to find solutions to enter the Chinese perfumes market. Do not hesitate to contact us!

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  1. Hello,
    My Company is creating a Perfum Store Chain, like Sephora, and we would like to sell Niche Perfum Brands. Can you please contact me if you are interested

  2. Hello,
    I would like to sell my new Brand directly to some Resellers and wholesale in China, do you think it is possible?

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