Real Techniques Has Brush with Greatness in China

If stippling, buffing and halo eyes are your thing, Real Techniques says it has just the tools to help you create those hot and trendy looks.

The brand’s story begins with Chicago, USA-based Paris Presents Inc., which creates and distributes beauty products and personal-care accessories for women. The company saw an opportunity to sell high-quality brushes accompanied by tips on how to use them and get the most from your make-up.

That’s when the company reached out to UK-based makeup artist and YouTube sensation, Samantha Chapman, to serve as spokesperson and assist in developing a brush collection to go with her makeup tips. Two years later, Samantha’s sister, Nicola, also a make-up artist, joined the team. The sisters grew up around makeup, with their aunt a top makeup artist for VIP clients, such as Princess Diana and David Bowie. Keen to grow their knowledge and fuel their passion, the sisters studied professional makeup artistry and began to ply their trade in London.

In 2008, a friend asked Sam how to create a “smoky-eye” effect. To help her, Sam created and uploaded a video to YouTube. From there, Sam’s instructional makeup videos were born, offering runway and celebrity makeup tips. Real Techniques and Sam’s collaboration launched in 2011, leading to another surge in viewer numbers.

Today, Real Techniques’ social community is over six million strong, and it’s not unusual for Sam & Nic’s videos to get nearly a million views each.

The goal from the start for Real Techniques was to offer premium and innovative brushes at a more affordable price than the typical $40-$50 range. Real Techniques sponges sell for around $6, and starter brush sets are under $25.

Since its inception six years ago, Real Techniques is the fastest growing make-up brush brand in the U.S., according to Nielsen statistics, and number-one overall in the U.K., according to U.K. big-data company, IRI. It now sells brushes and cosmetic sponges in over 60 countries.

Real Techniques Fast Facts

  • Brand of privately held Gurnee, IL USA-based Paris Presents Incorporated sells to 60 different countries. Tmall Store opened: Late 2015.
  • Number of SKUs available on Tmall: 25 (around 60 are sold globally).
  • Five Best-selling items on Tmall:
  1. Miracle Complexion Sponge
  2. Core Collection set
  3. Eye Starter Set
  4. Powder Brush
  5. Blush Brush

In late 2015, China was added to its global footprint through a Tmall Global storefront just a few weeks before Alibaba’s annual 11.11 shopping extravaganza. A huge surge in business convinced Real Techniques that it had made the right call to launch in China.

“We were impressed and extremely encouraged by the sales spike that came quickly and as early as the third week on Tmall,” said Jennifer Bayon, Paris Presents’ vice-president of international sales.

In China, marketing and logistics are carried out by Real Techniques’ Tmall sales agent, Export Now, founded by Frank Lavin, a former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce with strong knowledge of China. Export Now was instrumental in helping craft appropriate messaging to Chinese consumers for that first 11.11 shopping festival.

“We leveraged Export Now’s expertise and local market knowledge to set Real Techniques up for success in China,” said Bayon.

Lavin said the essence of being a good Tmall sales agent for a U.S. company is providing “an A-to-Z solution, one that’s turnkey, and then it’s customized for each client, from a menu.”

“Fundamentally, what we can say to Jennifer is ‘you can now sell in China,’” said Lavin. “You don’t have, hire in China or set up a legal entity in China.”

Bayon wanted to better understand Chinese consumers’ needs and habits and local marketing practices, which came from data collected through the storefront. Export Now plugged data-reporting into Real Techniques’ existing analytics platform.

“Now, Paris Presents can understand the selling patterns. We give Bayon the same dashboard of data for China as Paris Presents has in the U.S.,” Lavin said.

Real Techniques faces a degree of complexity selling to China, because its main video content is all in English. An initial step to localize content was to subtitle some of the Chapman sisters’ greatest hits and distribute them on Chinese video platform, Youku.

Bayon said Real Techniques has a plan in place to further localize content for Chinese consumers.

“We are keen to grow in the brand a way that is relevant for the Chinese consumer, while also ensuring we bring the high-quality product and consumer education that meets her needs. While the looks she’s trying to achieve may be different from her counterparts in the US, Germany or Mexico, the need for brushes and education will definitely help her get there.”

Real Techniques is adapting and focusing on the needs and wants of Chinese consumers. For example, there is more emphasis on detailed eye brushes favored by Chinese consumers, and foundation brushes to get a desired flawless look. Consumers are also very tuned in to learning more about product-specific details.

“Product measurements and the number of bristles in each brush are important specifics for the Chinese consumer who is very detailed oriented. Consumers here are hungry for in-depth knowledge on our products, because they’re unable to walk into a store to experience it for themselves. We have to be their hands, head and heart when it comes to buying our products online,” said Bayon.

Real Techniques’ business on Tmall has grown six-fold this year from 2015. Despite the success, Bayon said Real Techniques is looking to strike a balance in China, whereby it remains true to its brand and still resonates with Chinese consumers.

“Looking ahead,” she said, “Real Techniques aims to become the go-to brand in China to inspire and help consumers create the looks they love and fuel their passion for all things beauty.”

“Real Techniques was born out of digital and social media and remains a major driving force for the brand. We’re focused on tapping into social media and digital media in China to ensure the brand remains relevant, fresh and engaging for years to come,” said Bayon.