Supergoop is on a mission to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen. The San Antonio, Texas-based skincare upstart’s brand ethos has prompted a stream of innovations over the past decade and has turned it into one of the industry’s buzziest cult-favorites. It’s showing no signs of slowing, as the brand recently made its first foray into China by launching a store on Tmall Global, Alibaba Group’s cross-border e-commerce platform.
Despite Covid-19, Supergoop pushed through with the launch in February and saw sales soar out of the gate. In just a few weeks, the brand sold out of the stock it had prepared for Chinese consumers and had to quickly adjust its supply chain to keep pace with the booming demand.
“Expanding into China with Alibaba has been truly a game-changer for us as a brand,” said Amanda Baldwin, president of Supergoop. “I’ve always known that we needed a partner who could help us reach this incredibly important group of beauty enthusiasts and do it in a way that felt right for our brand. Having that combination has been super powerful.”
WATCH: Supergoop Shines Bright with Tmall Global Launch
Baldwin said Tmall Global goes beyond just a sales channel and has become a platform for Supergoop to build its brand and bring its story to a whole new geography. Leveraging Tmall Global and Alibaba’s consumer insights and their suite of marketing tools, the small business has been able to effectively engage with Chinese consumers, who have been increasingly looking for beauty products online amid the pandemic.
Livestreaming was a particularly important medium for the brand during its launch and has become a huge source of traffic and exposure. Aside from broadcasting its own livestreams via Alibaba’s Taobao Live, Supergoop partnered with one of China’s leading influencers, Austin Li, to promote its hero product, Unseen Sunscreen, in a session that drew millions of views.
Supergoop’s success in China so far has shown that there is always an appetite for a purposeful brand and a differentiated product – a conviction that has motivated the brand to push forward with global expansion plans, even amid the outbreak.
The brand was launched in 2005 by former teacher and harpist Holly Thaggard, after a young friend of hers was diagnosed with skin cancer. Everything the business, with its 40-plus employees, does today revolves around the mission of eradicating skin cancer, and includes its commitment to constantly develop new, feel-good products that reshape people’s perceptions of wearing SPF. Its innovations have ranged from creative packaging such as oversized jugs to products like primers, serums, highlighters, makeup-setting sprays and even shimmery eye shadows. Through these products, the brand transforms the experience of using sunscreen – once seen as a messy chore – into a year-round daily habit that’s fun, simple and stress-free.
Product development is about meeting consumers where they are and learning the specific needs of the markets, said Baldwin. Analytics from Tmall Global has helped Supergoop better understand Chinese consumers and how best to communicate with them. One of the insights gleaned was that the brand’s emphasis on innovation was becoming increasingly well-received by Chinese consumers, many of whom love novel products and brands.
Shoppers have also shown a strong interest in the ingredients, science and deep technology behind Supergoop’s products. “I’m so impressed by how educated people are on the technology and by the detailed questions they ask our customer-care team,” said Baldwin, adding that the level of attention that consumers in China show toward the science behind products has pushed the brand to include this as a core part of its communication strategy.
Another point of differentiation that’s helped the brand find its footing in China has been the focus on “clean skincare” that’s free from harmful ingredients, said Baldwin.
While the clean concept is relatively new in China’s beauty market, reports have shown that the trend is accelerating as Chinese consumers emerge from Covid-19 with a stronger desire for self-care and wellness. In a June report, research and advisory firm Gartner also pointed to greater emphasis on ingredients and a shift toward clean beauty in the market.
“Supergoop is a great example of how an indie beauty brand with a focus on high-quality ingredients is resonating with Chinese consumers,” said Tony Shan, Alibaba’s Head of Tmall Global and Kaola for the Americas.
“As the concept of clean beauty continues to gain popularity post-Covid, brands that can tell their stories and explain their product differentiations will find loyal and engaging customers in China. Given global travel will remain restrictive in the near future, Tmall Global will continue to bring high-quality brands like Supergoop from the U.S. and around the world to Chinese consumers at home,” he said.
Per a March report issued by Kantar Worldpanel and Tmall Global, sales of suncare products on the e-commerce platform in 2019 increased by 90% year over year. Tmall Global also pointed to a rise in the number of suncare brands on the platform, with more than 20 international brands added to the category since the beginning of this year.
In June, market research company Euromonitor also forecasted that overall suncare sales in China would grow in 2020 and that growth would pick up as consumers resume their normal activities and lead increasingly active lifestyles.
Supergoop has already seen similar trends play out, with products such as its Play Everyday Lotion gaining traction in the market as people spend more time outside while also being more aware of their health, wellness and safety.
“Covid has obviously changed people’s day-to-day lives. But fortunately for us, the sun is still shining,” Baldwin said. “To have the beginnings of the proof points certainly gives us great confidence in continuing to build and invest. There’s such an appetite for our products in the China market that we’re really excited about what we’ll see in the future.”
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