Singer-turned-entrepreneur Victoria Beckham is launching her eponymous beauty line on Alibaba Group’s cross-border e-commerce platform Tmall Global this week, marking the brand’s first foray into the China market.
Ahead of the launch, we spoke with the co-founder and CEO, Sarah Creal, to learn more about Victoria Beckham Beauty’s expansion into China, how it sees the trend of “clean beauty” taking hold in the market as well as how Covid-19 has transformed the business.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did Victoria Beckham Beauty choose to enter China now?
We started our company almost a year ago, and we’re focused on building a strategic luxury beauty brand that is very modern, forward-thinking and fresh. Tmall Global and China are key to our growth strategy, as Chinese consumers share our values of modernity and discernment. We knew we would find an audience that is very receptive to our products in China. You can’t be a successful global brand without a solid China business – it’s just not possible these days.
Why did you decide to partner with Tmall Global?
Tmall Global is the pinnacle in luxury beauty. We knew Alibaba would be a really good partner for us because we’re looking for a long-term strategy in China – not simply a few big, splashy moments. We’re confident that our partnership will help us create the right product offering for the China market and help us grow our business in the country over the long term in a meaningful, authentic way.
What are some innovations or technologies you’re experimenting with?
One thing we’re really excited about is our livestream with Viya, one of China’s most influential and successful livestreamers, on July 27. She’ll be featuring an exclusive offer on our new Power Glow Set and she and Victoria will be doing a Q&A during the live session, too.
Victoria Beckham puts a lot of focus on social commerce, and you’ll be livestreaming to sell your products on Tmall Global. What’s your take on livestreaming in China?
It’s an amazing, blow-your-mind trend. The livestreaming phenomenon is indicative of the pace of development and innovation coming out of China. It’s absolutely brilliant. On the practical side, it promotes education and gives brands a way to inform consumers about products. At the same time, it’s riveting entertainment that creates a great deal of engagement and excitement about products.
Tell us more about Victoria Beckham Beauty and the story behind your brand.
We officially launched Victoria Beckham Beauty in September 2019, but Victoria and I actually first met during a makeup collaboration in 2015, when I was leading brand-partnership initiatives for Estée Lauder. We were struck by how much we had in common: we both loved beauty, were drawn to certain looks and colors and are working moms balancing our careers and family. We just found that we spoke the same “beauty language.” From there, we started discussing what we wanted to create in the beauty space. We decided early on that our brand would be a clean, cruelty-free and direct-to-consumer offering created by women – that was really important to us because so much of the beauty industry is run by men.
Victoria and I share a kind of pure beauty vision that I sum up as “when you put something on your skin, you want it to be as pure as possible – but the product has to work.” Our core customer is a woman who is on the move, ambitious and living a busy life. She wants to look amazing and wants clean products that perform at a very high level. We wanted to adhere to clean beauty standards even more stringent than the EU’s, and we’re very proud to have done that across every one of our products. It’s been more-challenging and risky to create the brand on our own, but we think the risk is worth the effort and we are very proud of what we are building. We’re also fortunate to have a very small but talented team that’s been with us since the start.
How’s the clean beauty trend unfolding in China?
It was interesting to see that “pure essential beauty,” which is a product category similar to clean beauty in China, sold particularly well on Tmall Global during the 6.18 shopping event. We’ve found there is increasing awareness of clean beauty products and why they are different, and we are excited that this will only increase as consumers learn more. We know that environmental concerns and ethical sourcing of raw materials and ingredients will also become more important to Chinese consumers over time, as brands continue to share information about their products.
Are Chinese consumers different from those in other markets?
Chinese consumers are very open to trying new things, but they’re also very discerning and want to understand what the product offering is before purchasing. They don’t just jump at something. You see with the emergence of international brands in China that there’s a growing curiosity about and demand for those brands. That trend is reflected in Tmall Global’s offering across all categories: Chinese consumers know they can get the best of the best of international brands on the platform and, clearly, they have an appetite for those brands.
Has Covid-19 changed the beauty business and how consumers shop for beauty?
In general, the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted things dramatically to digital and online channels and accelerated every brand’s need to be digitally present and engaging. Things like livestreaming are becoming more and more important. For example, livestreaming was a key part of the 6.18 shopping event because consumers need to see people interact with products in 3D and experience them through demonstrations. Brands are learning that interactions with customers need to be done through as many means as possible digitally, including through livestreaming, online chat and online advisory.
What changes has the pandemic brought to Victoria Beckham Beauty?
One unique thing we’re doing on the digital front is providing online advice to customers on which items are ideal for them. For example, a customer can send in a photo of herself, then our product team will suggest the perfect lip liner for her. Many would find this very helpful, as we offer six shades of nude lip liner. We’re trying to be as helpful as possible in demonstrating our products and their benefits through digital means.
What’s the next step for Victoria Beckham Beauty and your partnership with Tmall Global?
Our immediate focus is on our launch this week, but we’ve partnered with Tmall Global for long-term success, so there are definitely some other plans in development. For example, we’re working on some specific plans with Victoria related to 11.11 and some very exciting things for Queens’ Day in March. We’re hoping that Victoria will be able to be on the ground in China at some point in the future. We’re both absolutely committed to developing our business in China and to understanding the Chinese consumer better, and our partnership with Tmall Global will be key to both. No market moves faster than China – things that worked for brands even six months ago will not work today. We know we must stay nimble and constantly learn, then formulate our plans accordingly.
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