After 25 years of success in Australia, skincare brand Alpha-H is now targeting the digitally-savvy Chinese consumer, as it charts a path of international expansion across the region this year.
“The decision [to enter China] was driven by three factors – scale, growth and e-commerce sophistication. China is one of the largest and fastest growing skincare markets globally, with a diverse range of consumers who are increasingly brand and digital savvy,” CEO Myles Aneschi told Inside Retail.
“It is a global leader in e-commerce with a range of integrated social media platforms and beauty verticals which provide a great source of shopper information. Consumers are well-versed in DTC shopping and know where to seek the latest and greatest about any brand. Importantly, we have selected the Alibaba-owned cross-border platform – Tmall Global – to range Alpha-H. This fits our internal strategy and business adaptation program focused on building DTC sales and direct consumer engagement.”
Known for its scientific approach to skincare, use of alpha-hydroxy acids and high performing formulas, Alpha-H is well placed to enter the discerning Chinese market. Figures from Statista reveal that the skincare segment in the region amounts to US$14.63 billion. China also generates the third largest amount of revenue in the global skincare sector, following the US ($18.12 billion) and Japan ($17.4 billion).
According to Alpha-H general manager in China Jane Huang, since the rise of cross-border e-commerce, China is “the world’s biggest and fastest showroom for all things skincare and beauty”. As a result, thousands of global beauty businesses have now entered the region, ranging from brands offering simple, natural products to more sophisticated “derm/clinical” products.
“Consequently, this has created a very fickle and discerning consumer mindset,” said Huang. “Across all segments, the younger Generation Zs consume the biggest slice of the pie, creating a relatively younger target audience compared to the rest of the world. This uniqueness demands a ‘same same but different’ approach to many brand and go-to-market strategies, as we all try to keep up with their pace of change and often ephemeral tastes.”
Aneschi added that the brand is also focused on expanding into the US in FY21, where it has an existing presence within Sephora and recently launched into Haldi, LovelySkin and Anthropologie. This will be followed by an upcoming launch on the Home Shopping Network.
“Based on success in these two regions [China and the US], we will expand our focus in FY22 to include European expansion to complement our existing UK, Italy and Sephora Europe business,” he said.
The Alpha woman
Serendipitously for Alpha-H, 2020 is also the year of the ‘Alpha Woman’ in China and to celebrate its launch into Tmall Global in July, it collaborated with Chinese fashion designer Masha Ma, who designed a pair of exclusive earrings for the brand. During the upcoming Shanghai Fashion Week, 20 ‘Alpha’ women and key opinion leaders have been selected to wear the exclusive accessories, including Vogue China editor Angelica Cheung, former Elle editor Leaf Greener, celebrity Zhu Zhu and fashion key opinion leader Qian Qian Wu.
“To complement our launch into Tmall Global, we wanted to tell the Alpha story in a fresh and delightful way using the aspirational vernacular of beauty and fashion that our audience aspires and relates to. Masha Ma represents ‘highly tailored, structured femininity’ and a modern forward symbol for women across the globe,” explained Huang.
A closer customer connection
Earlier this year, Alpha-H embarked upon a new project with a market research agency to find out more about its customers’ lifestyles, habits and routines across various demographics in Australia, the US, the UK and China. According to global brand manager Stephanie Forge, it was revealed that despite a myriad of beauty products and brands available, consumers are generally dissatisfied with the lack of results.
“This insight helped us to refine our range as well as our innovation strategy – we’re working with industry leaders to formulate truly innovative products that give consumers real, visible results with cutting edge, yet clean, ingredients – we’re particularly focused on addressing pigmentation, problematic/breakout-prone skin and the signs of ageing,” Forge said.
The research also informed Alpha-H’s subtle brand evolution, which is now focused on combining clinical skincare, education and science with luxury and can be seen across its new logo, strategy, refined range and photography.
Savvier skincare consumers
Since the pandemic, like many brands, Alpha-H has seen consumers make a clear shift from beauty to skincare and wellbeing. In recent years, consumers have also become much more educated about skincare ingredients, products and usage.
“To support this, we have been evolving our educational content to focus on skin health and drivers of skin stress. We take a very holistic approach to understanding the root cause of problematic skin concerns, setting up a treatment plan and then working with clients on their skin health journey, we know this commitment delivers results,” explained Tina Randello, chief commercial officer.
“Our virtual consults have been very popular, which consist of a virtual personalised consult and skincare prescription. This program operates across the globe and is run by our experienced consultants. The feedback we are getting is the service is greatly valued and the personalised advice and personal connection is what people love.”