The global beauty market is expected to be worth €210 billion by 2017 (Lucintel). And with cosmetics and beauty products now the second biggest cross-border revenue generator in e-commerce with global sales of €6 billion (PayPal Spice Routes), e-tailers who get their cross-border strategy right can clearly prosper in this arena.

Growing demand
Demand in China is particularly high, with the world’s most populous country spending €2.3 billion on cosmetics every year, eclipsed only by apparel. Beauty and personal-care products trail only clothes in the US too, generating €2 billion a year (PayPal Spice Routes).

So why are online sales of cosmetics so strong? Growing trust in e-commerce is one reason, with e-tailers now routinely offering wider delivery choices and free returns. Accelerating broadband bandwidth has improved pre-purchase research, with high-spec images and product showcase videos now the norm. Even though olfactory imitation (imitation related to the sense of smell) is not yet a reality, innovators like New York-based Scentbird, which ships a fragrance sample with perfume bottles, are finding solutions.

It’s no coincidence then that rapid growth—cosmetics brands expected e-commerce sales to grow by almost 30% against only 6% projected high-street sales growth in 2014 (2013 L2 Think Tank survey)—has accompanied the rise of social media. Personal recommendation is vital in this subset of the fashion market.

Shipping and packing
Personal care products are invariably small and light, making free delivery and returns less costly. Glass-bottle perfumes need robust packaging—something a packaging partner can easily assist with.

­­­Marketing and demographics
Beauty products understandably target women. And yet male grooming is a burgeoning trend, with global male personal-care products expected to generate more than €26 billion in revenue by 2015 (Global Industry Analysts).­­­­­

Marketing often ignores or misjudges older women, despite ageing global populations. These comments from Fighting Fifty founder Tracey McAlpine to in-cosmetics.com suggest an opportunity for marketers who pitch their messaging right: “Where the beauty industry is failing is in stereotyping the over 50 age group […] They have an outdated view that after this age women either have little interest in self-improvement or are too old to­­­ learn new techniques, or that they are unlikely to switch brands.”

The older demographic is particularly important in advanced economies like Italy, which has Europe’s oldest median female age at 44.6, Japan, where this number is 47.5, and Monaco, which has the world’s highest average age at 52.3 (CIA Factbook). But in developing nations with higher birth rates, the fashion-hungry younger demographic matters enormously.

Surprisingly, conservative United Arab Emirates consumers spend as much on beautifying products each year (€12,500) as they do on rent (DMG Events Middle East). TechSci research director Karan Chechi also reflected on the country’s evolving male-grooming market: “The men’s shaving products market dominates the industry in terms of revenues, but men’s skin and hair products are set to experience the highest growth over the next five years.”

Conclusion
Demand for fragrances, make-up, lotions and hair products transcends a broad spectrum of cultural differences. However, delivery preferences—whether particular markets prefer home delivery or collection from pick up points, for instance—do also vary between markets. Hiring a reliable shipping partner like Landmark Global, which offers a wide range of delivery options, is invaluable.

 

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