“The number of middle-aged women looking for Korean cosmetics in Japan is increasing”
Japan is the world’s third-largest cosmetic market after the United States and China. It was in the early 2000s that Korean cosmetics first began to attract attention in Japan. The interest in Korean cosmetics has increased, centering on Hallyu fans. There were periods when exports declined briefly from 2007 and 2013 to 2015, but overall, the export performance of Korean cosmetics to Japan has been steadily increasing. In particular, exports to the Japanese market last year increased by 1.6 times from the previous year to $637 million (about 713 billion won), exceeding the growth rate of exports to the Chinese and ASEAN markets.
In fact, in Japan, Korean cosmetics have been dominated by the perception that they are exclusively for young women in the 1020s. However, it is reported that recent changes are being detected, such as an increase in the number of consumers who are using or willing to use Korean cosmetics even among women in their 30s or older. According to the Japanese economic weekly’Diamond’, in the ‘2020 Korean Cosmetics Poll’, Japanese women who are currently using or have used Korean cosmetics accounted for the largest share, with about 64% in their teens and 55% in their 20s. However, 48% were also in their 30s and older. “Consumption of Korean cosmetics has increased not only among the younger generation but also among the middle-aged,” Diamond said. “For the middle-aged, because per capita consumption is larger than that of the younger, it deserves an increase in sales of Korean cosmetics.”
The impact of the 4th Korean Wave boom led by the prolonged corona and drama
The recent increase in sales of Korean cosmetics in Japan can be attributed to the prolonged Corona 19 and the aftermath of the Korean drama fever. The number of customers visiting offline stores due to Corona 19 decreased, but instead, online sales grew rapidly. An industry official who imports Korean cosmetics and sells them in Japan said, “Sales of mask packs and eye makeup products have increased considerably because wearing masks has become a commonplace. Online sales have jumped six times compared to before Corona.” In fact, Korean mask packs, make-up bases, and creams have also swept first in each category in the evaluation of the most popular local cosmetics review sites such as’@COSME’ and’Lips’.
Last year, the relationship between Korea and Japan was deteriorating so that the bottom was invisible, while the situation in which Korean dramas and K-pop were gaining popularity at a record level received a lot of attention from the Japanese media. In particular, mainstream media such as Asahi and Yomiuri drew attention by dividing the Korean Wave in Japan by period and stipulating the phenomenon that appeared through the success of the movie “Parasite” and the Netflix drama “Crash Landing on Love” and “Itaewon Class” as the ‘4th Hallyu’. . ‘Crash Landing on Love’ and ‘4th Hallyu Boom’ were nominated for new words and buzzwords, which were the most issues during the year selected in Japan last year.
In this regard, Kishi Kazue, executive director of Bonotox Japan, a cosmetic and pharmaceutical company, said, “In the aftermath of the Korean drama boom, people interested in Korean cosmetics increased, so consumption also increased.” “In the case of the 4th Hallyu boom, unlike the 2nd and 3rd periods, which were limited to young women, like the 1st boom in the early 2000s, middle-aged generations tend to lead the fashion.” It is an analysis that the increased interest in Korean content across all age groups in Japan has naturally led to an increase in the consumption of Korean cosmetics.
Korean-made, cost-effective products are well received… Sales product line expansion trend
Of course, the increase in sales of Korean cosmetics is not all thanks to Corona special and drama. It should be considered that the product has its own competitiveness. When looking at the industry insiders and the local atmosphere, in Japan, Korean cosmetics have been mainly recognized as inexpensive and high-quality cost-effective products. Heo Hoi-young, head of the Overseas Business Division of Have&B, told Maeil Economic Daily, “Japanese customers are very interested in Korean functional products that use ingredients such as centella and Eoseongcho.”
The attractive product design compared to Japanese products at a similar price point is also the strength of Korean cosmetics. In an interview with Diamond, CEO Choi In-hee of Bonotox Japan explained, “Korean cosmetic brands are fiercely striving for differentiation through adding ingredients or design development,” and “As a result, products that are eye-catching will come out.”
Korean products have a relatively short product life cycle compared to Japanese products, so many new products are released. Among the 1020s, which are sensitive to fashion, the word of mouth “Korean trend items” is also a point that influences the purchase. In particular, in the past, there was a strong tendency to sell only certain product lines (tints, masks, cushions, etc.), but recently, if a product is popular in Korea, it is said that it is a trend that leads to purchase in Japan, regardless of the type.
Strong in digital marketing such as online sales and SNS
The Japanese cosmetics market is a market that has reached maturity as much as its large scale, and is known to be conservative and offline distribution plays an important role as in other fields. This is because various types of sales channels such as retail and editorial stores are well established, and consumers enjoy using and selecting products.
However, with the aftermath of Corona 19, offline sales have decreased significantly and online sales have increased dramatically, and online sales are becoming more and more popular. When it comes to acquiring cosmetic purchase information, SNS is already the most popular in Japan, just like Korea. As a result of a survey of 100 female college students in Japan by the International Society for Health and Beauty in 2018, 7 out of 10 answered that they get information about purchasing cosmetics through SNS.
According to KOTRA’s report on “Japanese K-beauty trend”, Korean cosmetics in Japan are first digitally marketed through SNS, and after being launched on overseas direct purchase sites such as Amazon, the form of being released offline has increased. Perhaps that is why, in Japan, Korean cosmetic brands are evaluated as being very good at online sales and digital marketing using SNS compared to Japanese brands.
And here, the influence of social media influencers is great. In fact, Korean products that were not released in Japan were introduced and praised by a famous Japanese YouTuber, and they were sold successfully after being officially released. YouTube channels run by Koreans are also becoming a valid marketing tool. When they review cosmetics, they start putting Japanese subtitles on the videos, attracting attention to Japanese people who are curious about the cosmetics trend in Korea, and they lead to purchases even though they are not released in Japan.
Establishment of high-end image and lack of product localization are challenges
Although it is said that Korean cosmetics are breaking out of the stereotype that Japanese cosmetics belong to the 1020s, they are still not recognized as high-end brands. Managing Director Kishi pointed out that “a few times a high-end line targeting Japanese middle-aged and older has been introduced, but it hasn’t been settled.”
In addition, he mentioned that Korean products sold in Japan are not localized. He said, “Korean cosmetics are also suitable for the environment such as humidity and water quality in Korea, and the spreadability and color tone are also tailored to the taste of Koreans,” he said.
Managing Director Kishi argued that in order for Korean cosmetics to appeal more to the middle-aged and older in Japan, there must be a clear difference in quality. He said, “It is important to be able to realize the difference in quality for middle-aged and older consumers who have a lot of purchasing power and are more sensitive to quality than fashion.” As Japanese middle-aged women are sensitive to quality, it is an analysis that if a product that is really good for them to feel will lead to purchase only with the value of the brand itself, without going through the Korean Wave or fashion.
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