Consumer spending on high-end Beauty products has nearly doubled since 2014, and brands are increasing digital investments accordingly. But the playing field is fragmented and far from even. Estée Lauder earned the sole Genius spot in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beauty China, distancing itself from peers with a comprehensive mobile strategy and impressive social buzz. Meanwhile, Japanese and Korean brands achieved the largest Digital IQ increase as they took digital steps to build on their surging popularity.

Top 10 Beauty brands in China

1. Estée Lauder
Digital IQ: 140

The only Genius brand in the Index, the international company generates buzz in China by livestreaming on multiple platforms: its Tmall broadcasts average three million interactions. On WeChat, key online influencers (KOLs) mention the brand more frequently than any of its competitors, and frequent UGC and sampling campaigns on community sites also stir up engagement.

2. L’Oréal
Digital IQ: 135

By combining aggressive search term purchasing on Baidu with heavy organic SEO, the brand generates high visibility on non-branded terms. Meanwhile, on-site calls-to-action include sampling, coupons, and live chat.

3. Olay
Digital IQ: 128

Olay’s sophisticated WeChat presence includes sampling, counter appointments, flash sales, and live chat, while loyalty points incentivize users to read posts. The brand also boasts strong search visibility on major e-tailers and has invested significantly in paid search for non-branded terms on Baidu.

4. Lancôme
Digital IQ: 127

The brand successfully leverages celebrity partnerships, such as one with actor and singer Luhan, to drive commerce on both Weibo and WeChat. Its sophisticated Tmall store promotes cross-platform campaigns, incentivizing following, bookmarking, and sharing with contests to win product samples.

5. SK-II
Digital IQ: 126

After a video ad celebrating the previously taboo Chinese “Leftover Women” put the brand on the world stage, SK-II took advantage of the opportunity. The brand’s mobile advertising investments drive consumers to leading e-tailers such as Vip.com and Tmall, where SK-II has amassed 460,000 store followers through frequent Fans Party and livestreaming events that it promotes via paid media.

6. Clinique
Digital IQ: 125

Clinique has mastered the art of UGC, publishing user reviews from Weibo and community sites on its brand site product pages. On its WeChat, the brand hosts sampling campaigns and livestream events like the DayBreaker Party to maximize engagement.

7. Laneige
Digital IQ: 121

Product placement can drive commerce, as Laneige proved by leveraging its sponsorship and product placement in the hit drama “Descendents of the Sun” to drive sales on Tmall. The brand also launched DTC e-commerce on its brand site this year, testifying to the growth of e-commerce in China’s beauty industry.

7. Maybelline
Digital IQ: 121

Maybelline pioneered blockbuster livestream events, taking advantage of the popularity of celebrities such as actress and model Angelababy, who helped the brand sell 10,000 lipsticks. Maybelline has also been adept at using KOLs to amplify live stream engagement.

9. Innisfree
Digital IQ: 119

The brand’s integrated loyalty program is standout, allowing shoppers to use WeChat Payment in Innisfree stores. Other notable campaigns include the Playgreen campaign, which promotes eco-friendliness and WeChat engagement through monthly tasks, daily check-ins, and gamification.

10. Avène
Digital IQ: 117

Together with Olay, Avène dominates Weibo engagement: the two brands account for more than a third of interactions on the platform. Avène’s secret is weekly “repost-to-win” giveaways, which result in a sharp spike in activity. Of the 10 Beauty brand posts on Weibo generating the most engagement, six were shared by Avène.

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