The most common misconception is that creating a standout product is enough for success. In truth, besides just an effective formula to drive brand growth, it’s essential to have a strong business plan and no time is this more important than when expanding your business by entering new markets.
Expanding your brand into a new territory is essentially navigating through the same steps as you did when you initially launched your product. A thorough brand health check and a deep dive into the market you want to enter, researching competitors and studying consumer habits helps in successfully navigating these waters and finding the right product-market fit.
Industry insiders are well acquainted with the ever-changing regulations in beauty, especially when it comes to certain ingredients. In the UK for instance, as of January 2018, it’s illegal to sell products containing plastic microbeads. This harmful plastic can be found in some toothpaste, facial scrub and sunscreen, and while over a dozen countries have banned production and sale of products containing microbead plastic, it can still be found on the shelves in other markets.
The first step of your expansion to new markets is always familiarizing yourself with the specific market’s compliance requirements and procedural legalities.
It’s not just about the product itself. With trends such as #skinpositivity on the rise, many brands have adopted a similar approach to their branding, claiming their products effectively treat acne-prone skin. Some, like the skincare brand Blume go even further in trying to normalize breakouts through their campaign Celebrate skin featuring close up photos of acne and blemishes. And while we in the Western countries are slowly adjusting to flaunting our imperfections, while scanning the online marketplaces for products named “acne-fighting facial cleanser”, making claims that a product can heal, cure or even treat specific skin conditions will keep you far away from retail shelves.
While adjusting your brand messaging and communication is an effort worth making, entering certain markets takes even more consideration. If you wish to sell in mainland China, some but not all cosmetic products must be aligned with China’s controversial safety testing laws, including testing products on animals. As lucrative as entering the Chinese market might be, compromising the cruelty-free brand image is not a risk many companies are willing to take.
Market research often reveals counter-intuitive facts about the current situation in the market, even when you’re certain you are already well acquainted with your audience’s needs and desires.
When it comes to beauty, the appeal of a product is far more subjective than in industries such as tech, where it’s not as hard to do a comparison of their hero products. We enter a store and go straight to the organic skincare section and naturally sway towards brands we’ve heard of before and reach for the products that promise to deliver the results we’re hoping to achieve. Studying consumer behavior and making changes to appeal to your target audience is crucial for success, even if you’re not at the stage where you’re trying to expand your operations.
Due to globalization, education and technology, the way we shop is much different than it was a few years ago and this is not a passing trend. Saudi Arabia, as the country with one of the highest consumption rates of cosmetics in the world, serves as a great example. “A lot of demand for Western beauty brands comes from young Saudis who have spent time abroad studying and are well familiar not just with global beauty brands, but have adopted a different lifestyle that affects the way they shop.”
Cultural differences can be pivotal for the success of a brand. Always put the product in the right context for your new audience.
Take note of what your competitors are doing and learn from those who came before you, especially when it comes to markets that are geographically and demographically different from your home turf. Understanding the reasoning behind why a competitor decided to launch with a few selected products instead of the entire range helps you make better decisions for your brand.
The most important thing however is listening to the consumers. The standard of what’s considered attractive differs around the globe and the very people you’re trying to engage are the ones you can learn from the most. Setting up your market-entry strategy with consumers in mind is the best way to cultivate customer loyalty that lasts.
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MABE’s brand development consultancy services support new and developing beauty and lifestyle brands with sustainable content creation, brand messaging, values and culture, social influencer marketing, and recruitment outreach in addition to promoting a brand’s efforts in reaching new audiences.