Japanese people and people worldwide enjoy Hanami (viewing flowers) at over 1000 locations from Okinawa to Hokkaido. As spring approaches, business is booming in Japan, and you’ll see crowds admiring cherry blossoms near busy shopping streets.
Hanami – Cherry Blossom in Japan
Hanami is the famous tradition of viewing cherry blossoms. The peak season lasts from late March to early April. Enjoying cherry blossoms with friends, family, and coworkers is a popular tradition. Other activities include walking, hiking, riding boats, listening to music, and watching performances. You can find Sakura (cherry blossom) in parks, on hiking paths, along river sides, at temples and shrines, and other places all over Japan. Close by are usually small temporary shops that offer beverages and special lunch boxes.
On weekends, people gather for an entire day to spend a good time together. In the evening, there are often illuminated cherry blossom trees that create a unique atmosphere at night. These short moments of beauty represent the fading nature of the blossom. You can take the meaning of this Japanese event and interpret it as the celebration of every second of life. That is because nothing lasts forever, and you should enjoy every moment to the fullest. These values have deep roots in Japanese culture.
How businesses make a profit during the Sakura season
You may ask how you can translate this traditional and short-lived occasion into business practices that you can profit from.
The food and beverages market leverages this special event throughout March and April. They offer lunch boxes for the Hanami picnics, Sakura-flavored snacks and drinks, and limited editions of specific products. You can find these in department stores, online, or small shops. Additionally, people look for outdoor goods such as dishes, warm clothes, blankets, and more.
Various brands offer special editions or Sakura-themed products like Coca-Cola with their Sakura-edition packaging. They know how crucial it is to integrate cultural events into their marketing strategies. Whether you sell cosmetics, souvenirs, or other products, you can create a buzz around your brand in Japan by adapting your website, packaging, and products to the season. Your Japanese customers appreciate it when domestic and international brands participate in the ever-changing seasons. Moreover, you can increase your sales with attractive time-limited offers, limited editions, and special products that are a one-off deal.
Read more about how you can profit from Japanese events and seasons.
Understanding Hanami and other Japanese cultural events are essential to successfully doing business in Japan. Tailoring your products to these special occasions allows you to build a stronger relationship with your customers, promote your product launches, increase sales, and gain brand attention.
Need help scaling your brand in the Japanese market?
We at COVUE understand Japanese culture and know how to navigate through the dynamics of the market. As your strategic operating partner, we provide tailored guidance and complementary End-2-End solutions to help you scale your business in Japan.
By the end of 2023, Japan’s beauty market will be worth US$40.62k. Consumers are eager to discover the latest products from local and international brands. They look for technical innovations, personalized engagements, and safe and trustworthy products with high efficacy.
Let’s dive deeper into consumer trends and what business opportunities they hold.
Top 7 Consumer Trends of 2023 in the Beauty Industry
Japanese consumers are sophisticated and well-informed about products and their effects. Moreover, they look for products that suit their skin type. Desirable skin care items can be multipurpose or designed for one purpose explicitly. The Japanese salon brand Lady Bio did it with its versatile, water-based mist that helps to combat dry and acne-prone skin. Seleia is another Japanese brand specializing in scalp care. They use micro-needle technology to penetrate the scalp’s skin with its serum. Accordingly, innovative products that effectively impact the skin and improve its condition are an emerging market opportunity for businesses.
CBD as a substance
Among Generation Z consumers in Japan, the popularity of CBD (Cannabidiol) as a component of beauty products has risen. The market is still developing in Japan as laws are strict. For example, Migoto’s Sugoy offers essential CBD oils to help you relax. Japanese brands import most of these products from Europe or the US. That can be a business opportunity for foreign brands to explore as the demand for CBD goods increases.
Femcare and Femtech
This category is a growing opportunity in the Japanese beauty space. It targets women and their overall well-being. Nutritional supplements, lubricants, intimate washes, and lotions with or without CBD show a wide range of possibilities in this category for brands. Furthermore, femcare enhances women’s health during menopause, menstruation, and pregnancy. It also includes female sex toys. Fermata is a femtech brand that started selling online in 2019 and moved into retail in 2020. Their product scope includes menstrual underwear, sex toys, and more female-related items. The market’s response to female-specific products seems slow. However, it is happening and shows potential and rising demand. For example, the drugstore Matsumoto Kiyoshi started to place femcare goods in its 30 stores called Matsukiyo Lab in 2021 that target single households with beauty products.
Product and brand authenticity
Product safety, quality, and performance are more critical to consumers than ever. To compete, brands like L’Oreal invest in skin care, hair care, and skin devices that offer greater efficacy. Additionally, Cosme rankings for 2022 are dominated by popular products from past years, such as Kiehl’s Ultra Face Cream. This fact underlines that Japanese consumers prefer their good-old favorites, whose claims have already been proven to work. For brands, that means focusing on the authenticity and efficacy of their products and claims. Also, they can center their product lines more on their core expertise instead of reinventing the wheel this year.
Brands seek ways to tackle environmental issues as consumers’ concerns about the planet’s future growth. Some brands, such as Shisheido with their “SEE, SAY, DO” campaign, shift their focus toward minimizing waste by developing eco-friendly packaging. Other approaches may be sourcing organic ingredients or supporting fair trade. That leads to business opportunities for those who create sustainable products that speak to the current concerns of consumers.
Emphasis on one feature
During the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Japanese people wore masks. As a result, many consumers decided to highlight their eyebrows rather than their lips since the mask covered them most of the time. With mask requirements being lifted, Generation Z consumers in Japan have started to look for products that help them express themselves. This year, they will likely use products of flattering color and smooth texture for their eyes or lips. It is imperative for you to understand the cultural nuances of the market and its consumers to be successful here.
Read more about the successful strategies of established foreign brands in Japan.
Ultra-personalized shopping experiences
Japanese consumers can enjoy a versatile and competitive beauty market under the constant pressure of innovation. The choice of products from such a wide variety of brands causes a higher demand among customers to know what is best for them. A brand can create individualized communication with its customers through online questionnaires, one-to-one consultations, artificial intelligence skin analysis, try-on AR filters, custom-formulated products that fit each customer’s skin type, and more. For example, Estée Lauder offers online and in-store consultations in Japan to connect with its audience. You can also build loyalty with subscription boxes or special rewards as a brand. The more you learn about your customers, the better you can serve and bond with them. That can be one of the competitive edges for beauty companies in Japan.
In 2023, Japanese consumers will look for authenticity and innovation in the brand and their products. You can enter this market with personalized communication, sustainability, and high-performance and versatile products. CBD and Femcare are small but growing and promising categories. Knowing these trends can help you understand and leverage the market’s current dynamics.
Need support to expand your beauty brand to Japan?
COVUE is your operating partner in Japan who strategizes and executes your vision. Our team’s mission is to support your goals in the most effective way possible to amplify your success in Japan. We help you with import compliance, logistics, setup of eCommerce, and more.
Japan’s beauty and personal care industry is both saturated and highly profitable, with many business opportunities for new market entrants. There are not only domestic but also international brands competing. Over the years, brands like L’Oréal, Missha, and Estée Lauder have written their success stories. They turned skeptical customers into loyal brand advocates.
TOP 3 Foreign Beauty & Personal Care Brands in Japan
Unilever PLC (e.g. Dove and Vaseline)
L´Oreal S.A. (e.g. Kiehl and Lancome)
Proctor & Gamble Company (e.g., Gilette and Braun)
Here’s what you can learn from them to succeed in the market.
Getting a grasp of the market
Indeed, understanding the dynamics of the Japanese market is crucial for foreign businesses looking to establish a presence. However, with a growing market size in the beauty and personal care industries, it is no surprise that many foreign companies continue to see Japan as a lucrative market to expand in. According to Statista, the beauty and personal care market will be US$40.62bn worth in revenue in 2023. Over time, foreign companies learned how to sell here successfully.
Today, local brands such as Shiseido or Kanebo dominate the market next to international companies such as L’Oréal or Estée Lauder, with some of the most successful foreign brands hailing from France, South Korea, the US, China, and Thailand. The top-selling category is skin care, followed by make-up, hair, and men’s care. This means high demand for products such as lotions, essences, and beauty tools.
Understanding the consumer
Understanding the Japanese consumer and their tastes is vital. Successful foreign brands take advantage of extensive research and adapt products. Customers wish for smooth and fair skin without imperfections. Because of that, products with anti-aging, skin-brightening, and moisturizing effects are popular. They are part of the Japanese product-layering skincare ritual.
Cosme, the biggest beauty product comparing website in Japan, scrapes its visitor data yearly. They rank the most popular items and brands in each category. Among these rankings are established companies from abroad. In 2023, foreign brands and their products are on that list, such as Kiehl’s moisturizing “Ultra Facial Cream”, Lancome’s cleansing “CKARIFIQUE DUAL ESSENCE LOTION,” or Estée Lauder’s anti-aging “Advances Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex.” These products gained popularity as they provided the customer with what they desired.
Read more about where consumers buy beauty products in Japan.
Riding on the wave of trends and making a difference
The market is driven by intense competition, where companies strive for constant innovation to stay ahead of the game. To stand out in this market, foreign businesses can consider targeting specific niches that offer unique value propositions such as multipurpose, high-performance, and personalized beauty products. Japanese consumers look for expertise and high-quality products in brands. Products should suit their skin and needs. For example,Vaseline has a product range to target customers with different skin conditions. Lancome offers services that analyze the skin through artificial intelligence (AI) and find suitable products.
Additionally, Estée Lauder provides online consultations for customized beauty treatments. Cutting-edge products and technology form an engaging customer-brand relationship.
Kiehl is a skincare brand known for their dermatologist approach with herbs as components. Their most popular products include whitening and moisturizing creams.
Another established company is Chanel. The luxury fashion brand branched out into the beauty industry. They took time to understand their potential customers. That is why Chanel started to combine innovation and high-end quality. One of the results is the successful launch of a whitening skincare line called Le Blanc. It addresses the Japanese consumer’s desire for fair skin.
As a company seeking access to this highly competitive market, it is crucial to do market research. That helps you spot niche markets and turn them into business opportunities. By taking advantage of the niche areas, foreign businesses can increase their chance of success in this highly competitive Japanese market.
Giving it a Japanese twist
While having good products and a compelling brand story are important, they alone do not guarantee success in the Japanese market. It is crucial for foreign businesses to localize their brand and tailor it to meet the tastes and preferences of Japanese consumers. This includes ensuring that product claims comply with Japanese laws and providing translations of product descriptions into Japanese to build brand trust.
Utilizing a Japanese-language website, partnering with local influencers, and engaging in social media marketing can also help to boost the brand’s reputation in the market.
Additionally, offering limited-edition items during different seasons can drive sales and increase brand visibility in the Japanese market.
Read more about how you can leverage content localization when selling in Japan.
The Korean brand Missha understood to create one desirable product. It is a compact product called the “Missha M Magic Cushion.” It quickly became a fundamental beauty product for Japanese women to cover skin imperfections. Missha used clever influencer and social media marketing. Furthermore, they sold it directly to the customer via eCommerce to gain traction.
Another critical step is to design the product experience around the consumer and their environment. When Estée Lauder expanded to Asia, including Japan, they experienced it firsthand. Their products did not consider that Japanese consumers find thick creams too sticky in summer. That is why the brand created products that were suitable for different seasons. They became a success. In some cases, Japanese consumers may dislike the smell or ingredients of a product. The brand Braun offers men’s and women’s care products, such as shaving tools that suit their skin and provide the results Japanese consumers wish. For example, Japanese men prefer a completely clean, shaved face, e.g., due to their workplace.
Overall, there are numerous success stories of foreign brands in Japan. A common ground for success is a deep understanding of consumers and their needs followed by products that feel good and effective on the skin and marketing that persuades the right customers. Japanese people strive for brands that care about their customers.
Ready to scale up your business in Japan?
Selling directly on eCommerce platforms with a niche product and a smart strategy support your market entry to Japan. COVUE, as your local operating partner, offers End-2-End solutions that complement your goals for 2023.