An interview with Ms. Liu Qianfei, Founder & CEO of Zhuben
In 2019, a Chinese cleansing oil brand prevailed in the internet world. It gives customers an exceedingly impressive makeup cleansing experience with quite an affordable price. Behind this, it’s the persevering efforts made by Ms. Liu Qianfei and her team, especially their tenacious R&D journey and innovative online marketing approaches.
In 2015, Qianfei forsook her previous post in an investment bank which meant an annual salary of several millions. She started a research journey with her team, with a goal of offering Chinese young people natural products that their skin would most desire and they can easily afford. She integrates advanced science with aromatherapy to create products of top quality. Meanwhile, she wanted to cut out all intermediate steps and control all the supply chain resources in order to keep cost low and make products affordable to ordinary young people. She succeeded. SpaChina interviewed her to learn the story behind Zhuben.
What motivated you to set up this brand?
My brand is called Zhuben, meaning to trace the source and pursue the essence. During 2019 and 2020, our team with no more than 30 members created a sales volume of over one hundred million with a single type of cleansing oil. Customer impressions of us normally are: very impressive experience of usage with quite affordable price; a good aromatherapy concept; quite healing; and so on. In fact, my journey began from my passion to do wellness. I have been interested in healing, nutrition and spa for a long time and finally at the age of 26, I forsook my job in the investment bank, started my own business and I founded Zhuben.
What challenges have you met in the process? And why did you decide to do business online?
I believe that every Chinese young woman in their twenties and thirties need to be healed. They are always under big pressure from work and life burdens and anxieties. They want to enjoy a high quality and healthy lifestyle, but they are not able to afford the expensive international brands in the long-term. This is a very real problem. So I began to think about how I could help them bring five-star SPA experience home. How can I enable them to easily afford the truly good things that I have enjoyed myself? How can I create for them a small spa world in their home where they can have a rest, listen to the inward voice and get refueled to boldly face tomorrow?
The biggest challenge is the price and quality. After two years’ continual endeavor, I finally control all the supply chain resources of international top brands in my own hands. Then it’s quality. I decided not to seek any ODM in order to keep the cost low. My team and I go to the factory ourselves to oversee the manufacturing so as to guarantee the product quality. All the ingredients we use are exactly the same as used by the international top brands. The essential oils in our products are top imported ones. And we sell the product at 100 yuan RMB, about one third of the price of the top brands with the same quality.
Afterwards, we do marketing online since online platforms demand less markup percentage and link us closer to our customers. With quite competitive product quality and pricing, our products are widely praised by young people. Through the users’ favorable remarks, more and more people come to know us. We often hear the customers say: “The healing experience is really amazing. It’s totally the same as the international top brand. Why do I spend three times of the price to buy those products?” In this way, repurchases are naturally generated.
We choose online platform because we feel it’s a highly effective way to make our products known and accessible to more people. It’s all for efficiency’s sake. We have joined the five top online platforms in China. In fact, we rush to wherever there are people.
How much time did you spend on R&D to successfully launch online marketing?
Firstly, I spent one year deeply studying aromatherapy myself and acquiring the supply chain resources. Then I spent eight months developing the first cleansing oil product that features “1-second emulsification”, “no synthetic lipid”, “remarkable essential oil fragrance”, “critical emulsification” and “no harm to the sebum membrane”. This means it takes away all your makeup without removing any of the natural lipid of your sebum membrane, namely no over-cleansing. Then I spent six more months upgrading the supply chain. For instance it took me six months to find out Zhuben’s signature “8” clip.
Marketing took me another year. In 2019, we were dedicated to doing marketing online and educating the public. We were joined with top online celebrities and KOL of the major five online shopping platforms in China for a profound brand co-creation by listening to their voice. Since the beginning of this year, we have focused more on doing promotion via Tik Tok. This is our strategy: show our presence on popular online platforms, and keep enhancing the team’s marketing ability, content creation ability and promotion efficiency. So far, the monthly repurchase rate of our single type of cleansing oil is 20%.
What do you think is the most essential thing in team building?
I believe it’s important to keep “unity in diversity” and to willingly embrace changes. If we want to survive the ever-changing environment, we must open up our minds. We should put aside all our previous experience and listen to everybody. Then you will be surprised that a remark from an18-year-old intern on your product may overthrow your consistent thought process and give you inspiration. “Diversity” means the team should be composed of members of different backgrounds and specialties. But there is a “unity”, meaning we all stay in the same mind striving for the same goal.