Young people’s demand for medical aesthetic services is increasingly diversified today. Medical aesthetic consumption has more and more become a daily expense. As a result, it requires online platforms to stay innovative so as to meet the market’s requirements. By Fifi Kao
In 2019, the major Internet companies launched medical beauty businesses one by one. On the 11.11 online shopping day last year, the turnover of medical aesthetic products and services increased by 572% year-on-year. Big companies rushed to the battlefield one after another.
However, in 2020, the sudden outbreak of the epidemic gave a heavy blow to many medical aesthetic centers. Frost & Sullivan, a research institution, predicts that the overall growth of China’s medical aesthetic industry will be significantly reduced to 5.7% in 2020 due to the impact of the epidemic. Namely, the overall market growth in 2020 will drop by nearly 60% compared with that in 2019 and the market scale will shrink by more than 30 billion yuan.
Uneven distribution of medical aesthetic resources and fierce competition
Fortunately, the epidemic hasn’t weakened people’s enthusiasm to pursue beauty. According to the financial report issued by So Young, the average monthly active users of the So Young APP in the Q1 of 2020 reached 4.17 million, with a year-on-year increase of 117%; in the Q2 of 2020, the average monthly active users of So Young APP reached 6.77 million, with a year-on-year growth of 173.7%. After the coronavirus outbreak, the So Young team has been working hard to make the performance satisfactory to their investors.
The advantages of online medical aesthetic services have been augmented during the epidemic period, and online orders have largely replaced offline orders. However, according to issued by So Young, less than 50% of the standard medical aesthetic centers in the first and second tier cities launched online business. So during the epidemic, a lot of medical aesthetic centers that only rely on offline channels and do not have their own customer groups or online services closed down. One major reason is that the local small and medium-sized medical aesthetic centers generally lack the ability to carry out online operation. So Young investigated 108 of its cooperating centers in Xi’an, and found that only 49 of them have recruited personnel to do online business and 47 of them don’t have any online business at all. In other words, in order to take a share of the large online market, it requires the operators to possess certain ability on online service operation.
Meanwhile, the distribution of medical aesthetic resources in China is obviously uneven. The optimal resources are mainly concentrated in the first tier cities, the regions in Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, Chengdu in the Southwest China, and Xi’an in the Northwest China, where the demand for medical aesthetic services is relatively stronger, accounting for 86% of the total demand of the country.
Take Shanghai as an example. In the medical beauty market of Shanghai in 2019, 73% of the orders were for skin treatments and injections. We see a strong homogeneous competition in an already quite mature market. There is a lack of distinctive features and creative programs. In terms of body shaping and fat filling, Hangzhou and Nanjing are far ahead. It is a result not so much of the demand of the local customers as the resource concentration of doctors and product supply.
In addition, most users of medical aesthetic online platforms fall in the post-90s generation group.
Young people pursue beauty boldly
It is worth noting that behind the growth of medical aesthetic business is the rise of younger consumers. Young people’s acceptance and recognition of medical beauty services are not the same as before. They are now seeking beauty very boldly.
A main driving factor is the change of mentality. With the popularization of medical beauty treatments among the ordinary public, people feel more and more free to talk about it. The data from So Young shows that the average consumers’ age of medical aesthetic services in China is 20-25 years old. Compared with the United States and other countries strong in medical aesthetic business, China’s market sees a younger customer group.
According to iResearch, the medical beauty market in China is dominated by married women with bachelor’s degrees whose total family income is RMB 20,000 + per month. Most of these women live in the first and second-tier cities and are normally in the management level of the companies. Enjoying beauty treatments and shopping are their favorite relaxation options in spare time.
What’s more, to seek beauty is no longer exclusive to women. The proportion of male consumers and their consumption power have also shown a rapid rise in recent years. Moreover, young people’s demand for medical beauty services is more diversified nowadays. And the most interesting thing is: with time, medical aesthetic services have changed from “a less frequently purchased significant consumption” to “regular daily expenditure”, among which dental treatments and hair transplant are two of the most popular programs.
The rise of tooth treatment
With the wider promotion of oral health in recent years, and China’s stronger integration with European and American trends, young people’s attention to dental health and beauty has reached a new peak.
They are no longer satisfied by the basic services such as teeth filling and extraction. Teeth whitening, bad breath removal and gingival health have become popular mostly because they want to cure oral diseases, meet work needs, make up for tooth defects and improve the overall appearance and image.
Among all the customers going for tooth treatment, 75.1% seek to cure oral diseases, 60.8% make up the tooth defects and 45.9% improve the overall image. More than 58.2% of the customers will try dental medical and aesthetic services if conditions permit.
Women have become the main force of oral consumption, accounting for 86.2%, far more than men. From the perspective of age structure, young customers become the main force of online oral consumption, with 92.6% of customers aging from 14 to 30. The reason is obvious, to possess healthy and beautiful teeth make one feel more confident.
Hair transplant revolution
China’s hair-loss population, as happened in Japan 10 years ago, is becoming younger and younger. Among those born in the 1980s and 1990s, 35% of them suffer hair loss. Compared with the post-70s and the pre-70s generation, the post-80s and post-90s pay more attention to their appearance and show a greater willingness to have hair transplant. They also feel more free to talk about this topic.
Hair transplant majority are men aged 25-28 who are seeking jobs and courtship. However, in recent years, online data shows a significant increase in the proportion of female customers for hair transplant.
It can be seen that behind these trends is a consumption upgrade featured by a more regular and frequent daily expenditure of medical aesthetic services.
Continual innovation of online platforms
Although during the epidemic, medical aesthetic apps gained a lot of traffic dividends, it is still not as simple as imagined to grasp the online growth opportunities.
Different from other business, consumers seeking medical aesthetic services would refer to a lot of information before making consumption decisions. The centers, doctors, programs, prices, users’ comments all will exert an effect on them.
The value of online platform lies not only in the user data and content it owns, but also in its ability to guide users to continuously produce new content.
Take So Young for example. The platform has partnered with more than 25,000 qualified plastic surgeons and nearly 6,000 medical aesthetic centers in order to create sufficient professional content. In addition, a large number of users share their postoperative diaries on the platform. Other users follow their accounts and read their diaries, and afterwards search for relevant programs and centers on the platform according to their own demand, before placing an order online. After completing the consumption experience in the center, they will in turn share their own experience on the platform as well, called “beauty diary”, thus forming a positive cycle of content ecology.
So far, there are more than 3.5 million “beauty diaries” on the So Young platform. After several years’ of development and content deepening, So Young has now become the most popular place for medical aesthetic customers to get information. The profoundness of the content is a competitive edge for such apps. Users now more and more prefer to get information directly from these platforms rather than searching it online randomly. Medical aesthetic apps have replaced searching engines to become a new entrance for users seeking medical aesthetic treatments.
So Young has successfully linked people and information, but it is not enough.
The medical aesthetic business has its distinctive features. For instance, it is a relatively less frequently purchased service, it is not cheap and many factors may influence customers’ purchase decision. Safety, effect and price are all big concerns. Therefore, it is not enough to only provide customers with content and service prices. Otherwise, the conversion rate of users’ purchase will still stay low.
In order to meet customers’ requirements for key content and information at different phases before, during and after the medical aesthetic treatments, So Young has launched more than 10 AI tools to help. So Young’s yearly data issued in May 2020 shows that the total use of “magic mirror facial assessment” tool has exceeded 150 million times, the cumulative use of “code scanning to check authenticity” is close to 100 million times, and the cumulative use of “skin assessment” is close to 25 million times. By June this year, the total use of all these tools on So Young platform had exceeded 510 million times.
Online platform makes price transparent
Before the emergence of medical aesthetic apps, you couldn’t find any price reference of medical beauty programs on the Internet. At that time, information asymmetry was a main marketing means in the industry, generating a lot of gray areas. Such uncertainty gives a large number of people a negative impression to medical beauty services, which indirectly inhibits the growth of consumption.
The rise of medical aesthetic online platforms is effectively leading the industry to develop towards higher standardization and efficiency. It is also an inevitable step and will remain as a long-term trend on the way of development of medical aesthetic industry.
There is no shortcut in any industry. Cost performance and differentiation are the golden rules. Only by building a good reputation can we reach a win-win situation.