An interview with Mr. Pierre Feng,
Vice President of Eastern Natural Beauty China
China’s beauty salons and spas have experienced great development in recent years, with the emergence of new consumer groups, new consumer demands and new operational models. Eastern Natural Beauty, a well-established beauty salon brand with 50 years of history, has been constantly upgrading its business models and customer experience by studying the need and trends of the market.
Pierre Feng, Vice President of Eastern Natural Beauty, graduated from Sorbonne Université Paris, majoring in 17th Century French literature, and obtained double master’s degrees in International Communications and Finance from the ESC business school. After 10 years in France, he returned to China to join the SPA and wellness industry and has been extensively involved in many fields such as branding, product, operation and marketing. In 2019, he joined the Taiwan Eastern Group, advocating healthy and organic skin care with the brand’s beauty philosophy of “Natural is Beauty” to encourage Chinese women to regain their self-confidence. SpaChina interviewed Pierre. He will share with us his insights on the new operation models and development directions that China’s beauty salons and spas should be aware of.
What are the traditional marketing methods for beauty salons and spas? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these marketing methods?
Traditionally, beauty salons and spas tend to bind the guests with different strategies such as: drawing guests to try the treatments with a low price offer; persuading guests to buy cards with alluring discounts; offering discounts for part of the treatments; offering free experience chances and more. These traditional marketing methods are adopted with the aim to grab more guests from the market pool and make them stay with various forms of discounts.
It’s a common practice for beauty salons and spas to attract guests as many as possible from the market through both online and offline advertisements and promotions. In addition, they are also concerned about the “radiation radius” of their spa or salon, namely the impact of their geographic location on their marketing. In a broad sense, the traditional marketing methods are quite effective to collect customer information. However, from a professional point of view, there is a lack of value differentiation and customer positioning. The “cast net widely” approach will certainly reap a quite mixed customer base. If you fail to make the customer differentiation in the first place, you will suffer a loss of customers in the sales process due to a lack of value assessment of the customers, or at least you will be unable to maximize the cost-efficiency ratio in your business.
From a market expert’s point of view, what is new in the Chinese market regarding the way beauty and wellness brands do their marketing in the last few years?
In recent years, people’s health awareness increases a lot. In the post pandemic era, in particular, health care has become the biggest “social demand”. As a result, beauty salons and spas begin to turn to “human care marketing”. This also means a turn to a more rational business operation. The time when the salons randomly priced their offerings have gone. The quality of the product, the service procedures, the comfort of the treatments and the effects of the device programs are all what customers concerned about.
Therefore, an internet-based O2O operation system has been gradually built, which often includes an appointment system, customers’ skin condition profile, customers’ health test data etc. Meanwhile, with the rapid development of internet, it becomes much easier for customers to get information of the beauty salons too. Their consumption also become more rational. So the marketing approaches of spas and salons should be more rational.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of salons and spas with high brand recognition after years of operation?
Take Eastern Natural Beauty for example. As a traditional beauty salon brand with high recognition among the customers, we have 50 years of operation experience. We possess a solid customer base mainly composed of the post-60s and post-70s group. This is our unique advantage. However, while we focus our services around this group of middle-aged customers, we inevitably neglect the needs of the Gen Z.
For instance, we launched a new collagen firming line in 2021 which features technical improvements and formula innovation. However, it is still more preferred by the middle-aged customers and fails to give the younger generation a direct appeal in terms of the products’ texture, fragrance, feel on the skin and effects. I should say this is the weakness of us.
What do you think of the engagement of beauty salons and spas in e-commerce brand operations?
To be engaged in the e-commerce operation, beauty salons and spas need to make full use of their customer base for strong upgrades and renewals, and can even seize the chance to create their own e-commerce brands to gain the favor of younger consumers.
However, the creation of a new e-commerce brand requires packaging design and marketing methods to be more trendy and chic. You don’t just sell new products online, but you need to do cross-border cooperation and possess professional quality endorsement. Only through this way can you gain an active market response and empower the brand with true product power among young consumers.
In fact, the cost of creating an e-commerce brand is very high and you really need to do a lot of things. It also requires a huge money and capital support. So not every ordinary beauty salon and spa can do it. Also, concerning the online operations, the traditional operation team of beauty salons and spas just don’t have the capability to tackle it. So for ordinary beauty salons and spas that want to get involved in e-commerce, my suggestion is: think twice before you act.
What forms of cross-border cooperation and resource sharing would you recommend to beauty salons and spas?
Cross-border cooperation is not only needed when it comes to product development and get brand endorsement, but also a good way to improve your customer resources. In 2021, Natural Beauty cooperated with CreditEase, a well-known wealth management expert in China. CreditEase put Natural Beauty’s products in their APP platform where users can buy the products with certain points they have earned with the CreditEase. This is actually not only a product sales behavior, but in a deeper sense, an exchange of customer resources. CreditEase has a group of high net worth customers, who are also our target group as a high-end beauty salon.
In the process of cross-border cooperation and resource sharing, what are the aspects to pay attention to in order to truly achieve a win-win situation rather than a futile trail or waste of time and energy?
In the process of realizing resource sharing through cross-border cooperation, we need to pay attention to: 1. whether the customer groups of each party share similar values and have a close connection; 2. whether the form of cooperation is smooth and creative; 3. whether the resource exchange is arranged systematically rather than randomly. I believe that by paying attention to the three aspects above, the resource sharing will maximize the benefits of both parties and lead to a win-win situation.
What kind of changes do you see taking place to beauty salons and spas in the next 5 years?
I think beauty salons will adapt to the new market demands to achieve true upgrades and transformations in the next 5 years. The slow-paced and complicated beauty programs can no longer meet the demands of the Gen Z. They care about the efficiency of the services and the immediate beauty effects. Their higher requirements to beauty brings the biggest challenge to traditional beauty salons. In order to quickly cater to the preferences of the younger consumers, beauty salons need to find a way to completely upgrade their offerings and constantly introduce new skincare programs to young people. They need to target the group of 20-25 years old customers, explore the consumption market of the younger generation, and turn to online platforms to output the brand content.
At the same time, beauty salons should be able to create a “trendy, fast and transparent” consumption scene to meet the beauty needs of the post-90s and post-00s customers. The upgrade toward fast beauty will be the development direction of future beauty salons.