Surviving beauty disruption

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The digital wave has completely changed Thailand’s beauty landscape in the past few years. The advent of 4G, in particular, has resulted in the proliferation of smartphones and the popularity of online channels.

Mr Danai says 100% of Thai women know the Mistine brand.

Anyone can develop their own cosmetics brand with the increase in logistics providers, including new players like Kerry Express Thailand.

Greater competition has made life more difficult for major cosmetics brands, hurting both counter sales and direct sales.

Better Way Thailand, the brand owner and marketer of Mistine cosmetics products, responded by opting for a multi-channel approach.

“The domestic market is clogged with more than 6,000 beauty brands, so we decided to transform ourselves to a multi-channel company over the past few years,” said Danai Derojanawong, 50, president of Better Way Thailand, the marketer of Mistine cosmetics.

Mistine products are available at convenience stores, health and beauty shops, duty-free shops and online platforms.

Mr Danai said Mistine started exploring the online channel three years ago to tap into the overseas markets, notably in China.

The company initially used Alibaba Group’s Tmall and Taobao online marketplaces before expanding to JD.com and others. Mistine products are sold on 17 e-commerce channels in China.

“We were very surprised when we learned that our sales through Tmall fetched up to 500 million baht,” Mr Danai said.

There are counterfeit Mistine items on Tmall. This accelerated Mr Danai’s decision to set up a joint venture company with a local partner in China to verify real Mistine products and protect the brand image.

“Mistine sales in China amount to about 5 billion baht,” he said. “On Tmall, we are the No.1 makeup brand in the 6-billion-baht imported makeup category.”

In China, Mistine is seen as a prestige brand for the masses, priced 40-50% higher than in Thailand.

Mr Danai said the company plans to launch prestige cosmetic lines for the Chinese over the next three years.

“It may be more difficult to extend into niche segments, but we believe we can grow,” he said.

Mistine has hired Pirath “Mike” Nitipaisankul, a Thai singer and actor, as the company’s brand ambassador for products in China.

With Mr Pirath starring in a Hollywood production in China, this will help raise Mistine’s brand awareness, Mr Danai said.

The company is scheduled for the first time to join Asean Beauty 2019, the beauty and health product exhibition, May 2-4 at Bitec.

The event will give the company the chance to meet international customers and potential partners. It will also emphasise Mistine as a regional or international cosmetics brand.

Mistine was founded by Amornthep Derojanawong, Mr Danai’s father, 31 years ago with partners such as Saha Group, the consumer goods conglomerate.

“Direct sales during my father’s run were very different,” Mr Danai said. “With digital technology, shopping trends have shifted from direct sales to other sales channels. We believe that 100% of Thai women know Mistine. But some of them have never used it, so we intend to make our products available anywhere people live.”

Products sold through each channel will be different, by size or collection, so channels don’t cannibalise one another.

Apart from channel distribution, Mr Danai has also changed the way to communicate with customers via various media from TV for the mass market to social media and out-of-home methods for the younger market.

“This year we will focus on content and supply chain,” he said. “We have to produce five Mistine products for 1 million pieces to match with five distribution channels. It is very tiring, fun and challenging. Although we’ve been disrupted, we’ve committed to moving further with quality, trust and reliability.”

More importantly, he transformed the company into a contemporary organisation. Working culture has altered, with more young executives recruited and dressing style and work hours loosened.

Mr Danai expects Mistine sales in the domestic market to grow by 5% to 15 billion baht this year, with Chinese sales rising 30% to 6.5 billion.

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