Even after reading about the rise of the Nouveau Bro, I didn’t realize the times were really changing until my eye cream went missing from the bathroom. Thinking I had simply misplaced it next to my laptop during a Netflix binge, I was shocked when my hunt ended abruptly in front of my mirror, boyfriend caught wide-eyed, daintily dabbing the brightening cream around his eye lids. He blinked at me and continued shamelessly.
A couple years ago I may have found the idea of male grooming a bit fringe, but turns out that he is part of a global market for male beauty products estimated to reach $19 billion this year alone. In Thailand, the trend is even more pronounced, growing almost two times faster than the overall beauty sector – valued at $360 million in 2015 and projected to reach $443 million by 2020.
“Thailand is known for its gender fluid acceptance, the freedom of sexuality has even given rise to a ‘third sex’. This phenomenon in addition to the popularity of K-beauty breaks any traditional gender norms meaning beauty isn’t only for women anymore,” says Chalermkiat Jinah, popular male beauty blogger of Pemikaz, in Thailand.
But how are these market trends translating to ecommerce in Southeast Asia, and specifically Thailand? EcommerceIQ posits that there is a very strategic and largely untapped opportunity for brands to leverage ecommerce as a major channel for male beauty products. This may prove true even more so than their female counterparts because online shopping behavior between the sexes varies greatly and facilitates male behavior.
Male Beauty Case Study in Thailand
Studies show that male shoppers tend to buy more for utility than for the enjoyment of the browsing and shopping experience. So the convenience and speed offered by ecommerce creates the perfect storm to leverage online beauty sales for men.
When online subscription beauty service Birchbox started selling men’s sample boxes three years ago, the company’s founders quickly learned there are certain shopping habits that distinguish men from women. Females would test samples that the company sent them in the mail—sometimes purchasing a full-size version of an item they really liked—men would immediately snatch up six to a dozen versions of the same thing.
Birchbox was so unaccustomed to such buying behavior that its website started to code the orders as fraudulent.
To test global consumer behavior of males in beauty for the Thai market, ecommerceIQ partnered with aCommerce to look at one of the region’s trailblazing beauty brands. This brand has made impressive steps in ecommerce adoption, and whose brand equity is strong for both male and female shoppers, hence providing an interesting case study for male beauty shopping behavior. (Scope: The data covers Jan-Dec 2015 & a half million online sessions. Products ranged from $5-125 targeted to middle and upper class customers)
What kind of men shop online? Not your grandpa
Male consumers of this beauty brand are younger, urban and from middle-upper classes where internet and smartphone penetration is higher.
Once connected, they go deep into the experience
Surprisingly, they consulted more pages per session (9.7 versus 8 for women)
They stayed longer each session (3.56 mins versus 3.17 mins)
- This may support the Interactions’ study, which found that men are more likely to read all of the product information before purchasing an item.
They had a significantly lower bounce rate (38.6% versus 43.1%)
- “Most men are destination shoppers,” said Fashion Institute of Technology associate professor Vincent Quan to CNBC. “They are looking for something specific [and] make a beeline.”
Why? Because men shop to buy, women shop to browse
About 30% of online beauty market revenue came from men’s purchases even when they only represented 20% of the traffic.
- Male conversion rate was much higher, once a man has landed on an online beauty website, he was 70% more likely to make a purchase than a woman. This supports Birchbox’s findings on male soap, above. “[Men] were buying something that they liked, and they weren’t just buying one of it,” said Katia Beauchamp, one of Birchbox’s co-founders.
What are they buying?
- Skincare and Deluxe categories dominated the online sales of the brand (3/4 of total sales).
- Men tend to buy much more products focused on the body than women.
“Anti-aging and skin whitening products in both higher and lower ends of the quality spectrum continue to have a strong presence in the Thai market,” said the President of L’Oréal Asia, “The company saw a boom in men’s skin care in China and realized the potential for the segment globally. The use of anti-aging products has become common among both male and female consumers.”
Body beauty products are much more popular within male customers. Source: eIQ Case Study – Ecommerce & Men Grooming in Thailand
What type of devices are males & females shopping with?
As a recent report from Google precises: women, both as breadwinners and primary domestic caretakers have a much more active and mobile behavior. In the eIQ beauty case study, 2 of 3 women prefer browsing on mobile. Ecommerce needs to be mobile friendly to target them. But for men, browsing beauty website on desktop is still their first choice (47%) before mobile (46%).
Tips to Winning the Male Beauty Market Online in Thailand
1. Provide the right content to your audience
Improving online content is the key to higher conversions. In a nascent market such as men’s grooming, customers need to be educated through tailored suggestions, tutorials or services about men beauty products. In Korea, men beauty tutorials are already garnering a huge amount of attention and this trend is starting to get imported into Southeast Asia. Take for example, Thai blogger Pupe So Sweet, who is an expert of men beauty and has millions of views and 20K subscribers on Youtube.
2. Win the online battle of peer endorsement
In Thailand, beauty shoppers rely heavily on peer affirmation and highly trust reviews and content from others to make decisions. A recent release from AT Kearney shows that 59% of the online shoppers for beauty and personal care find peer reviews very important or somewhat important.
3. Get more products specifically ‘for men’ online
Currently, men still use unisex or women’s products because of the low offering of specific products specifically for men. On average, they use seven grooming products but only three are “for men” products. Also keep in mind, a recent study shows that men are selective with their purchases and prefer to use “for men” products that are fast-acting, easy to use, less processed, and with visible results. “These products are used on daily basis and have been previously tested by customers. A large majority of this kind of customer is more loyal compared to their counterpart,” says Tiffany Schmitt-Chretien, Senior Brand Commerce Manager at aCommerce.
4. Make the wives convert their husbands
Women have a significant influence on male behavior. If encouraged by the people around them, men will take much more care of themselves. eIQ internal data suggests many conversions are triggered by women in Thailand: 40% of ‘for men’ products are purchased by women.
5. Retarget existing offline customers
Men, in general, have higher brand loyalty compared to women. When they decided to branch out from their usual basic grooming regimen, they will go to the most familiar brands. By giving a better deal that they couldn’t get when shopping offline, for example, free samples or discounts on product set, you can convert them to this channel. Selling these products online can also offer males the anonymity that some men may still crave despite the changing image of men’s grooming.