MALAYSIANS are spoilt for choice when it comes to beauty products owing to the abundance of brands available in the market.
However, the rise in harmful beauty products has resulted in consumers opting for natural, handmade beauty products, which promises to be free from chemical preservatives and additives.
These local brands are operating on a small scale basis but are already gaining market traction domestically and regionally.
Claire Organics founder Louise Chu tells FocusM that consumers nowadays have a higher awareness of the ingredients found in their products and are choosing alternatives that do not contain chemicals such as parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate.
Chu’s initial target market was young mothers seeking products that can be used on their babies. It has now extended to e-commerce savvy shoppers such as the millenials.
“The main feedback we received from our clients is that they may face existing skin issues such as eczema or acne and are looking to switch from mass market brands to products made from natural ingredients,” she adds.
Many of these local natural beauty brands often started out on a part-time basis, peddling their wares from online stores to setting up stalls at bazaars across the country.
As their following grew, some brands would then venture into setting up their own retail presence in shopping malls.
“Customers like to see, test and smell skincare products before purchasing. When we started out at bazaars, it was a good platform for shoppers to try us out and familiarise themselves with the product,” says Chu.
She adds that establishing a retail presence in shopping malls allows them to not only compete with other beauty brands but also increase the brand’s relevance and visibility among shoppers.
In Malaysia, any party keen to sell a cosmetic product locally is required to notify the Director of Pharmaceutical Services (DPS) through the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Department (NPRA) of the Ministry of Health (MoH) prior to market, manufacture or import a cosmetic product.
Such measure is in place to allow NPRA to gather adequate information on the cosmetic products that are placed in the local market.
“As we grew, we learn about the regulations and safety guidelines from the MoH. Our products are now made in a Good Manufacturing Practice-certified facility,” explains Chu.
She adds that it is common to find many other local natural, home-based beauty brands selling their wares at bazaars around the country but many of them may not operate within the guidelines set by the MoH.
“I would advise any beauty brands that are keen to scale up to be aware of the local regulations and comply with it,” she says.
Meanwhile, Wunderbath founder Evelyn Marieta says it conducts heavy metal and microbial tests for every batch of its products.
“All these are an added cost to us especially for handmade goods produced in small batches,” she adds.
Marieta is keen to explore the Southeast Asia market with her range of beauty products
Despite the additional cost, she believes such tests are necessary to ensure product quality in order for brand-building in the long run.
When asked about how new products are developed, Marieta says many a times, customers are very vocal about their likes and dislikes.
“We had an orange lip stain when we first started. The feedback from our customers was that the colour did not suit our locals’ skin tone and I have since discontinued that shade,” she adds.
Likewise, Wunderbath introduced its body spray after gathering market feedback that customers wanted a more convenient method of product application onto the skin.
Marieta admits her business is one that is festive-centric and performs better during the year-end owing to the gifting season.
“Online order, especially during the festive season would often meet the minimum order amount to qualify for free delivery.
“On a day-to-day basis, we see either one or two items per order as shoppers do not feel the pinch of paying for shipping which is only RM8,” she explains.
The same could be said for Chu as Claire Organics would see at least a 50% increase in sales during the year-end compared to non-festive season.
“Existing customers would opt for personalise gift sets as they already know what they want while new customers would purchase our ready-made gift sets,” says Chu.
The demand for natural beauty products is not limited to Malaysia only. Shoppers around the region too are seeking such products at a competitive price point.
“We are trying to expand into the Southeast Asia market in 2018. Existingly, we do receive orders from Australia and the UK. Singapore is a market that we are keen to explore,” explains Marieta.
Millennials’ buying behaviour
WHEN it comes to shopping, millennials respond better to visual cues, namely items that are colourful and eye-catching, says Wunderbath founder Evelyn Marieta.
“Our angle has always been to attract their attention first. From there on, they are more receptive to our brand story and philosophies,” she explains.
Online sales make the bulk of Wunderbath’s sales, making over 60% of its total turnover.
Millennials are attracted to quirky designs, such as these doughnut-inspired bath bombs
Many of these online purchases are from millennials whom Marieta believes are a cost-conscious group of consumers with high disposable income.
“They purchase based on emotions and may have a short attention span. That is why we have to constantly come up with new products to keep up,” she adds.
When asked whether millennials are actively seeking natural beauty products, she says the awareness for such goods has grown over the years, thanks to social media.
“They [millennials] are learning of the danger of certain ingredients and its impact towards their health.
“They may have preferences towards certain beauty brands but are seeking alternative brands that cater not only to their beauty needs, such as a certain shade of lip stain, but also are free from chemical additives,” she adds.
That said, millennials are influenced by trends from abroad and what they see on social media.
When Wunderbath introduced its bath bombs to the market a few years ago, many were sceptical over the product and questioned the use of the product.
However, viral videos of bath bombs circulated widely over social media and sales of Wunderbath’s bath bombs skyrocketed overnight.