Positive, Sincere and Natural: Indonesia Beauty Buying Patterns

Nov 09 2017

There are several myths I have heard about Indonesian beauty, mostly from outside Indonesia (and often from outside Asia). The first myth is that Indonesia is not an important market for beauty products, and that women are less engaged with beauty than in other countries. The second myth is that confidence is a key goal of female beauty, a myth that is perpetrated around the world and not just in Indonesia. And the third myth is that creating a successful beauty brand in Indonesia is all about being halal.Is Indonesia an important market for beauty brands?

Indonesia is a very important market for beauty brands and becoming more important with every passing year. It is a huge country, with over 17,000 islands and 270 million people (plus or minus 10 million, depending on who’s statistics you trust). Moreover, the size and scale of the country and its islands means that this is also a very diverse country with very diverse skin types and beauty needs.

TapestryWorks recently conducted a Beauty Culture survey of Indonesia and three other markets (Australia, Thailand and UK) to find out more about women’s beauty goals, attitudes and beliefs and beauty buying behaviours, focusing on cosmetic products and brands for this part. We found that Indonesian women are very engaged with beauty and more interested than women in Australia, Thailand and UK. 41% of women said that they are “extremely interested” (10 on a 10-point scale, Thailand was 38%, Australia 25% and UK 24%), with Muslim women the most interested.

The average Indonesian woman uses more than six cosmetic products on a daily basis (similar to Thailand and much higher than Australia and UK), with face cleanser, body lotion and lipstick the most frequently used products (followed by facial moisturizer, sunscreen and toner).

This is why Euromonitor predicts that Indonesia will be in the top 5 global beauty markets within 10 to 15 years. In 2015 the total market was more than 58 trillion Rupiah (58,000 billion Rupiah) comprising more than 20 trillion for skin care, 5 trillion for colour cosmetics and 32 trillion for other beauty products. This total is expected to grow to more than 84 trillion by 2020 (around 11% or more per year).

Although Unilever, P&G and L’Oréal represented 50% of products sales in beauty in 2015, this is changing fast. According to a US Department of Commerce report on the Indonesian beauty industry, there are 760 manufacturers in Indonesia, the majority of them local.

What do Indonesian women want from beauty and is it all about confidence?

The bulk of TapestryWorks beauty culture survey focused on understanding the motivations and emotions that shape women’s beauty buying behaviours. We tested different verbal and visual stimuli to understand what women want across the different markets (and also to understand the ways that different stimuli work, comparing Western, Asian and localized visuals to understand the effect of local cultural context on responses).

The stimuli were based on 36 concepts reflecting 12 underlying emotional needs (with two positive and one negative concept included for each segment). For each stimulus set, we asked women to choose 3 from the 36 that best represented their feelings about “the beauty that you desire for yourself”. For visual stimuli, we also asked them to choose 3 from the 36 that best represented “the beauty you have today”. In addition, we collected data on beauty categories and three brands in each market (please contact me if you would like to know more about the survey).

Are Indonesian women different to other women and is confidence important? Confidence was very important, and the most important single need, especially when measured through verbal stimuli (much less important when measured visually and subject to differing interpretations, which you can read about here).

Overall, the greatest needs for women across the four countries are for sophistication (including confidence and courage) and harmony (including care and innocence). Discovery (including exploration and creativity) is also important for women in Australia, Thailand and UK but less so for those in Indonesia. Indonesian women have a stronger need for order (control and knowledge) and affiliation (love and belonging) than those in other countries.

Focusing on the specific choices of words and images, the most frequently chosen word or phrase was percaya diri or confidence (literally translated as “belief in yourself”), chosen by 63% of women (the next most frequently chosen word was at 25%). This makes sense when you see the most frequently chosen image from a set of Western images (chosen by 41% of women, see below), but with local context the most popular Indonesian image chosen feels somewhat different (chosen by 31% of women, see below).

Confidence is very important, especially when tested as a verbal construct rather than a visual one. But what does confidence mean in Indonesia, and is important across different contexts? In other work conducted earlier this year, TapestryWorks explored the emotional journeys of beauty rituals on different occasions (read more here).

We found that confidence (percaya diri) is most important on formal occasions (such as parties and weddings) when women make special preparations (sometimes including exercise, spa and salon treatments) and wear their very best outfits. Such occasions require more beauty products, a longer and more intense routine and the use of stronger colour schemes.

By contrast, daily beauty routines are associated with more natural looks and subdued colours, a shorter routine and fewer products. In the morning, the main goal is to give impetus and energy to your day and show your unique beauty. During the day, the main goal is really to take a break and reconnect as well as refresh your looks. In the evening, the main goal is to reconnect with loved ones as well as cleanse yourself from the dirt and grime of the day. Brands that market to the need for confidence and charisma on special occasions, are marketing to a very small segment of the beauty market (although one that is very important to women).

In our Beauty Culture survey, we also asked women their feelings about the beauty they already have. Comparing ideal beauty with beauty today, there is a great deal of consistency between the two for Indonesian women. Looking in detail across the 12 segments, women in Indonesia have around 90% similarity between the two, similar to women in Thailand and much higher than women in Australia and UK. The only real gap women face is a desire for more sophistication, and this is where increased confidence is important. Some women also have negative feelings relating to order (a lack of knowledge) which is why this need is higher for beauty today than for ideal beauty.

Overall, women are comfortable and satisfied with the beauty they have, which is why their ratings of body image are higher than for women in other countries. And while, women in other countries emphasize the importance of diet and exercise to enhance beauty, women in Indonesia are more likely to rely on smiling and showing their inner beauty. Indonesian women value optimism and sincerity highly.

What are the success factors for beauty brands and how important is halal certification?

TapestryWorks Beauty Culture survey also asked women about the cosmetic brands that they use (brands that focus purely on skin care or other categories were not included). Wardãh is by far the most commonly used brand, used in the past three months by 50% of women. For two-thirds of Wardãh users it is also the brand that they use most often.

Wardãh is followed by Sari Ayu, Maybelline NY, Mustika Ratu and Pixy (L’Oréal came in at number ten). Three of the top five brands are local, although Maybelline NY has been in the market for a long time (it is associated with every day and affordable products) and Pixy is believed by many women to be a local brand (it is Japanese). Are all of these brands halal?

All are halal except for Maybelline NY and Pixy, but Wardãh has the biggest advantage among Muslim women. Having said that, all brands except Maybelline NY have an advantage among Muslim women, and Wardãh is the most popular brand among non-Muslim women too.

Perhaps their secret goes beyond the explicit stamp of halal certification to the implicit values that are associated with the brand (and other local brands to a lesser extent). The word tulus (sincerity) reflects some of the implicit values of Indonesians.

In Islam, nature is very important and above humans, being a sign that points to the existence of the Creator and the ultimate meaning of life. There is also an Arabic word tayyab (wholesome) which is reflected in the importance of cleanliness, as water purifies the outer physical self and also the inner spiritual self. Modesty is also a key principle and dignity is an innate characteristic of humans, whose worth should be measure by their heart and not by their body. When referring to inner beauty, many Indonesians will use the phrase dari hati (from the heart).

This is why Indonesian women tend to favour natural beauty looks and to have a balanced view of beauty. They are more likely to agree that “I prefer my make-up to look natural and effortless” and “Beauty is as much about the mind as it is about physical appearance”. This is also reflected in their choices for enhancing beauty.

The reason for the success of Wardãh and other local brands, may be their understanding and communication of these implicit values. Wardãh has a very natural look and feel (I refer to the tonality of their communications, rather than their product formulations). Wardãh portrays beauty in a “soft, pure, elegant and modest” way (Shelina Janmohamed). In summary, Wardãh is implicitly Indonesian (and therefore implicitly Muslim), as you can see in many of their communications and in the brand story on their website.

The realities of Indonesian beauty are somewhat different to the myths. Women in Indonesia are highly positive about beauty. They do need a confidence boost for special events, but fundamentally believe in themselves and the beauty they already have. And halal is necessary for successful brands, but not sufficient.

To be successful in Indonesia, brands need to go beyond the explicit and understand and communicate the implicit values that are embedded in Indonesian culture. Beauty remains a universal imperative, perhaps more important now than ever, but always reflects local cultural values too. Brands can start by being positive, sincere and natural in the way they interact with Indonesian women.


TapestryWorks Beauty Culture Survey of Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and UK (August & September 2017)

Beauty and Personal Care in Indonesia by Euromonitor (June 2016)

Beauty industry in Indonesia by US Department of Commerce

Generation M: Young Muslims changing the world by Shelina Janmohamed

[This is a longer written version of a talk for the Cosmetic Leaders Forum 2017 in Singapore on 8 November 2017, organized by CTFAS. You can access the slides here.]

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