Chinese haircare brand ITCareLab wields big data to develop products for the IT crowd
The bald truth is that IT workers are a stressed demographics, and that’s making the target of ITCareLab, a new hair restoration brand in China that uses big data in its product development. Personal concerns about thinning hair have been widespread in China for a long time, and with existing domestic brands already comprising large segments of the market, we were interested in how ITCareLab is planning to make their own mark.
According to Chinese research company iiMedia Research, the number of people in China who express concerns about hair fallout and thinning hair growth is 250 million. The statistics also show that this demographic is actually getting younger. Looking at the age distribution between the years 2017 to 2018, the majority were between 26 and 30-years old at 41.9%, followed by 31 to 40-year-olds at 25.4%, and then 18 to 25-year-olds at 24.7%. Unexpectedly, 41 to 60-year-olds made up no more than 4.8%, however, this segment seems to be mostly absent due to not technically “expressing concerns about” their hair, but nevertheless these figures starkly illustrate the concerns of the younger generations.
Big data platforms as the basis of development
The causes for young peoples’ increased problems with hair loss have been mentioned as being due to changes in eating habits and excessive stress, particularly from work, and a prime example of such stressful workplaces can be found in China’s IT industry. During spring this year, “996” became a hot topic in China. These three numbers refer to an intense work schedule from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, six days a week. Nevertheless, the concept has brought about the controversy, aggravated further by prominent figures, such as (then-CEO) Jack Ma of Alibaba Group, coming out in support of the 996 work ethic.
Meanwhile, many Chinese IT workers are finding they have hair-loss problems, and the severe working conditions are being pointed out as the reason. True to its name, ITCareLab is a brand that was created to target young IT workers. According to local media, ITCareLab’s founder, Xianli Rong, comes from a decades-long career in IT with experience in working at major live streaming company YY Inc. and portal site NETEASE, and has experienced firsthand the industry’s tough working environment.
ITCareLab’s research and development is based on large amounts of data collected over many years by two companies: the cosmetics industry supply-chain platform service ZhaoYL, and beauty industry big data platform Meiyeyanjiu.
ZhaoYL possesses data from 1,000s of raw ingredient suppliers both within and outside China, over 30,000 formula engineers, over 30 laboratories, and the factories of over 1,000 companies. Meiyeyanjiu, on the other hand, owns the marketing data of tens of thousands of daily-use products and cosmetics brands both within and outside China, and they also support ITCareLab’s market positioning, pricing, sales channels, and marketing strategy analysis.
ITCareLab is operated by Guangzhou Aimei Shidai Keji, which was founded in December 2018. Founder Rong owns a small 10% stake in the company, while Guangzhou Zhao Yuanliao Dianzi Shangwu, which operates ZhaoYL, is the largest shareholder with a stake of 76%.
ITCareLab uses glucoside in its products, with amino acids as the main ingredient. Other ingredients include peptide, nicotinamide, panthenol, and vitamin B6, and they clearly state the exclusion of sodium lauryl sulfate, which can cause hair loss. Their hair restoration spray uses the new hair growth stimulator ingredient Redensyl, developed by Swiss manufacturer Induche. In China, this spray stands at the cutting-edge of hair growth formulas, however, they’ve still managed to keep the price down to 100 yuan (approx. US$14).
ITCareLab’s package design takes a novel approach to appeal to IT folks with tech speak. Terminology familiar to those in the industry is emblazoned on the packaging, including “hello world” of the famous C-language program and one number indispensable to any computer, “1024”. (1024 is a widely-used number in IT, with 1 KB equaling 1,024 bytes and 1 MB equaling 1,024 KB. Also, October 24th (10/24) has been designated “Programmer’s Day”, a day when programmers are encouraged to refuse any overtime work.) Additionally, ITCareLab’s packaging is environmentally conscious with its use of recyclable aluminum.
Along with the company’s own online store, ITCareLab’s products are also available on Alibaba Group’s Taobao. Local media reports that test sales are currently being carried out within a small scope of the IT industry. They plan to continue improving their products while accumulating core users and afterward head into extensive expansion, even targeting general consumers.
With the increase of those with hair loss problems, related markets in China are naturally expanding. The size of the market for hair loss prevention shampoo in 2017 was US$116 million, a 12.8% increase from the previous year. Domestic brands, in particular, are strong, with 30.9% of the 2017 market dominated by “Zhang Guang 101” and 28.0% by “Bawang”. These two brands together occupy close to 60% of the market.
However, the situation online is different. The 2018 online market for products related to hair loss prevention and haircare saw Bawang occupy the largest share of 22.1%. The next largest share, however — Amorepacific Group’s RYOE — was significantly lower at 5.8%. Third place was The Body Shop at 3.4%, and fourth place was Zhang Guang 101 at 2.7%. Japanese companies included Yanagiya in fifth place with 2.5%, and Shiseido in tenth place with 1.7% (data from iiMedia Research).
Whether ITCareLab will find its place in this market depends on how much they can grow their visibility, but the company is planning to procure more funds and successfully doing so should allow them to transform into something bigger and better. Of course, getting some 200 million IT workers in China to become ardent fans who hope to have their hair problems solved will provide the biggest boost.
Text: Ching Li Tor
Original text (Japanese): Team Roboteer