With businesses scrambling to tap into the growing e-commerce world while also trying to balance brick-and-mortar stores, New Zealand beauty retailer HIKOCO may have cracked the code.
HIKOCO is best known for being one of the only New Zealand retailers to hold Korean cosmetics at an affordable price.
Unlike many businesses across the country, the brand is running a successful brick-and-mortar store alongside a just as successful online site.
As an immigrant living in New Zealand for over 15 years, owner and founder Hara Kang was unable to find the right products for her.
Unlike in South Korea where the range of cosmetics is endless, Korean cosmetics were either not available in New Zealand or too expensive.
Kang wanted to target consumers who were feeling the same as her, looking for affordable Korean cosmetics, whilst also meeting the increased demand.
“What makes K-Beauty products attractive is the high-quality and innovative range of products at reasonable prices. We thought this was worth sharing with the New Zealand market,” she says.
“We wanted the consumers in New Zealand to have the same experience with beauty products as they would in Korea.”
Kang introduced New Zealand to the world of Korean cosmetics through the launch of her online store in 2016, dubbed HIKOCO, short for Hi Korean Cosmetics. She initially stocked the store with her favourite products, allowing her to be “truly passionate” about HIKOCO.
Stocking products that Kang was passionate about led her to build connections with the consumers by sharing information, tips, reviews and more rather than just “trying to make sales and profit”.
After of year focusing on the brands’ e-commerce channel, Kang decided it was time to investigate the world of brick-and-mortar stores. To “study foot traffic and consumer behaviours” within the Asian beauty industry in New Zealand, HIKOCO had its first pop-up store in Newmarket, Auckland.
“Ever since we opened our first proper offline store, we started communicating with customers to realise each of their needs and wants,” she says.
The engagement Kang had with customers in her physical store later spilled over to her online shopfront. Customers began requesting products and offering feedback which HIKOCO listened to and acted on.
“We believe that we really took our time taking the first few steps on expanding the business, but the time invested was worth it. It allowed us to gradually build a stronger presence and root ourselves on both on and offline platforms,” she adds.
HIKOCO now has two brick-and-mortar stores in Auckland. One in Newmarket and one in Queen St.
Recently, HIKOCO was able to move their initial Newmarket store to a bigger and newer storefront closer to the hustle and bustle of the popular mall.
Having experience running a successful online store, Kang was still able to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic using the original e-commerce site. With over 19,000 followers on Instagram and 16,000 on Facebook, Kang was also able to use HIKOCO’s social media channels to support the e-commerce site through lockdowns.
“Having a strong e-commerce presence definitely helped us to get through these tough times,” she says.
“If we hadn’t been building a secure relationship with our customers through online communications and marketing, I feel like we would’ve struggled a lot during the pandemic.”
Not only did HIKOCO have to face the obstacle of a global pandemic, but also the opening of large multinational enterprises (MNEs) beauty brands, such as Australia’s Mecca Beauty and France’s Sephora which are beginning to stock Korean cosmetics.
But Kang says what makes HIKOCO different from the MNEs that have entered the New Zealand market is “paying attention to the voices of the consumers and immediately acting upon them”.
Kang uses various methods on the businesses social channels to maintain a connection and interact with consumers, such as newsletters and offering products outside of the realm of cosmetics, such as Korean fashion.
“With these efforts to take a step closer to the customers on a personal level, we have a stable fan base of our brand – a distinct segment in the industry that differs from those that western beauty stores target,” she says.
“The unique brand identity and professionalism towards our products is what we think made us relevant yet contrasting to the big beauty brands in New Zealand.”
Following the brands’ successes in both the online and offline scope, the road for HIKOCO is only just beginning. Kang says the goal for the brand is to be front of mind for Kiwis when they think of Korean beauty.
Later down the line, using her own knowledge, Kang one day plans to be creating her own HIKOCO products.
“By stocking our own products we hope to help all Kiwis build a healthy skincare routine, especially when New Zealand has one of the highest incidence rates of skin cancer,” she adds.
Eventually, Kang hopes her endeavours as a Korean beauty brand will eventually open up to the rest of the world and become a global brand.