Blushcon, which debuted last January as a two-day beauty conference within the Asian American Expo in Pomona, California, is returning on Jan. 19 and 20 with a refocus on Asian beauty. Blushcon has increased the presence of Asian brands exhibiting by approximately 40 percent and is expected to bring in an additional 10,000 visitors to the expo, thanks to its new focal point, which was determined based on visitor feedback and opportunities for growth. (The Asian American Expo draws 120,000 attendees.) Over 40 brands are participating, including Dr. Jart+, Tonymoly and Ko Skin Beauty, an indie brand best known for its sheet masks.
The conference hopes to capitalize on the intense consumer interest in Asian beauty, which has seen South Korea’s market grow to an estimated $13 billion dollars, according to Mintel. For its part, Japanese exports were expected to exceed $2.75 billion in 2018, according to The Financial Times. Blushcon is expected to contribute to around 10 percent of all sales for the Asian American Expo, according to Kaila Yu, co-founder of Blushcon.
The emergence of Blushcon coincides with the growth in public-facing beauty conventions. The most notable is Beautycon, which was founded in 2011 and attracts nearly 30,000 attendees to its Los Angeles and New York City conferences. There is also the Indie Beauty Expo, which debuted in 2015, and Sephora’s Sephoria that came to market for the first time in October. While each of these conferences welcomes Asian beauty exhibitors, none are solely dedicated to the sector.
“Our goal is to be as successful and as recognized as Beautycon,” Yu said. “Asian beauty is so popular, with K-beauty, J-Beauty and Chinese brands. We not only want to feature the brands that people know, but also [make Blushcon] a place of discovery for all Asian indie brands.”
To help drive interest around Blushcon, the conference is attempting to build a community by inviting micro-influencers and appealing to attendees’ desire for social media brand building. The agenda in 2018 featured beauty tutorials and engagement with brands, but based on post-conference surveys and email feedback, its audience of mostly 18- to 25-year-old women wanted to learn more about how to become an influencer, Yu said.
Blushcon chose to work with dozens of micro-influencers because of their propensity to provide higher engagement on Instagram. on where Blushcon’s has about 13,000 followers. The Asian American Expo earned over 11 million social media impressions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in 2018, and Blushcon accounted for the 30 percent of those comments and likes.
This year, the conference is hoping to build a community around the event through a Blushcon Ambassador program. The program, which invites influencers and aspiring influencers via Blushcon’s Instagram page, allows fellow members to talk to each other and meet beauty brands for potential collaborations. Currently, there are approximately 100 ambassadors, and Yu hopes to increase that pool to 500 by the end of the year and offer more events and meet-up opportunities throughout 2019.
“Girls are getting more jaded about museum-type experiences like the Museum of Ice Cream, so what we are trying to do is come up with something different,” she said. “These days, attendees have high expectations. They want great photo ops, access to their favorite influencers and freebies, and what we want to do is build that community.”
Focusing on micro-influencers has been a strong trend in the beauty space, with established brands like Darphin and Benefit Cosmetics and indie companies like Then I Met You relying on them more frequently. “We are in a time where everyone wants to be an influencer, and everyone can be because brands are looking to those people,” Yu said. “We want to not only provide a platform for micro-influencers, but also reach more people through the engagement they create.”