China has huge and thriving e-commerce, with over 1 billion Chinese social media users on Chinese platforms.
Advanced technology offers them opportunities to discover, engage, browse, share, and experience regardless of the pandemic. They increasingly do so through influencers and e-commerce livestreaming.
It is entertainment by the people you want to follow combined with shopping and interactive interaction with the host and other shoppers.
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Just like in other countries around the world, influencers promote brands, products, and services. In China, they are essential to marketing. Social networks have made it easier for influencers to reach out to followers directly and create a marketing channel of social retail.
Chinese consumers are active social media users, and they follow influencers. They enjoy the content, and they often view them as up-to-date and trustworthy. Top influencers do not only represent the interests of brands but screen products and negotiate prices for their viewers.
Influencers can be bloggers, fashionistas, journalists, experts, and others. They provide content such as recommendations, reviews, and advice on almost any topic: fashion, food, sports, video games, luxury goods, and many more.
Influencers promote brands
There are various models of collaboration between influencers and brands, but the idea is the same: influencers get compensation for increasing sales and providing leads.
Key Opinion Leaders, KOLs, are influencers, such as bloggers and writers. Most key opinion leaders have huge digital audiences and followers. Internet celebrities, Wanghong in Chinese, are professional influencers who endorse goods or services.
Through online content, photos, videos and livestreams, they present products, often in the fashion and cosmetics industries.
Working with influencers can help companies advertise their products and increase sales, as well as brand awareness. Some influencers are known for their ability to promote brands.
Chinese luxury handbag influencer Tao Liang, for example, is known as Mr. Bags. He has millions of followers on Weibo and WeChat. His influence on his “bagfans” has led to collaborations with luxury bag brands like Givenchy and Burberry.
Live streaming e-commerce
Livestreaming e-commerce means promoting and selling products through influencers who livestream while allowing for in-app browsing and purchases. It is sometimes called livestream shopping or shoppable livestreaming. But it is also entertainment, so maybe shoppertainment or entertainmmerce would better describe it?!
The basic idea is similar to the Home Shopping Network. But it is much more. Livestreaming e-commerce is entertainment by the people you want to follow, while also shopping and chatting. And on a mobile device.
A live stream creates this instant community of interested people who experience and share. The experience is social and interactive.
Livestreaming e-commerce is breaking sales in China. On the Singles’ Day 11.11 shopping event, livestreaming drove $6 billion USD in sales. It has become a way for Chinese consumers to discover new products and get discounts. Thanks to advanced technology, they can even make the purchase without leaving the livestream.
For brands, livestreaming e-commerce is growing to be part of their marketing strategy in China. International brands like Ralph Lauren, Clinique, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger and many others have used it already.
It can help brand awareness for multinational brands who want to tap into the Chinese market. It is also a tool for the biggest brands to launch new products or move inventory, and for smaller Chinese businesses to promote themselves.
Livestreams can review any product. The most promoted goods on livestreams are cosmetics and beauty products, fashion, and food.
The hosts can live stream on their social media accounts or on the brands’ accounts. Chinese live streams are often housed on online shopping malls. Chinese platforms, like Taobao and JD.com, enable streamers to set up their own stores, add content, and manage inventory and distribution.
Alibaba probably has more livestreaming e-commerce on its platforms than any other e-commerce channel. Alibaba’s Taobao Live is Alibaba Group’s dedicated livestreaming channel. Launched in 2016, it is both a shopping mall and an entertainment channel.
What would be a better way to explain it than a video?
Alibaba continues to broaden livestreaming for brands of different sizes and industries. Over 12 months (beginning in November 2019), the number of sellers on Alibaba’s Taobao Live has grown 220%.
More livestreaming platforms
In light of the growth of the popularity of livestreaming e-commerce, other players are joining in. Social commerce platform Pinduoduo and social media platform Xiaohongshu (also known as RED) now offer livestreaming. Douyin, the short video platform, also joined in, and so did JD.com.
WeChat mini-programs offer brands and influencers the ability to broadcast live and offer e-commerce content directly from their WeChat Official Accounts. They can link the Account to a mini-program, making it easier to convert content to sales.
The platforms that wish to join the booming sales trend offer brands and KOLs to livestream.
The boom in livestreaming shopping has made top influencers huge in China. The most famous ones have their own shows and can livestream for a few hours every night.
They attract followers and get a commission on their sales. Brands offer them products, and some of them can choose as little as 1 in 10 products. As a result, they can negotiate with manufacturers to get discounts for their fans. Yet, they carefully maintain a limited supply to keep buyers wanting more.
Once they feature a product, hosts demonstrate the goods, review them, explain features, answer questions, talk and sing. As they reveal the products and send coupons, they encourage their viewers to make a purchase. As we said, it is online entertainmmerce.
Wei Ya (also known as Viya) is one of China’s top livestreamers. She hosts her show most nights and offers information, commerce, and engagement. She promotes products from international brands like Proctor and Gamble, and local products.
Her audience is always impressive, and she sells for millions of dollars almost every night she is on. During 2020 Singles’ Day, she topped 3 billion yuan (over $460 million) in sales and hit a record of 37 million online viewers.
She is known for her offers and deep discounts, which support her popularity. She is known for letting people start buying only after her pitch and a countdown of “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!”.
KOLs are mega-influencers who make livestreaming popular, but not only them. Micro-influencers are increasingly taking part. Retail associates in stores can do livestreams for the brand. They engage with customers using Weibo and WeChat or other platforms.
Their livestreams may not seem professional, and they often look like regular people trying on the products, but shoppers love their authenticity.
Even if they do not get as many viewers on their livestream, the video can be uploaded to the product page and offer more ways for shoppers to engage with the brand for longer, and eventually promote sales.
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