What is a trend?
There is no other market in the world where business and entertainment are more integrated than China. First, the country is leading the world in using live broadcasts to attract consumers to e-commerce platforms, where influential people use the medium to bring products to life, otherwise they may remain static on the web. The following proves that it is working: Alibaba’s Taobao market generated more than 100 billion yuan ($15.1 billion) in total merchandise (GMV) through live broadcasts in 2018, an increase of nearly 400% year-on-year.
In fact, according to a Deloitte report, China has the world’s largest live broadcast market, reaching $4.4 billion in 2018, up 32% year-on-year. The same report estimates that the total number of live broadcasters in China last year reached 456 million.
How is China different?
While most live broadcast platforms in the West focus on gaming and entertainment, live streaming is the “preferred” choice for Chinese consumers when looking for new products and deciding what to buy. Unlike consumers in the US and Europe, this is an important part of the discovery journey. Not surprisingly, Taobao is also compatible with the content community: it has more than 4,000 live hosts and generates 150,000 hours of content per day. More than 80% of them are women on the platform. Since live broadcasts are conducted in China’s e-commerce platform, fans can purchase items they see immediately in the same app. On Taobao, customers can purchase more than 600,000 products per day via live broadcast.
Live broadcast is the main medium for key opinion leaders (KOL) to attract Chinese audiences. In China, fans can ask questions about the product, comment on the host, and even send a virtual gift as a symbol of appreciation while watching the live stream. Platforms like Youtube and Instagram have not been extended to KOL live events.
Diversified content is another point of differentiation. In China, although fashion and beauty are still the most popular live broadcast categories, almost any category is a fair game of video streaming. The host talks about the latest beauty trends, try out different fashion products, introduce the most popular succulents, showcase the jade bracelets of the local Burmese jewellery market, and even eat their favorite noodle soup. In particular, the live broadcast of fresh produce is becoming more and more popular, as the source of the product is very important to Chinese consumers. Live hosts often show how farmers pick vegetables and catch live fish from nearby rivers. Viewers can ask questions and place an order while watching the live stream.
Interesting content has attracted a large fan base of top-level hosts. “E-commerce live broadcasts have become popular, especially among female consumers in low-tier cities and rural areas. These women treat broadcasters, such as their close friends, who can turn to product suggestions and recommendations they trust. “Lauren Hallanan, vice president of Meet Group, the world’s leading social entertainment platform, said. “For many of them, buying products through live broadcasts has become a habit, and I only see this habit becoming stronger in the future.”
Viya is known for selling hundreds of millions of yuan worth of products in a conference, often attracting millions of viewers to participate in their daily streaming on Taobao. Beauty KOL Austin Jiaqi Li, or “Mouth Brothers”, try 300 lipsticks a day. He sold 15,000 lipsticks in 15 minutes. The lipstick he showed was usually sold out on different e-commerce platforms long after his broadcast.
How to deal with international brands
International brands are paying attention to the power of live broadcast. In March of this year, Lancôme partnered with Viya to showcase its products at a live broadcast conference on International Women’s Day, selling products worth 10 million yuan. During the major shopping holidays in China, live broadcast is an attractive way for international brands to attract customers. For the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival held in November last year, Tmall launched the third “now watch, buy now” fashion show, including Guess, Clarks and Anna Sui brands, Chinese consumers can order directly on Taobao Product application.
However, live broadcasts are not only suitable for well-known brands. It also helps Chinese consumers explore boutique brands from around the world. During a two-day live broadcast on Taobao last year, American handbag manufacturer Welden sold a $300,000 GMV. There are 1.7 million viewers watching.
Live “new retail” future
Similar to the online and offline new retail integration in the retail industry, live broadcasts still have the potential to become Chinese business standards, bridging the online and offline experience. From the broadcast room to the offline retail stores on Taobao, the live broadcasts of local farms and garment factories have changed significantly. For example, New York-based startup Shopshops helps Chinese consumers discover local boutiques in major fashion capitals around the world by broadcasting live on Taobao. International brands have a unique opportunity to take Chinese consumers to their overseas flagship stores, fashion design studios, and even future hometown Coachella festivals using cross-border live broadcasts.