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What Live-Stream Shopping in China Tells Us About the Future of eCommerce 

We’ve covered our fair share of live streaming articles. The reoccurring message is its mass popularity in China is transferring to the Western world. It’s important for brands to stay relevant as we are moving into a more hybrid approach to selling.

If you are new to live streams then be sure to check out our popular guide on live stream shopping. We also cover different types of one to one and one to many live streams.

Here, we look at what factors are driving the live stream shopping success in China and how brands can follow.

1. WeChat Live-Streaming in China 

WeChat is a Chinese social-media messaging giant – where live-streaming is built into the programme’s infrastructure. The core purpose was to allow communication between different contacts. However, it has recently surged into the world of live-stream shopping – by popular demand.  

“Retailers in grocery, tourism and fashion are by far the biggest beneficiaries.” Stated Rita Liao for TechCrunch. “Nasdaq-listed travel portal Ctrip, for example, has racked up nearly 100 million yan ($14 Million) in sales by promoting live on WeChat.” 

WeChat features: 

  • Apps like WeChat are allowing people to send virtual gifts to the host of the live-stream – which could be anything from money to luxury items. This has also been seen on TikTok live-streams in the UK. 
  • Hosts are able to see the audience’s reactions through the comments immediately.  
  • Hosts can detect what customers prioritise when it comes to online shopping and therefore can directly cater to their needs.  
  • Anyone can collaborate with WeChat influencers. 
  • You are able to select influencers with a trusted reputation so the audience can trust other product recommendations and reviews.  
  • Brands can obtain honest feedback. 
  • They have integrated AR. For example: Viewers can click an icon to enter a contest where they can virtual try on the products.  
live streaming in china

WeChat has also started integrating a wallet feature on their app – encouraging conversational commerce. The app makes it easier and more efficient for customers to shop and spend regularly.  

What can we learn from this?

Conversational commerce is tapping into the new market whereby customers are demanding immediate attention. For a decade, customers have been surrounded by messaging tools to instantly contact their friends. We can call, message, face time with people who we hold dear. This is now translating in to B2C messaging.

What brands can learn from this is to utilise conversational commerce as a means for customer service tool and not just sales. WeChat grants access for customers to interact and purchase inside a single channel.

2. In China’s live streaming industry, influencers dominate

Another element of live-stream shopping that has proven to be a huge success – is celebrity and influencer marketing. With celebrities and influencers, brands are able to provide information and entertainment, where the audience can interact with both the brand and the special guest. It provides a unique opportunity for the brand to communicate personally with it’s consumers.  

There are several examples of these successful celebrities and influencers worldwide: 

  • Kim Kardashian, who, in 2019 made an appearance on a Chinese live-streaming platform to promote her fragrance.  

  • Lipstick King who raised more than $145 million in rales on Singles’ Day in China and is a popular Chinese content creator.  

  • Viya who is a Chinese star saleswoman, who hosts regular live-streams selling millions of products. 

Today we will focus on the collaboration between Kim Kardashian and Viya – where Viya hosted the live-stream promoting Kim’s fragrance.  

All 15,000 bottles sold out within minutes of live-streaming.  

There is endless success when it comes to pairing a celebrity or influencer up with live-stream shopping. Both Viya, who is a top Chinese live-streamer, and Kim have a large following, which is hugely influential on sales: 

“Last year, Viya sold $49.7 million (353 million yuan) on Singles’ Day. Similarly, Kim sold $2 million dollars’ worth of her new shapewear in minutes.” Ruonan Zheng says for Jing Daily.  

What Can We Learn From This? 

China have clearly proven the popularity of celebrities and influencers. They have also shown how consumers are willing to make a purchase when a celebrity or influencer is involved.  

Influencers have been able to build up a following of people who believe in what they promote, and therefore have built a base of trust. By placing celebrities and influencers into live-streaming, they already have a relationship with the audience – encouraging conversions.  

And it’s only just getting started in the US. 

In 2020, Tommy Hilfiger hosted a digital shopping event featuring Lewis Hamilton and other various influencers. This gave viewers a immersive opportunity to sop trough the range – adding their favourite items to a virtual basket and continue to checkout after the event.  

Along with Tommy Hilfiger, L’Oreal have launched 300 digital services in 2020, with 50 Live Shopping Events. On influencer marketing Adrien Koskas says, “they are a voice for the brand to think differently about our products. Consumers are really changing the way they interact with brands and are very engaged on social media.”  

L’Oreal plan on making a team of influencers to represent the brand, hoping for a more “genuine” approach to influencer marketing.  

More and more, brands are starting to get influencers involved who have a wider grasp on society, and who have built a strong, trusting audience. China is teaching us that influencers who promote and market products shift the conversion rates and lead to great successes – especially when used correctly.  

3. Singles’ Day in China and Bespoke Live Streaming Events 

Single’s day is a holiday celebrated in China in November. Unmarried people are urged to treat themselves to a variety of different gifts – making Single’s Day one of the largest online shopping days in the world.  

As we have already seen from other platforms, live-streaming is seen to be a massive success – especially on Single’s Day. For Alibaba, live-streaming accounted for $2.85 billion in sales in 2019.  

On top of this, Alibaba has nearly doubled last year’s total value, from 268.4 billion yuan to 498.2 billion yuan in 2020.  

“Alibaba is expecting as many as 400 company executives and 300 celebrities to participate in livestreams during Singles Day this year.” Nate Storey comments for Surface.  

China is leading the eCommerce industry, specifically into live-stream shopping. It’s clear from the countless events they host each year that the figures speak for themselves.  

China are clearly making use of these ‘special’ days such as Singles’ Day. Is this a sign that other countries should follow suit? Should we introduce live-stream commercial days for Cyber Monday? Black Friday? Valentine’s Day?  

With the Chinese combining both information and entertainment, it is an easy way to increase supply and demand. Customers are immersed and entertained by a platform and therefore are more persuaded to make a purchase.  

What Can We Learn From This? 

China are showing us, that by marketing different days, such as Black Friday, Valentine’s Day or Cyber Monday, we are able to create an opportunity for brands to interact with their customers. Not only are they able to interact but they are able to build a relationship that is a lot more trusting and honest. The purchasing process then becomes something entertaining, rather than just a transaction. 

Another thing that China have adopted is gamification mechanics into their live-streaming platforms. Here are some examples listed by Forbes

  • On Taobao Live, when customers follow a brand or account they can earn points, which in return they can receive coupons and offers. Therefore, the more interactive the user is, the more they get from the platform.  
  • The same goes for sharing a live-stream – additional prizes can be won. 
  • Loyalty points are also rewarded. 
  • They have now implemented built-in giveaways – viewers can simple click to apply, if they follow the account or share the live-stream.  
  • Notifications are built-in to remind customer’s of particular products.  

What is the future of eCommerce looking Like? 

The future of eCommerce is taking a hybrid approach. Where the immediacy of eCommerce leveraged and personalisation is building strong customer connections. With 82% of social media users preferring live-streams from brands instead of any other interaction, it’s now clearer than ever that live-stream shopping is what the customer’s are asking for.  

Adapting to this change in consumer behaviour is vital for the survival of many brands today – the latest trend being interaction and immersion. Influencers in the UK and US are at a constant divide with the public. Many are known for promoting scam products, especially within the beauty sector. Yet, in China, influencers are rewarded with celebrity like status where their trust and credibility sit far higher.

Perhaps a reboot in influencer culture is needed for it to have the same impact here. Or brands collaborate with celebrities to educate and sell around commercial holidays to utilise the increase in consumer demand.

The success of gamification tactics echos the constant struggle in maintaining customer engagement. Today brands are mingling with gamification techniques, such as spin the wheel to reveal a discount. For it to be successful here, brands should begin to incorporate gamification techniques within their live streams to keep those customers, loyal.

Lastly, connecting with customers across accessible channels is needed. To reach out on a personal level and curate a shopping experience is what is expected. The success behind retargeting ads and data driven marketing may start to lose impact as customers are chasing the human element.

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