One of the most effective ways to enter china’s massive market is through live streaming. This rapidly-growing medium offers brands a unique opportunity to connect with Chinese consumers in a deeply engaging and interactive way. In this article, we’ll explore why and how brands can capitalize on live streaming in China to maximize their success there.

How can you surf on this trend for your Business

The country is leading the world in using live-streaming to engage consumers on e-commerce platforms, as well as KOLs leveraging this tool to expand their fanbase. In this article, besides giving you an overview of this emerging marketing technique and its potentials, I would suggest ways to maximize live-streaming for marketing purposes.

I. The Live streaming Industry in China

Live streaming in China has taken off as one of the most popular online social entertainment activities since late 2015 early 2016. The consultancy firm Deloitte, in one report, shared that China was the largest market for live streaming in 2018, with revenue of $4.4 billion, a 32 percent increase over 2017, 86 percent higher than in 2016. The number of viewers reached 456 million.

There are four main categories of streaming platforms in China: entertainment, gaming, e-commerce, and education. Unlike the US, game streaming only makes up 20% of China’s $5 billion live streaming market. The remaining 80% comes from “in real life” streamers.

live streaming in China number of users

According to surveys, 70% of these streamers are female and about two-thirds are under 26 years old. These young hosts stream everything from singing to just chatting about life. Revenue is largely driven by viewers donating money in the form of virtual gifts to performers as they sing or dance.

But live streaming has also become one of the most cost-effective tools for e-commerce in China, similar to what QVC produces, but with even greater variety and impact. Livestreaming is the “go-to” option for Chinese consumers when seeking out new products and deciding on what to buy. It is an essential part of the discovery journey, unlike for consumers in the U.S. and Europe.

Although there are multiple platforms and service providers, Alibaba’s marketplaces have the largest market share, according to digital brand researcher L2.

Taobao Marketplace generated more than 100 billion RMB ($15.1 billion) in gross merchandise volume (GMV) through live streaming sessions in 2018, an increase of almost 400% year on year. It’s home to over 4,000 Livestream hosts, who generate 150,000 hours of content on a daily basis. On Taobao, customers are able to shop for over 600,000 products through Livestream every day.

As the live streams take place within e-commerce platforms in China, fans are able to shop for the items they see immediately within the same app.

Read as well: China Key Opinion leaders Marketing Guide

II. Why should brands embrace this new trend?

Live streaming allows experts to demonstrate the products when being used and talk through their functions in the liveliest way possible. Meanwhile, the audience can ask questions and receive explanations instantly, leading to immediate purchases. Besides, there’s a feeling of authenticity that comes from live streaming.

Chinese TV is heavily controlled by the Government with somewhat predictable plots and themes while much of the advertising is scripted and airbrushed. In contrast, live streaming enables viewers to see their favorite streamers behave and react naturally and in real-time.

The best live streaming allows room for spontaneity, be it side chatter, a joke, or even a small mistake. Therefore, live streaming enables brands to connect better and more closely to customers than other forms of content.

Most importantly, live streaming allows brands to be introduced to consumers through a richer experience. Demonstrations allow for a dialogue that can cover the more complex subject matter. It’s no wonder automakers have been using live streaming to launch new models. Perhaps the biggest group to adopt the practice is the beauty industry.

A study by consumer research group L2 showed that two-thirds of beauty brands in China held live streaming events on Tmall, and many other platforms are being used as well. Indeed this same study showed that 14% of brands used at least four different platforms.

III. Livestream marketing and your integrated marketing plan

Livestream marketing is the key to building authenticity with your customers and a tool to create more buzz on social media. Live-streaming should be integrated into your social media marketing as well as e-commerce strategy as entertaining social shopping is now dominant in China.

Livestream marketing is also going to be efficient when trying to reach millennials and Generation Z. With the ever-growing importance of finding ways to differentiate your brand, live stream marketing just might be a good strategy to add when trying to reach these demographics.

Below are some ideas for brands to utilize live streaming in china:

1. Live streaming in China: How-Tos

A great live stream marketing engagement idea is creating a tutorial. A how-to Livestream can be a fun and interactive outreach.

These live streams can range from make-up tutorials, how to put together daily outfits, how to make new food or dating tips… There are countless ways for any business type to get involved in this live stream tactic.

How-tos are for anyone that’s creative enough to come up with a fun idea that customers will want to emulate.

How-to live streams can also provide an opportunity to reach a new audience, especially if you center your project on material that’s different from what your business typically gravitates towards.

2. Content Collaboration

  • Livestreaming is a great place for content collaborations.
  • Inviting outsiders in will give your stream a fresh set of opinions and ideas. These individuals can be creators or influencers working in your field, or even other business owners that you think could make a positive impact.
  • Use tactics like a back and forth conversation between CEO’s, a Q&A, or a content swap with a social media influencer.

There are endless options when it comes to working this into your live stream marketing strategy. Working with other influencers in your field introduces them to a new audience and gives your brand access to the audience they’ve already built.

live streaming in china - taobao live

3. Special announcements and product introductions

Brands can live stream their launch of new products or special events to engage their followers, granting them the privilege to e-join and enjoy those memorable occasions without being physically there.

These live events include presentations, talks, conferences, press conferences, performances, concerts, tours, and demos.

Lancôme worked with Viya to feature its products in a live streaming session this March for International Women’s Day, selling RMB 10 million worth of products.

During major Chinese shopping holidays, live streaming is an engaging way for international brands to reach their customers. For the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival last November, Tmall put on its third “see now, buy now” fashion show, featuring brands such as Guess, Clarks, and Anna Sui, where Chinese consumers could order items straight from the runway while streaming on the Taobao app.

4. Backstage pass and behind-the-scenes glimpses

Behind-the-scenes always manage to capture great curiosity from fans. Brands can have the marketing team live stream some of the backstage scenes of their events or shows or activities.

Sneak peeks into the working environment with real people behind a brand, interviews with them, or stories about their life also make brands appear much more human, authentic, and approachable to consumers.

5. The ‘New Retail’ Future of Livestreaming

Similar to the online-offline New Retail integration happening in the retail industry, live streaming still has enormous potential to become the norm for commerce in China, bridging together online and offline experiences.

There has been a visible shift in live streaming from broadcast rooms to offline retail stores, local farms, and apparel factories on Taobao.

For example, New York-based startup Shop shops is helping Chinese consumers discover local boutiques in major fashion capitals all over the world through live streaming on Taobao.

International brands have a unique opportunity to use cross-border live streaming to bring Chinese consumers to their overseas flagship stores, apparel design studios, or even music festivals such as Coachella in their home country in the future.

That being said, brands can live broadcast basically everything that may be interesting and informative to their customers. Showcasing the beauty of their offline stores and giving customers just a taste of shopping with brands in the real world is an innovative way to enrich the online shopping experience for customers.

IV. Measuring the results of your live streaming effort in China

Just because it’s life doesn’t mean you get away without measuring your success. Livestreaming for marketing is the same as any other tactic: You’ll win some and you’ll lose some, and figuring that out helps you pinpoint which methods will work best for your brand going forward.

Popular metrics brands usually use are the number of viewers, the number of engagements (like/ comment/ share/ gift-giving… In addition, I suggest also looking at these four key analytics when gauging the success of a live effort:

  • Watch time:

In essence, how long someone watches your show indicates whether your stream was compelling enough to convince viewers to stick around. You can learn important lessons for future streams here, including length and presentation style.

  • Call to action responses:

Keep in mind that you are streaming to drive an end result, such as buying a product, or connecting with social media accounts. Make sure you send viewers to the right place.

  • Quality of service metrics:

Look at the technical smoothness of the presentation, as this will have an impact on whether people watch—or if they can watch—in the first place. Buffering and bad sound can cause early drop-offs.

  • Average minute audience: This is similar to metrics used in the TV industry, and can be helpful for gauging impact. It looks at concurrent viewership in an average minute of the stream. This insight can help you compare your live efforts to see which ones were the most popular.

V. Choose the right Live-streaming platform for your brand

In late 2016 and early 2017, there were over 200 mobile apps in China that had live streaming features.

In addition to the typical general entertainment, style lives streams platforms such as YY and Huajiao, live streaming platforms were being created for all types of verticals including education, personal development, dating, e-commerce, and of course gaming.

Here I’ll introduce several key short videos, gaming, and e-commerce live streaming platforms.

1. Short video

In 2018, short video apps have become extremely popular in China and many of these platforms incorporate live streaming features. Three of the most popular ones are Kuaishou, Douyin, and Bilibili.

Kuaishou: king of live streaming in China?

In 2017 Kuaishou was China’s most popular short video streaming app with over 20 percent market share, according to a December report by Chinese data provider Jiguang. According to a report released in January 2018, Kuaishou had 700 million registered users and over 100 million DAU.

Many of Kuaishou’s videos feature young men in rural China playing pranks on one another. The platform, full of low-class and funny content, has risen to popularity by providing a glimpse into the lives of those in China’s countryside.

Although there are advertisements and branded videos on Kuaishou, industry insiders also surmise that many brands are reluctant to run ads on Kuaishou because they don’t want the reportedly low-class content on the platform to hurt their brand reputation.

Read our Guide to Kuaishou Marketing

Douyin short videos and live-streaming app that conquiered China

Douyin has been one of the hottest short-video apps in China this year. As of June, Douyin’s monthly active users had reportedly exceeded 300 million and they claimed to have 150 million DAU.

Top brands from all over the world such as Audi, Adidas, and Dior are flocking to Douyin, opening official brands accounts, working with Douyin influencers, and paying to sponsor competitions and campaigns on the platform.

While Douyin does have live streaming features, it hasn’t expanded them as much since short videos are still their core product that Douyin is earning revenue from. However, I still put it here for brands to watch out for any change in the future.

Read as well: Douyin marketing Guide

Bilibili: China’s fastest Growing Video Streaming app

Bilibili is a video streaming site popular among young Chinese people (mainly 25 and younger) who are interesting in animation, comics, and games. It has about 85 million monthly active users.

There are a lot of streamers in cosplay, video game streaming, and an increasing amount of streamers doing ASMR, which is a sound creation technique meant to give the viewer a relaxing tingle at the back of their head and/or spine.

The platform has grown significantly over the past few years and more and more brands are showing interest in it, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

2. Live Streaming in China & Video Games

In China, one of the fastest-growing and largest gaming markets in the world, there are a number of very popular video game live-streaming apps including Huya, Douyu, Chushou, and Panda TV.


Huya is a gaming/lifestyle live streaming platform launched in November 2014. It boasts 91.5M users and, while Huya does have lifestyle content, it is mainly a gaming platform and known for its active video game streaming community.

Douyu TV

Douyu TV is very similar to its top competitor Huya in terms of content and features. Some reports claim Huya has more users, others say Douyu has more active streamers. Some say Douyu is a broader entertainment platform and has more non-gaming content than Huya does, and others point out the two cater to different niche gaming sub-segments.

In addition to Huya and Douyu, Chushou and Panda TV are two other platforms to keep an eye on in the gaming space.

Read: Guide to China Video Game Industry

3. The Market of E-commerce Live Streaming in China

Taobao Live and JD Live

Top e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall, as well as have added live streaming features that allow consumers to watch a stream and directly purchase the item being shown by the streamer without ever leaving the stream.

While the fashion and beauty industries are leading the charge, live streaming is an opportunity for any industry. From luxury cars to French infant milk powder, brands are experiencing significant results and it has become a regular part of their marketing mix.

Apart from those mentioned, there are also live-streaming platforms in the entertainment category such as Momo, Huajiao, YY, Yizhibo, and Inke. This article gives a lot of details about those sites.

In conclusion, there is so much potential for live-streaming in China. It is unlimited when it comes to the things that you can live stream. You can stream anything that is relevant to your brand and wouldn’t bore your audience.

However, you should experiment with different live-streaming content, KOLs, and platforms to find out what engages the best with your targeted audience.

We can help you with your live streaming in China campaigns.  Contact us to know more about how it works, how much you need to invest, and if it is profitable for you. 

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