One of the most effective ways to enter China’s massive e-commerce 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 this trend to maximize their success in China.
The Live Streaming Industry in China
Live-streaming has taken off as one of the most popular online social entertainment activities since late 2015 or early 2016. In recent years, the number of people using live-streaming services in China is growing at a fast rate, with tens of thousands of everyday users.
As of 2023, there were over 660 million active viewers of live streams, mostly between 27 and 39 years old! The industry is worth 4.9 trillion yuan ($720 billion) in comparison to only 0.12 trillion on 2018, demostrating 53% year-on-year growth.
There are four main categories of streaming platforms in China: entertainment, gaming, e-commerce, and education. Unlike the US, video gaming streams only make up 20% of China’s live streaming e-commerce market. The remaining 80% comes from “in real life” streamers. Young people are keener to watch celebrities promote daily necessities like beauty products than watching people play games.
According to surveys, 70% of these streamers are female and about two-thirds are under 26 years old. These young hosts stream everything from luxury fashion 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 of live streams. Live streaming services are the “go-to” option for Chinese netizens when seeking out new products and deciding on what to buy on the home shopping network. 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 in the live streaming industry, Alibaba’s marketplaces, like Taobao Live (something like Facebook Live, but commercial), have the largest market share, according to digital brand researcher L2.
Taobao Live Marketplace takes over 68% of the entire market. 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 live streams take place within Chinese e-commerce social media platforms, hundreds of millions of fans are able to shop for the items they see immediately within the same app.
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 an immediate conversion rate rocket. Besides, there’s a feeling of authenticity that comes from live streaming. There is also an option of receiving virtual gifts, which also boosts explosive growth in sales.
Chinese TV is heavily controlled by the cyberspace administration with somewhat predictable plots and themes, while much of the advertising is scripted and airbrushed. In contrast, commerce live-streaming enables viewers to see their favorite live streamers behave and react naturally and in real-time.
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 that enriches their leisure time. It’s no wonder automakers have been using live-streaming hosts to launch new models. Perhaps the biggest group to adopt the practice is the beauty and fashion 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 to promote foreign products and arouse demand. Indeed this same study showed that 14% of brands used at least four different media platforms to reach the maximum number of viewers.
Live Stream 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, that will turn into more e-commerce transactions on your side. Live streaming should be integrated into your social media marketing and e-commerce strategy as entertaining social shopping is now dominant in China.
Livestream marketing is also going to be efficient when trying to interact with 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.
Best ideas for live streams in China
1. Live streaming in China: How-Tos
A great live stream marketing engagement idea is creating a tutorial. A how-to live stream can be a fun and interactive outreach.
These live streams can range from for example; 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. If you don’t know what it looks like, check YouTube for any daily tutorial to get inspired.
How-tos are for anyone that’s creative enough to come up with a fun idea that customers will want to play with.
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 with live-streaming hosts
Livestreaming is a great place for content collaborations. Inviting outsiders in will give your stream a fresh set of opinions and ideas, and you will also get more support than anywhere else. These individuals can be creators or even celebrities working in your field, but they can also be other business owners that you think could make a positive impact on your fans.
Use tactics like a back-and-forth conversation between CEOs, a Q&A, or a content swap with a social media influencer or key opinion leaders.
There are endless options when it comes to working this into your live stream Chinese e-commerce 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.
3. Special announcements and product introductions
Brands can live stream their launch of a new product, website, or special events to engage their interested 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.
4. Backstage pass and behind-the-scenes glimpses
Behind-the-scenes always manage to capture great curiosity from fans and add a sense of closeness. Brands can have the live streamers show some of the backstage scenes of their events or shows.
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 young people.
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 Chinese e-commerce, 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 or JD live.
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.
Measuring the results of your live-streaming effort
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’s sales.
Popular metrics companies usually use are the number of viewers, the number of engagements (like/ comment/ share/sales/gift-giving… In addition, we suggest also looking at these four key analytics when gauging the success of a live-streaming hosts effort:
In essence, how long someone is watching 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 product sales, 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 and you won’t sell a thing.
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.
Choose the Right Live-Streaming Platform for Your Brand
In addition to the typical general entertainment, live stream platforms such as YY and Huajiao, live streaming platforms were created for all types of verticals including education, fashion, personal development, dating, e-commerce, and of course video games.
Here we’ll introduce several key short videos, gaming, and e-commerce live-streaming platforms.
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: the king of live-streaming in China?
In 2022 Kuaishou reported RMB175.1 billion in e-commerce transactions, representing an increase of 47.7% from RMB118.6 billion for the same period of 2021. According to a report released in 2022, Kuaishou had 345.5 million daily active users.
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.
Douyin short videos and live-streaming app that conquered China
Douyin has been one of the hottest short-video apps in China in recent years. According to Statista, as of 2023, Douyin – the Chinese sister app of TikTok – reported having 86.8% of its users streaming live content in China. The Beijing-based short video platform is growing its popularity in the country. Its users spent at least 89 minutes watching videos on the platform each day.
Top brands from all over the world such as Audi, Adidas, and Dior are flocking to Douyin, opening official brand 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 the core product that Douyin is earning revenue.
Bilibili: China’s fastest growing live streamers app
Bilibili is a video streaming site popular among young Chinese people (mainly 25 and younger) who are interested in animation, comics, and games.
There are a lot of live streamers in cosplay, and video games, and an increasing amount of live 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.
Live Streaming for 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 platform launched in November 2014. It boasts 91.5M users and, while Huya does have lifestyle content, it is an example of a gaming platform and is known for its active video game streaming community.
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.
The Market of E-commerce Live Streaming in China
Top e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall, as well as JD.com 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. Fom 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.
We Can Help You Promote Your Brand Through Live-Streaming in China!
In the bustling digital marketplace of China, live-streaming e-commerce is not just a trend; it’s a revolution! And the best way to tap into this lucrative stream? Partner with the experts who know the ropes – Gentlemen Marketing Agency.
Why Choose Us for Your Live-Streaming E-Commerce Endeavors?
- Strategic Insight: We decode the live-streaming landscape in China, ensuring you’re always one step ahead of market shifts and trends.
- Local Expertise: With deep cultural understanding and insights, we tailor your live-streams to resonate with the Chinese audience, enhancing engagement and conversions.
- Tech-Driven Approach: Our tech-savvy team ensures flawless stream delivery, leveraging the best platforms and tools to optimize user experience.
- KOL Collaborations: We tap into our extensive network of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to give your brand the right voice and reach, amplifying your live-stream impact.
- End-to-End Management: From concept to post-stream analytics, we handle every aspect ensuring maximum ROI.
Dive deep into the world of live-streaming e-commerce in China and watch your brand’s visibility, engagement, and sales soar. With Gentlemen Marketing Agency by your side, you’re not just participating in the revolution; you’re leading it! Contact us today!