Between August 17 and September 17 this year, nearly 35 million people watched live streaming on the China ecommerce platform Taobao.
Whether it’s on Taobao or one of the many other China ecommerce and social media platforms, live streaming is the hottest way to sell to Chinese consumers.
Live streaming is China’s QVC and if used correctly, it can be even more effective.
Global brands are jumping on the trend. While the fashion and beauty industries are leading the charge, live streaming is an opportunity for any industry. A perfect example is Audi. Audi was the first car brand to live stream a product launch on Tmall. Consumers were able to order Audi cars from Tmall whilst watching the live streamed launch event.
Why is live streaming so effective in China Ecommerce?
While the China ecommerce industry is huge, buying things online is often unreliable, due to the prevalence of knock-offs, poor quality items, and fake reviews.
Live streaming provides transparency. Chinese consumers can see what products actually look like, rather than just generic photoshopped photos the seller found online (which is an extremely common practice).
Live streaming also gives the seller the opportunity to introduce the product’s features and demonstrate how to use or style it. At the same time, viewers can directly ask any questions or voice concerns about the product. Live streaming provides the trust and transparency that China ecommerce has traditionally lacked.
Key Things to Consider Before Getting Started:
Choose the Correct Platform:
With so many China ecommerce platforms with integrated live streaming and live streaming platforms with integrated ecommerce, knowing which to use can be difficult. Here are a couple ways to narrow down your options:
- If your brand already has an online store in China, then you should choose the most compatible live streaming platform with your store.
- Pay attention to viewer demographics. For example, out of those 35 million Taobao live stream viewers, 71% of them were female and 72% of them were between the ages of 18-34. Take the stats into consideration.
- Other key factors include platform features and regulations. Can you link directly to your products in the live stream? Can viewers view the products while they watch the live stream? Does your company need to submit an application to the platform and pay a fee to promote on their channel? Are all industries allowed to live stream on this platform? Be sure to answer these questions first.
Give the Viewers a Show. Don’t Just Sell, Sell, Sell:
Creating an engaging live stream that people will want to watch is key. While talking-head live streams may have worked in the beginning, Chinese viewers are becoming bored with them. Think of your live stream as a talk show with different segments, including activities and demonstrations.
- Show people how to use your product. French Chef KOL Antoine Bunal is frequently invited on JD.com’s live streaming channel to teach cooking classes where he uses kitchenware sold on JD.com. The famous fashion KOL and Taobao clothing store owner Zhang Dayi shows her audience how to style different pieces of clothing and accessories. If people can see how products could be used in their daily lives, they will be more likely to buy them.
- Instead of being informative you could gamify your live stream. Xinda Zhan, better known as ‘Pearl Bro’, is a perfect example of this, he turned his family business of harvesting and selling pearls into a gambling game for the viewers. Viewers can buy a mussel for 58 RMB, and then he opens it during the live stream and they get to see what’s inside. It is an exciting and addicting experience for the customers and viewers.
- Take viewers behind the scenes. Pearl Bro does this well. Sometimes he goes out and live streams the process of harvesting mussels. Most people have never seen this before and it gives them a greater appreciation of the end product.
Collaborating with a Celebrity or KOL:
The best way to attract a large audience and create immediate trust with your viewers is by hiring a celebrity or KOL to promote your product during the live stream. Brands should keep in mind that, while inviting a celebrity might draw in a lot of viewers, they are expensive and some celebrities’ fans lack purchasing power. Working with a KOL might be more affordable and they can target a more niche audience.
When collaborating on a live stream with a KOL, brands need to consider a couple things:
- Whose channel will they stream on? A branded channel or the KOL’s?
- Send the KOL the product they will be promoting several weeks before the live stream so that they have time to play around with it and get familiar with it. Their genuine understanding of the product will be apparent during the broadcast.
- What are your goals or KPIs for this live stream? Be sure to discuss that with the KOL beforehand.
Getting People to Watch:
Brands get the best results from live streaming regularly with an ongoing program that’s treated almost like a TV series. That means airing at the same time every week so viewers know what to expect. Maybelline is an expert at this. They have created a weekly live stream show, each week inviting KOLs to teach the audience new looks.
During each broadcast, remind viewers when the next show will be. The day before the broadcast send out a post, and then the day of the broadcast to remind followers again.
Weibo and some other platforms are starting to unroll features which allow viewers to sign up ahead of time to attend a live stream. These viewers will then be sent push notifications reminding them to watch the show.
If you have a bigger budget and want to maximize exposure, you can pay the live streaming platform to run banner ads prior to the broadcast and then during the live stream have your channel promoted on the front page of the app.
Length and Time:
Data shows that live stream viewers are most active between 8-10pm, and depending on your demographic, the live stream could run even later, until 11pm. Many people get home late from work and lay in bed playing on their phones and watching live streams before they go to sleep. On the other hand, if you are working with a KOL who regularly live streams, then it might be smart to stick to their hours and the schedule they’ve established.
Do note that 8-10pm is prime time and there will be a lot of competition for viewers. If your brand is not going to pay the platform to promote the stream on the front page of the app, it will be hard to get significant viewership, especially if you’re not working with a KOL.
The live stream should be at least 1-2 hours long. While this might seem really long, it usually takes a while at the beginning of the broadcast to gain momentum and have viewers start flowing in. On top of that, in order to have a successful live stream, you need to leave a lot of time for audience interaction.
Interaction and Giveaways
Interactions make live streaming appealing. Make sure the host asks and answers audience questions. Don’t ever let the broadcast go silent or leave the audience unattended. They will feel ignored and leave. If the host needs to change clothes or be off-camera for some reason, have someone else take over.
Giveaways are an excellent way to keep people watching and turn them into regular viewers. Many live streaming apps will have a Hongbao feature, where you can essentially give away money to the audience. Announce that you will be giving away a Hongbao within the first 10 minutes of every live stream to train your audience to show up on time. More importantly, brands should be doing product giveaways and offering time-sensitive discounts during the live stream.