On those long, lonely evenings, what could be better than snuggling up to your smartphone and streaming video content? Out with friends at a hip restaurant – no better place to watch another set of streams. Waiting for the elevator or even in traffic on your electric bike, it would be a missed opportunity if you weren’t watching more on your screen.
Short videos and livestreams have ballooned over the past couple of years in China. No other online activity has grown as fast or takes up more of users’ time in China. 648 million Chinese watched short videos last year – 78.2% of the online population. Users spent a total of nearly 600 million hours per day watching them on mobile in April 2019. The top-rated platform Douyin saw an average of 72 minutes for each of its 320 million daily users. This has created ecommerce KOLs overnight, such as the student who sold ¥1.5 million ($213K) worth of an anti-acne product within 24 hours screening a short video of PowerPoint slides praising its benefits.
The other digital mega-trend that is sweeping Chinese screens is livestream ecommerce. Livestreaming hit China with a vengeance in 2016, died down a little, evolved with some wacky iterations such as the real-time quiz fad, then came back bigger than ever last year, and has continued to soar since. In 2018, Taobao alone sold over $15 billion worth of goods through its 4,000 livestream hosts, up over 400% from a year earlier.
Top livestreamer’s annual sales now surpass that of large brands on ecommerce. In the last month, livestreamer Viya sold ¥353 million ($49.7 million) of goods in a single day, and Jiaqi Li sold ¥100 million ($14.2 million) of products sold within 6 minutes, with as many as 31 million concurrent users watching his five-hour livestream as he encouraged shoppers with his famous catchphrase “OMG! All ladies, buy it, buy it, buy it!” A little over a week later, Beijing urged livestream platforms to tighten content controls following his ‘mindless endorsements’ without trialling products or fact-checking claims.
Although short videos and livestreaming are very relevant for brands targeting younger Chinese consumers, they have really come into their own with this Monday’s 11th 11.11 (Singles’ Day) Festival. Arguably the most noticeable difference with this year’s shopping festival is the use of influencers on Douyin and livestreaming to stand out from the other 200,000 brands hoping to sell their wares.
Alibaba is using hashtag promotions on Douyin luring customers to buy more goods with coupons of up to ¥100 ($14). Similarly, Alibaba is hosting over 2,000 key opinion leaders on its platforms via livestreaming, allowing brands to showcase products and boost engagement with consumers. Alibaba has a lot riding on the streaming videos – and Taylor Swift – as it hopes to stave off online festival fatigue and show that Singles’ Day growth is defying China’s slowdown, in its first Singles’ Day without the big personality of Jack Ma at the helm.
Even after the buzz of Singles’ Day falls away for another year, brands who aren’t already, should be looking to short video and livestreaming as powerful channels to both sell products and build their brand awareness and trial. Whilst ROI can be tight, if skilfully executed, they can be used to convert curious audiences into loyal customers and advocates. Talk to China Skinny about how best to do that. If you’re participating in 11.11, all the best on Monday! Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.