Mark Tanner
3 June 2020 0 Comments

On China’s popular reality TV show, You Who Came From Mobile Phones (Láizì shǒujī de nǐ) livestreaming Diva Viya was asked how much she earned. Her reply was “less than ¥10 billion ($1.4 billion).” Anyone who has been following the renaissance of livestreaming in China over the past 18-months – and particularly since the coronavirus outbreak – is likely to have shaken their head if she’d said anything that wasn’t in the billions.

On Singles’ Day alone last year Viya clocked ¥2.7 billion ($380 million) of sales. With a six-figure set-fee for a slot on her stream, and commission charges between 20-40%, it’s fair to say that Viya has a pretty good business at the moment. Not many people could attract over 4 million viewers to watch an hour-long Telsa test drive; and even fewer could sway more than 800 people to pay ¥500K ($71K) deposits for discounted rockets within 5 minutes. As China Skinny’s Andrew Atkinson noted this week, “is there a more powerful marketer than Viya on the planet at the moment?”

The success of livestreaming spans far beyond Viya and other big names like Austin Li, Mingzhu Dong and Yonghao Luo. Everyone from chefs broadcasting cooking lessons and farmers shifting their harvest, to shop attendants selling fashion and curators giving museum tours have jumped on the livestreaming craze. Just last week, JD entered a partnership with Kuaishao to ensure it maximises the livestreaming opportunity in the leadup to its 618 shopping festival. In the first three months of this year, more than 4 million commerce-enabled livestreaming sessions took place in China across various platforms.

Chinese cosmetics brand Forest Cabin did its bit to bolster those numbers. After the outbreak saw it temporarily close about half of its 337 brick and mortar stores in China – and very little footfall came to the stores remaining open – things were looking grim. Revenue dropped 90% and losses topped ¥30 million ($4.26 million) a month. As a matter of survival, the company embarked on a turnaround strategy, with livestreaming at its centre. Forest Cabin trained 1,600 shop attendants on how to host a livestream and were soon adding around 3,000 new loyalty members a day, up from their run rate of 800 to 1,000 people. The brand’s founder even hosted a two-hour session in front of 60,000 viewers, who collectively spent close to ¥400,000 ($56K) on camellia moisturising oil. Since the outbreak, the brand’s online sales have increased from 25% to 90% of revenue.

Whilst there are many success stories, livestreaming isn’t just a case of jumping in front of a smartphone and broadcasting on one of the numerous platforms, as home appliance giant Gree will tell you. It’s first livestreaming attempt grossed ¥230,000 ($32,268). But with some better planning and execution, its second session on Monday notched up sales of ¥1 billion ($140.2 million) in just three hours.

So what’s next for livestreaming? We may well see more virtual livestreaming stars such as Luo Tianyi, who charges close to ¥1 million just to show up – notably higher than all of the other livestreamers, including Viya! It’s also likely that livestreaming will expand abroad as Chinese platforms hope to emulate the success of Tiktok’s global expansion. Alibaba has already started its international recruitment drive, in which it hopes to lure over a million Insta and Tiktok influencers over the next three years to help attract users to the service. Whether you’re selling in China or beyond, it would be wise to be across this channel. China Skinny can assist you.

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