Businesses and social activities have moved from offline to online as COVID-19 keeps most of us at home (OK, all of us). As the world’s largest online market, China seems to have turned the at-home-quarantine time into business opportunities through live streaming. The different online live streaming apps and platforms not only create an alternative way for marketers to engage with their customers but are also help businesses to close more deals than ever imagined.
Data from iiMedia Research (2019) shows that the Chinese online live streaming population has already reached over 500 million in 2019, with an annual growth rate of 10.6%. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, online live streaming went further became people’s go-to option for social, entertainment, and shopping for discounts.
It is undoubtedly that live-streaming platforms have become one of the most important (if not the MOST important) marketing channels today for both B2B and B2C brands to reach their target customers.
In this article, you’ll learn:
1. Top 20 live streaming channels in China
2. 3 different types of live-streaming platforms and their differences
3. The live-streaming platform(s) you need to know as a marketer
Top 20 Live Streaminging Platforms
To make it easy to understand, I like to categorize these lives streaming platforms into 3 types by their purposes. However, they are by no means the official or the only way to categorize the 500+ live streaming platforms.
Three types of live streaming platforms
- Social & Entertainment: live streaming platforms that are built-in social media app, short video apps, and live event streaming apps such as live sports, concerts, gaming. They are most often used by the general public, KOLs (influencers), and celebrities.
- E-commerce: live streaming platforms that are built-in e-commerce apps such as Taobao and JD. Theses platforms usually used by brand owners and certified KOLs to promote and sell products.
- B2B: B2B live streaming platforms are mostly used by business organizations or schools for both internal training and external brand promotions.
We’ll tap into the 3 different types to tell you their differences and the platforms you need to know as marketers.
1. Social & entertainment
This is probably the most common type of live streaming platform among all three categories. But there are only 2 of them you need to know-- Douyin and Kuaishou.
As one of the earliest live-streaming platforms, Douyin is the most popular short video app in China with over 400 million DAU (daily active users) in 2019. In China, 80% of netizens have Douyin installed on their smartphone.
What makes Douyin an attractive platform for live streaming is its large traffic and the strong engagement between users and the KOL or celebrities. Fans interact with their idols by asking personal questions, sending “likes” and purchasing virtual gifts, such as “balloons” and “rocket”, which can be converted into “sound wave” and cashed out.
At the best times, top-level KOLs/celebrities can generate over 1 million RMB (140,000 USD) during one live streaming show (usually around 3-5 hrs) just by receiving gifts alone. Crazy right?
So how could brands leverage douyin live streaming?
Brands can promote their brands and sell products by partnering with selected KOLs.
During the important sales events such as new product launch, online shopping festivals, or seasonal sales, a lot of marketers will promote their products and sell them through KOLs live streaming on douyin.
As return, KOLs gets commission+ partnership fee, the commission-driven model also gives KOL motivation to sell hard for you.
One recent successful douyin live streaming case is a Xiaomi x Yonghao Luo, who is a knowledge-sharing KOL and an entrepreneur. During Yonghao's first live streaming show on douyin, he attracted more than 48 million users and generated 170 million RMB revenue for brands.
So, what does it mean for you as marketers?
If you pick the right KOLs that can generate much higher ROIs and increased brand awareness, you might achieve the sales goal for the whole year in just 1 live stream show.
Another advantage of Douyin live streaming is that the product link can be directly linked to the live streaming so the audience can just click and buy without switching to other e-commerce platforms.
However, the platform has become very competitive with more celebrities joined live streaming to compete for traffic, unless you partner with the top-level KOLs or celebrities, the traffic is hard to guarantee.
Besides Douyin, there is another live-streaming platform called Kuaishou, which is quite similar to douyin despite that it is targeting at users in lower-tier cities. Kaichou rose to fame thanks to the growing digitalization among the suburban and village population.
Kuaishou’s advantage as a marketing tool comes in its strong community affinity. Live streaming KOLs and their fans call each other “Laotie”, which means buddy.
If you have a product that’s targeting at lower-tier city consumers in China, you might consider Kuaishou.
As the largest E-commerce platform in China, Taobao also has the most live streaming users among all other live streaming platforms. In 2020, Taobao has over 800 million users, which is over HALF of the Chinese population. Because of its large user base, Taobao naturally became the biggest and most popular live streaming platform for e-commerce consumers and brands.
Different from other social live streaming platforms where everyone can start live streaming, Taobao only allows the certified KOLs and Taobao shop owners who met certain requirements to sell through live streaming.
But there are other ways you can do it without having a Taobao or T-mall shop.
Generally, there are 3 ways you can sell through live streaming on Taobao:
Live streaming through your own Taobao or T-mall shop – This is the most common and cost-effective way to live streaming on Taobao because you don’t need to pay for anyone to sell for you. Of course, you need to have your own verified Taobao shop or T-mall store to be able to use this function.
Sell through KOLs—If you don’t have any existing followers you can sell to or want some extra traffic boost before important online sales event, consider collaborating with Taobao KOLs, they will help bringing considerable traffic to your store. To make KOL collaboration easier for T-mall brand owners, Taobao even has its own KOL management platform called “Ali V-task”, which allows brand to select KOLs based on their audience demographics, past sales data and price.
Affiliate shops—“What if I don’t even have a shop on Taobao, how can I leverage Taobao live streaming?” you ask. The answer is—through affiliate shops. There are many Taobao shop owners sell products they brought from oversea and resell them on Taobao, we call them “daigou“. Brand can partner with these shop owners and sell through their Taobao shop. This approach is best for small business owners who want to test the market before opening their own e-commerce shop in China. But be aware of shop credit score, you want to partner with those who only sell the authentic products or you will put your brand image in jeopardy.
What makes Taobao a good live streaming platform?
Taobao is a sole e-commerce platform, people who come to Taobao are ready to shop, which makes the conversion rate higher and more stable than other types of platforms. According to Alibaba’s annual report, the average conversion rate of Taobao live streaming is 65% in 2019.
Besides, Taobao’s big data and complete in-app ecosystem made it easy for marketers to do targeted promotion by showing their products and live streaming to only those who recently visited your shop or browsed similar products.
One successful KOL live streaming campaign on Taobao is Loreal’s collaboration with the NO.1 KOL on Taobao—Jiaqi Li. During the first 5 minutes of the show, he already sold 15,000 lipsticks. This record-breaking live streaming show also made him the Guinness record keeper for wearing the most lipsticks in 5 minutes.
The success of Taobao live streaming also attracted many international brands to try out the new format, including Kim Kardashian who promoted her perfume line through partnering with KOL during the double 11 online festival last year.
The show was hosted by Viya, another top-level Taobao KOL who has 17.5 million subscribers on her channel.
The result? 6,000 bottles of perfume sold during the first 30 seconds of the show.
Just recently, Viya also unprecedentedly sold rocket launch services for 400 million RMB.
So, be creative and think out of the box, who knows what you can sell and how much you can achieve through Taobao live streaming?
Besides Taobao, another e-commerce platform— “Xiaohongshu” is also a popular platform for live streaming. Red is a community-based cross-border e-commerce platform for women’s beauty and fashion.
The platform has over 300 million users, 85% of them are female with majority live in tier-1 cities or abroad. These women have strong purchasing power and enjoy shopping for oversea products.
Because of the unique user base, Red attracted a lot of cross-border and luxury brands to join its platform.
One recent successful Red live streaming campaign is Givenchy’s collaboration with several fashion KOLs to introduce its new clothing line. During the live streaming show, Givenchy attracted 5 times more users to follow its Red e-commerce shop. Besides Givenchy, other luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany all got their foot in Red and promoted their products through KOL live streaming.
Comparing to Taobao, Red has a more niched user base and a lower entry barrier for foreign brands to open a store. Well, at least for now.
Traditionally, live streaming is only used mainly in B2C marketers to sell tangible products to the end consumers. However, as the live streaming trends grew strong after COVID-19, we see more B2B marketers are trying this new format of marketing as an alternative to offline customer engagement.
Even though there are multiple platforms used by B2B for live streaming, a majority of them are used for internal purposes such as staff meetings and training.
There is only one major streaming platform you need to know as B2B marketers—WeChat.
With 1.1 billion users, WeChat is the largest social media app in China. WeChat’s strong social feature also made it a great live-streaming platform for marketers.
What makes WeChat a great tool for B2B marketing is that it is an “all-in-one” platform that combines instant messaging, social and live streaming features. As an open platform, WeChat also allows other live streaming platforms to be integrated onto the app through its mini-programs, which is a mini-application built within the WeChat platform.
In addition, WeChat is a closed social ecosystem, which means from invitation to follow up, every step is done through WeChat. This allows you to easily track who attended your live streaming session and follow up.
Let me tell you an example of how it works through my personal experience.
I recently attended a WeChat live streaming session organized by a B2B brand.
Firstly I was invited to a WeChat group with other 100+ WeChat users who are from the same industry as I am in. Of course, I would click “accept the invitation”, to see who else are in the group chat.
Once I am added to the WeChat Group chat, the company organizer shared the relevant details about the live streaming session including date and topic. Because the topics are interesting and relevant to my business, I also shared the live streaming posters to my coworkers who are also interested and joined the group chat.
By the day of the live streaming session, there are already 300+ people in the group chat!
After the live streaming, the brand further uses the group chat as a lead nurturing tool for sharing useful resources and WeChat articles.
You see how B2B brands can leverage WeChat as a great marketing tool?
WeChat is also great for B2C and e-commerce brands as it is directly linked to its in-app WeChat store. But due to the length of the article, I’ll cover this topic in future blogs.
There are plenty of live streaming platforms in China, and the best platform for you heavily depends on your audience and marketing goals.
Choosing a right channel is just the first step, a successful live streaming also requires a lot of strategic planning including KOL selection, pre-show promotion and post-show follow up. We'll share more case studies in the future posts.