Livestreaming has become the norm for e-commerce in China. In the fiscal year ended March 31, 2020, the gross merchandise volume generated from Alibaba Group’s Taobao Live platform grew by over 100% year-over-year.
To decipher how exactly livestreaming works and how international brands can best leverage it to stay top-of-mind for Chinese consumers, especially in the wake of offline disruptions caused by Covid-19, Alibaba hosted an online demo and panel discussion featuring livestreaming experts and representatives from brands that have found streaming success.
Below are some key takeaways from the event.
“Livestreaming allows you to sell anything, from wine to travel services, street food to real estate, from anywhere, anytime,” said Zoe Zhang, co-founder of NYC-based livestreaming consulting company And Luxe.
To prove her point, Zhang and her business partner, Mark Yuan, turned on their Taobao Live app at Ba&sh’s Manhattan flagship store on Madison Avenue and started to showcase items from the brand. Within minutes, the livestreamed session attracted 7,000 viewers and 55,000 likes. Zhang received real-time comments on products and even order requests from viewers. To make the experience more engaging, she also started a lucky draw to send discount coupons to viewers.
According to Yuan, the interactive nature of livestreaming allows customers to make product inquiries instantaneously, which in turn helps brands increase conversions compared to traditional e-commerce. For brands, the tool is also valuable since the direct feedback from customers can inform their future merchandising.
Since entering China through Tmall two years ago, Michigan-based floor-care brand Bissell has leveraged livestreaming to learn about and build its presence in the market with minimum investments.
While the brand hosted livestreams with high-profile Key Opinion Leaders during major campaigns, such as its first 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, it learned that hosting regular broadcasts – focusing on product functions and customers’ questions – through its Tmall store was the best way to strengthen consumer relationships on a day-to-day basis.
By testing different livestreaming tactics, Bissell gained valuable insight into its most-engaged consumers and was able to target them with promotions or help address their specific queries about products.
“We can introduce new products, we can talk about different features, optimize the brand story,” said Max Bissell, director of Bissell. “That’s really been a powerful aspect for us. It can also be done on a shoestring budget.”
For British tea, coffee and cocoa house Whittard of Chelsea, livestreaming helped seed brand awareness among potential consumers across different sectors. According to Lexie Morris, Whittard of Chelsea’s general manager of China, the brand tested different formats of livestreaming, including a collaboration with top-tier livestreamer Viya. The wide consumer outreach through these sessions allowed the brand to learn that the bestsellers in its home market were not the same as its top-sellers in China. “We did a lot of that testing to see what products worked, which ties into knowing your customer. Test, test, and test again,” Morris said.
When asked if the livestreaming-commerce model could work outside of China, Yuan and Bissell both agreed that the online tool merits global application, especially against the backdrop of digital acceleration triggered by Covid-19
They highlighted the importance of integrating e-commerce infrastructure, such as shopping pages and online payment functions, into the livestreaming experience. Such integrations remove friction in the discovery and shopping journey, making it a more effective tool to drive sales.
Click here to watch a playback of the discussion.