This past Saturday, Magic Johnson joined a special livestreaming session hosted by Alibaba to unveil new skincare products from Uncle Bud’s. The legendary basketball player and entrepreneur is an ambassador for the American hemp and CBD brand as it prepares to enter China through Alibaba’s Tmall Global cross-border platform. Johnson, along with Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, is part of a group of mega-celebrities who joined the Tmall Global influencer program’s “Walk of Fame” this 11.11.
Since its launch last year, the influencer incubator has attracted more than 6,000 Chinese and international key opinion leaders. And this group of live content creators has worked with over 4,000 international brands from 50 countries to accelerate their growth in China.
To find out more about China’s booming influencer economy, Alizila interviewed Gillian Lang and her livestreaming partner Alec Lu as they prepared to connect virtually with Magic Johnson.
The Power of KOL Livestreamers
Lang is an expert in imported beauty brands with two million subscribers on China’s largest e-commerce marketplace, Taobao, and over 910,000 followers on Weibo, a popular social media channel in China that is similar to Twitter.
“I started 12 years ago on Taobao, selling mainly skincare products and makeup from overseas. Last year, I turned to livestreaming because I saw how fast it was growing,” said Lang.
With more than 14 years of living and working abroad, influencers like Lang are the ideal opinion leaders for introducing different lifestyles around the world and quality imports to China’s burgeoning, young middle class. She draws inspiration from popular makeup artists like Jeffree Star and foreign influencers on YouTube and Instagram. At a time when boutique imports were scarce in China, followers flocked to her as an authentic source for buying niche and trendy products.
“My biggest audience is between the age of 18 to 24, they want to get everything that appears in my pictures or social media posts right away, from clothes and iPhone cases to my two cats’ pet foods. So I thought it would be really great if I can bring these products to my livestreaming channel,” Lang said.
According to Alibaba, China’s young Millennials and Gen Z’s are more willing to purchase through livestreaming because it offers instant gratification. In fact, this group of consumers was responsible for buying half of the products sold through Alibaba’s livestreaming channel during the first sales period of this year’s 11.11.
Influencers Love Boutique Brands
Lang is the type of influencer Tmall Global is trying to incubate. The program plans to onboard 10,000 influencers worldwide over a five-year period. Candidates are selected based on several criteria, such as their level of influence, field of expertise and brand power.
In the past, the program has successfully paired international celebrities with professional live hosts in China to drive brand awareness and growth. Trailblazers like Kim Kardashian West and Victoria Beckman have raked in millions of views and have sold out products from their namesake brands within minutes during their livestreaming debuts.
“Brands can consider us as assistants in department stores. We tell consumers about the benefits of their products, how to use them, offering shoppers competitive deals. But the process is not one to one – it is one to a million,” explained Lu.
By working on Tmall Global, hosts also enjoy higher profiles and recognition, as well as better access to international brands in Alibaba’s digital ecosystem. The partnership works both ways, with Lang and her co-host identifying new and niche brands based on fans’ feedback for the platform to pursue.
Empowering Influencers to Serve Consumers
To create better synergies between influencers, brands and consumers, the company set up a special division, similar to a KOL agency, to offer everything from matchmaking services, content collaboration, marketing support and supply-chain solutions.
In fact, Lang and her team are also leveraging Alibaba’s international supply chain to shorten delivery time for their customers.
“Tmall Global is the ideal partner and destination for me with its wide selection of overseas products. Most of the brands I sell are starting to open their own Tmall Global stores so it’s very convenient for us to sell their stocks directly through the platform,” Lang said.
As a result, consumers can get the same quality products delivered from overseas brand, as fast as one to two working days.
“I don’t have to worry about stocking up, warehousing or cross-border shipping. This is a much better experience for everyone,” Lang said.