China’s imposition of $ 210 million in tax evasion fine on Viya, an internet celebrity dubbed “the queen of live streaming,” highlights how quickly the industry has grown to one of the most popular sales channels in the country in just a few short years.
Big Western brands from L’Oréal to Louis Vuitton hire streamers to help market products on China’s major e-commerce platforms, and analysts now describe it as essential to a brand’s strategy in the world’s second-largest economy .
Where it all started
The first company to combine online live streaming and shopping in China was the Taobao Marketplace of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which introduced Taobao Live in 2016.
The platform allows influencers to open their own live streaming channels on Taobao, where they can market a wide range of products, from cosmetics to clothing and snacks to cars. Viya even sold a rocket launching service for 40 million yuan ($ 6.3 million) last year.
The brands also host regular live broadcasts, usually anchored by staff or possibly lesser-known influencers, on their own self-managed online stores on Taobao and Tmall, another Alibaba market.
Why is it so popular
Anchors talk to online shoppers, answer questions about size, color and fit in real time, engage them with a chatty and informal approach, and also encourage quick shopping with discounts available for a limited time.
One big attraction is that it all happens on a single mobile app interface – buyers can watch, ask questions, and click to buy everything on the same page during the live stream.
Some prominent figures, especially top sellers like Viya and his main rival Li Jiaqi, have also become extremely popular as they are seen by consumers as a credible middleman after past product quality scandals and counterfeit products left their mark. many wary of brand claims. .
Top influencers are also developing their own popularity with buyers, as well as brands. Viya’s image became that of a reliable and friendly “sister”, while the excitement in Li Jiaqi’s slogan “Oh my god, buy it!”
According to consumers and brands, placing a product on their live broadcasts is considered a big vote of confidence in the quality.
Li has 47 million subscribers on his Taobao live broadcast room, and Viya, before his room closed, had more than 90 million subscribers.
How big is it in China
The pandemic has been a big boost to the live streaming industry, driving demand for online shopping and entertainment services. Beyond the big names, there are now thousands of live broadcast anchors operating in China. Last year, iiMedia Research said there are over 28,000 so-called multi-channel network agencies in China, each tending to manage multiple online influencers. Many e-commerce platforms, including ByteDance’s Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, Kuaishou, JD.com and Pinduoduo now offer their users the ability to shop through a livestream. Douyin is extremely popular and an avid Taobao rival on this front.
Host types also vary widely in China. From farmers to factory owners, government officials to heads of major Chinese companies such as travel giant Trip.com have all appeared on live streams selling produce.