Livestreaming became a big part of this year’s Singles’ Day, China’s biggest shopping event. And hosts spared no effort to attract shoppers.
Livestreaming finally stepped into the spotlight this year during China’s Singles’ Day, the world’s largest shopping festival that takes place annually on Nov. 11.
Consumers have increasingly turned to these live broadcasts to see demonstrations of products after the Covid-19 pandemic limited their ability to shop in person.
On one channel during the festival, a knife salesman filmed himself forging cutlery in what looked to be an old blacksmith workshop. On another channel, a young woman displaying a clothing line changed outfits on camera, briefly appearing in her underwear before her virtual audience.
Livestreaming became a pivotal retail channel this Singles’ Day as hosts peddled everything from bags of sweet potatoes to $28 million Cartier necklaces. Unique personalities and visuals are just some of the aids used to draw in consumers and get them to part with their hard-earned money.
When Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post, which owns Goldthread, kicked off Singles’ Day presales on Oct. 21, Taobao Live saw transactions hit $7.5 billion in the first 30 minutes.
The platform said livestreaming sales reflected a 400% increase from a year ago.
Keeping shoppers glued to their screens requires a lot of creativity. Stay-at-home shoppers now look to livestreams for both product recommendations and entertainment—what has been dubbed in the industry as “shoppertainment.”
This has increased the pressure on hosts, who have to find new ways to draw in viewers.
On one channel, an elderly woman made gigantic pancakes for hours to showcase her company’s corn starch.
Another channel just focused the camera on a large room where women quietly sewed quilts.
Other hosts have sought more hi-tech solutions to virtually connect with shoppers this year.
A refrigerator seller named Rongshen created a virtual 3-D room that allowed viewers to get a feel for how the refrigerator might look in a kitchen.
And Pico, a company that makes virtual reality headsets, showed off its Neo 2 headset by livestreaming from inside a VR video game.
Despite its continued popularity, the livestreaming market has been plagued by fraudulent claims and counterfeit goods. This led some hosts to turn to various antics to try to put shoppers’ minds at ease.
People tuning into a Taobao Live broadcast for bunk beds might have wound up watching 20 men standing on a bed to test its strength.
On a channel selling pearls, hosts cracked open oysters on camera to try to show they were not selling cheap plastic imitations.
One sure way to avoid scams is buying directly from a brand’s official store. Cartier showed its jewelry on Taobao for the first time this year. Flight attendants from Hainan Airlines promoted flexible flight packages on the travel booking app Fliggy, another platform owned by Alibaba.
Within two hours, the number of people who had bought travel packages was enough to fill 100 airplanes, Alibaba said.
Selling through livestreaming is still a lot of work, and the rapid rise in the medium’s popularity has meant that there are not enough hosts to hawk everything that needs hawking.
“There is a huge shortage of anchors and livestreaming talents in China in general right now,” says Ashley Dudarenok, founder of the social media agency Alarice and marketing training company ChoZan.
All the big names in China’s e-commerce industry—including Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo—have launched initiatives to train livestreamers.
But with platforms and individual brands racing to get their own talent, it’s further contributed to a global shortage of talent, Dudarenok says.
Adapted from an article first published in the South China Morning Post.