Live-streaming in China and the Dream of Changing Life

China is leading the world in using live-streaming to grab consumers’ attention to e-commerce platforms. Numerous KOLs have earned significant income. This leads to many Chinese’s desire to become wealthy in the blink of an eye. But it requires plenty of improvements to be able to stand firm in the world of live-streaming.

Livestreaming is constantly evolving in China

One of the online ways to properly approach the audience is live-streaming. In Western countries, a large proportion of live-streaming platforms are about such entertainment programs as movies and games. Chinese audiences, in the meanwhile, see live-streaming as a means to look for goods and make purchase decisions.

According to a report conducted by Deloitte, China has the largest live-streaming market in the world, reaching $4.4 billion in 2018 with an annual growth rate of 32%. The number of live-stream viewers was 456 million this year.

Livestreaming is the predominant channel for key opinion leaders – KOLs (or wanghong in Chinese) to engage with their audience in China. Live viewers can raise questions about the products and give comments to the streamers. They can even send virtual presents as a sign of high appreciation while watching the live-stream.

For many people in general and Chinese in particular, this is an opportunity to significantly increase sales. They can furthermore gain upward social mobility, become incredibly wealthy and move ascendingly in the social class.

According to a report published by Momo, there had been more than 425 million live-streamers in China by the middle of 2019. And the Northeast region accounted for the highest proportion. Momo is a free social search and instant messaging mobile app.

And this “pie” is getting bigger and bigger.

Outstanding successes

In November 2019, Xin Ba, a Chinese live-streamer, put 42.5 million sets of Whoo skincare products on sale in 5 minutes on Kuaishou. He earned 400 million yuan (57 million USD) during the most remarkable shopping event of the year. Kuaishou is a favoured video-sharing app in China.

Xin Youzhi, a 30-year-old Chinese streamer, is reported to pay 70 million yuan for his marriage ceremony with another famous influencer, Chu Ruixue. Their wedding was held at a stadium. During a live-stream after the special event, the newlyweds succeeded in selling products whose total value exceeded 70 million yuan. This amount made up half of the cost of the wedding.

Xin Youzhi was born in Northeast China. The region is also known as Dongbei in Chinese. It corresponds to the three provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. People living in Dongbei are well known for their skilful conversations. They are the pioneering fast-talkers who can influence or persuade shoppers by fluent and facile talk.

Mr Hao Wu is the director of a 2018 documentary on Chinese live-streamers “People’s Republic of Desire”. He pointed out that people from Dongbei are more outgoing about their ability to make comedies in advertising. This sort of advertising gains the attention and favour of audiences across the country, including those who live in the South.

At a conference in Beijing on December 17, 2019, Wang Yulin, CEO of Mockuai, said that for Kuaishou accounts with more than 1 million followers, the volume of transactions in the past 11 months increased by 9 times. While for accounts which have at least 200,000 followers, this number was even higher: 34 times. Mockuai, a live streaming and short videos e-commerce and supply chain platform, is a partner of Kuaishou.

Obstacles to career success

With these amazing results, live-streaming is booming in China. Even smaller brands seek help from KOLs. But there are certain difficulties. The industry is utterly overwhelmed by the big names and is in urgent need of increasing professionalism.

About a year ago, videos could easily grab viewers’ attention and a single individual could be completely successful. But now that person needs much help from a backstage team to create hot videos, said Kelvin Zhao. Zhao has 4 years of experience working for a leading Chinese content creation firm.

“For each individual, the heyday has come to an end.”, Zhao said. He also emphasized that the expense of creating a qualified live-stream video is equal to or higher than that of making a live broadcast movie. “It will be more difficult to stay outstanding, but not impossible. However, it requires a larger amount of investment in your products.”

Currently, there are over 5,000 advertising firms that are the owners of multi-channel networking systems. Their main job is to link Internet celebrities with brands. Sometimes these firms collaborate with the content production department. The information is cited from a research carried out by TopKlout, a third-party data monitoring agency for media value ranking and copyright brokerage management.

A partner in Oliver Wyman’s Retail & Consumer Goods practice based in Hong Kong, Pedro Yip, noted that an intermedium could earn between 10 to 25 per cent of revenue as commission, including a portion to pay the Internet celebrities. He added: “KOLs’ earnings are dependent on their fame and popularity in the market.”

Does live-streaming stand as an everlasting career?

Is live-streaming a permanent job? Even for those who have a steady position, occupation insecurity remains comparatively high.

It has been five years since the aforenamed documentary director, Wao Hu, started to follow a number of streamers to proceed and finish his documentary. He revealed that their income witnessed few changes. However, the number of followers almost reached a constant level due to the emergence and appeal of younger platforms. For example Tik Tok (or Douyin), a video-sharing social networking service.

Wu added: “They all have a contingency plan. But normally none of them reaches the college level. Moreover, they do not have deep social knowledge. Thus, it is really hard for them to open and run a business in reality. They used to invest their capital in bars, restaurants, but the achieved results were not as expected.”

Even a successful celebrity on Kuaishou, Xin Ba, whose account gets nearly 34.7 million followers, is aware that live-streaming is not an everlasting job. “I need to further improve myself to attract more followers. I will try to grow my own supply chain besides.” He spoke at a shopping festival on December 12, 2019. However, he declined questions about his personal life.

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