Although customers are resisting viewing adverts, they’re voluntarily signing up to watch live streaming channels that advise them what to buy. It’s a huge new trend, particularly in Asia. Customers are watching other people shop and talk about their purchases, and they’re looking for ways to make the same purchases through the same online streaming experience.
China is the largest market for online broadcasts. According to Deloitte, live streaming revenue in 2018 is expected to reach $4.4 billion – up 32 per cent from last year. Many luxury brands like Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors have cashed in on people’s interests in livestreams in recent years. However, live streaming has not yet been established as a consistent revenue channel for many brands.
Some brands have found live streaming a very accessible way to penetrate China’s somewhat intimidating market or at least test the market.
Live streamers who are located outside China seem to have a particular authority for those still based in the country, so working with a Chinese expat to create a livestream can be a straightforward way to reach China’s market without actually going there.
Engaging someone with a Chinese background also helps you overcome any language difficulties when connecting with this audience.
A plethora of platforms
China offers many different live streaming platforms and major eCommerce platforms such as Tmall and Taobao also offer live streaming facilities. This type of content offers audiences real, intimate exposure to products along with an engaging experience as a charismatic presenter talks them through product benefits and features.
The experience is immersive and helps educate consumers about how to use products – it’s a highly popular way to shop for beauty products and treatments.
Luxury brands are also experimenting with live streaming to offer the in-depth product knowledge they excel at and really showcase their excellence. Major brands including the UK-based Burberry have participated in live streaming events on eCommerce platforms, including Tmall, to bring the fashion show atmosphere and buzz to a wider online audience.
But it’s tough for luxury brands to cede control; something that’s necessary when content goes out live and through the intermediary of celebrities and other influencers.
China’s consumers are evolving fast in terms of their sophistication and that evolution is built on their exposure to influencers who reach out using channels such as live streaming to engage followers with lifestyle advice.
Fitness, beauty and fashion are popular categories for live streaming audiences, as well as cooking. Live streaming offers close up and intimate engagement with audiences, and it’s a good way to get closer to customers and understand what they value (or dislike) about your products and brand.
China’s consumers are not just knowledge-hungry, they are also discerning about what they buy and what it says about them. They’re looking for consumer insights and live streamers tend to be good at delivering the advice and leadership they crave.
But consumers are also wary. Livestreamers also help them identify the real value of goods by essentially providing an in-depth review of items. This can help consumers decide whether a product is worth buying or not.
The counterfeit concern
Luxury brands always need to be on the lookout for ways to combat counterfeiting – and battling the counterfeiters is an exhausting task. Unfortunately, live streaming does give opportunities to counterfeiters.
Tiktok, the wildly popular music clips platform known as Douyin in China, seems to be a particular hotbed. Typically the clip makers will promote counterfeit goods using video on major retail holidays when viewers are already primed to buy. They’ll use live streamers to send traffic to their sales channel.
It works because it’s harder for platforms such as Tiktok to monitor – you need to actually view the livestream to see the content. After the initial sales rush, the counterfeiters can then remove the content which infringes on copyright and platform rules. Things move fast and are extremely hard to monitor, no matter how motivated the platform is to act.
Brands can fight back by monitoring live streaming channels during key sales periods in particular. If counterfeit activity is identified, brands can then act fast to get content taken down.
It’s a good idea to have at least one account purely for monitoring purposes. If you set this up to follow the type of content where counterfeiting is most likely to popup, this will help you identify malpractice and act on it right away.
Brands can also fight imitators by having their own authenticated presence on these kinds of channels, which gives audiences a legitimate place to go to for real brand exposure.
Using live streaming
If you think live streaming could be a way for your brand to engage a new audience, there are several things to consider. Firstly, don’t just wade in unprepared. Like any type of campaign, you need to plan ahead and consider your strategy and objectives. Don’t just grab the live streamer with the largest following.
It’s important to consider who their followers are and what their screen style is like to decide whether they are a good fit and can offer a return on investment. Live streaming platforms really vary a lot in terms of gender balance. If your brand is aimed at one gender in particular, you’ll want to consider which ones you’re featured on.
There are legal hurdles to overcome. In theory, foreigners can’t live stream in China but there are ways around that and it’s possible to use sponsored influencers as intermediaries. You can’t host live streams without a license and platforms are obliged to censor content as well as user comments. Already the regulations are being tightened and more could be in the pipeline.
The ‘ideal’ live stream is surprisingly long. In a world where attention spans are getting shorter and content generally needs to be brief and punchy, this can be counterintuitive. It’s tough to stay engaging for at least 30 minutes.
You also need to build up to the event itself to prepare viewers for what’s to come. Once the live stream event is over, you’ll need to post the video of the event so it’s available on-demand. All-in-all, live streaming is not as casual and breezy as the average host would like you to believe!