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Livestreaming-business boon for users

By Xu Haoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-06 09:24
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Huang Wei (left), better known as Viya, sells dried persimmon during a livestream in Shanxi province to help increase local farm incomes. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

China's shift to e-commerce has allowed some entrepreneurs and celebrities to cash in, Xu Haoyu reports.

Last year in her livestreaming room, Huang Wei (better known as Viya) single-handedly sold 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) worth of products. That is about equal to the annual China sales of chain supermarket Carrefour. It was only the third year that Huang began selling products via livestreaming.

Born in 1985 in Anhui province, Huang is one of the top e-commerce livestreaming anchors on Chinese online shopping platform Taobao.

Huang, who had been a singer, started business in a 6-square-meter clothing shop at a wholesale market in Beijing, together with her husband, in 2003. They later moved to Xi'an and eventually opened seven shops, thanks to their strong sense of fashion trends.

Things changed when Huang met a girl who opened the Taobao app to shop online for a better deal after fitting at Viya's shop.

"At first I felt mad, but I realized right away that she made a wise move," Huang says.

Huang soon closed all offline shops and switched her focus to online sales. As she recalls, it was not easy at all. They sold two of their houses to repay a debt of 2 million yuan in the first year, but they were persistent.

In May 2016, Huang began testing the waters in livestreaming, a new format provided by Taobao to sell products to audiences through real-time interaction. To differentiate herself from competitors, Huang chose to sell in a wide range of categories, including not only clothing and makeup products, but also food, home appliances and daily necessities. She gradually developed her store into a "one-stop solution" for many shoppers who admired her taste and trusted her to supply products for all aspect of their lives.

As Huang's popularity grew and more customers adopted livestreaming as a channel to make purchases, it appears that there was nothing Huang couldn't sell-she sold 430,000 kilograms of rice in 1 minute, 814 houses in 20 minutes, and even a rocket-launching service that's worth 40 million yuan.

"Some would say I'm good at selling everything, but I can't take the credit," Huang says. "E-commerce livestreaming is affecting everyone's consumption habits and some traditional offline industries are now trying to transform."

Huang is also using her skills to help others. In 2019, she began traveling to various underprivileged areas including Yunnan, Anhui, Qinghai and Henan provinces, promoting special local products through over 50 livestreams. She generated more than 530 million yuan in sales.

Just a couple weeks ago, Huang was elected to the 13th committee of the All-China Youth Federation.

"It couldn't be more reasonable for the representatives of a new industry to become youth committee members," commented CCTV presenter Bai Yansong. "It's only weird if such a thing didn't happen. The new format meets social demand and it has gradually become part of everyday life."

In a report released by Taobao, livestreaming is considered a must-have distribution channel for merchants. Taobao Live contributed to the most significant increase: 5.1 billion yuan sales were made through livestreaming on the first day of the June 18 shopping festival this year.

Luo Yonghao, founder of technology company Smartisan, went on air on the short video and livestreaming platform Douyin for the first time on April 1. That day, he achieved over 110 million yuan in turnover.

"E-commerce livestreaming has redefined the relationship between people and products and consumption," economist Wu Xiaobo wrote in his blog. "It puts people first, promoting the circulation efficiency of products and creating a consumption occasion. Consumers' trust in products is subtly replaced by their trust in people."

Star anchors

"In the past four years, livestreaming e-commerce has just grown from a child to a teenager," Huang says. "It's experiencing a spring when all flowers bloom together."

A vast variety of people are rushing into the industry. During the June 18 shopping festival, more than 300 celebrities, 600 entrepreneurs, county governors and judges joined livestreaming on Taobao.

When celebrities showed up on the livestreams, average viewings increased by 343 percent, and the average subscription growth was 670 percent, according to Taobao.

VIP Shop, an online outlet in China, invited singing stars Xue Zhiqian and Deng Ziqi to join the livestreaming during the June event. Xue's fans contributed to 50 percent of the cart clicks and Deng helped the brand gain more than 120,000 new fans through the livestream.

Competitors are also trying to keep up. Taobao has established partnerships with many celebrities from different fields in the last year. So are another two popular short video and livestreaming platforms, Kuaishou and Douyin. Professional anchors now often invite celebrities as guest hosts to gather more public attention.

However, celebrity cachet does not always guarantee purchases.

Nice, an institution developing and managing e-commerce livestreaming anchors based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, took second place on the list of top institutions based on total turnover made through livestreaming during Taobao's June event.

According to Zhang Dandan, the company's vice-president, celebrities always get the best responses at the first appearance at their individual livestreams. But then, all the data including the sales volume and view begins to flop until reaching a stable stage at about their fifth or 10th time livestreaming. Zhang claims it takes a period for consumers to realize whether the anchor is promoting quality products that meet their needs.

According to an August monthly sales ranking released by e-commerce research institutions, Huang made an industry-leading turnover of 2.46 billion yuan. Li Jiaqi, who took second place, sold 1.3 billion yuan worth of products.

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