Want to understand more about the “live” selling strategies that have made their way to North America and Europe from China? This post takes a close look at that, as well as discusses how China has recently become known for exciting marketing innovations that have the potential to rocket your brand to the next level.
For thousands of years, China has had a history of technological innovation. It is responsible for a number of world-changing inventions including, paper making, movable type printing, gunpowder, the compass, and alcohol.
However, in the last several decades, China had reached the point where as recently as 2014, the Harvard Business review had written an article titled, Why China Can’t Innovate. The article hinted at problems with the Chinese educational system, as well as the government’s inability to protect intellectual rights, and the fact that Chinese start-ups were being founded by engineers, not designers or artists.
A lot has certainly changed since 2014.
China Has Flipped the Script
Chinese technology had become known for copying Western merchandise then turning around and producing it at incredible scale, and at a price that made it hard for the world to compete with.
However, in very short order, China has pivoted and has now transitioned into a tech super power. One surprising reason that this happened had nothing to do with market changes or economic theory. The Chinese government itself was determined to change the way that the world viewed their technological capabilities. They wanted to be known as more than clever, cost-conscious duplicators.
Because of that, over time, China’s government reportedly “encouraged” landlords and developers to terminate the leases of businesses that produced predictable merchandise, and to welcome companies that promised to innovate.
One of the best examples of a forward-thinking Chinese business is DJI, a Shenzhen-based startup that dominates the private drone industry. DJI controls nearly three-quarters of the consumer drone market, with approximately 80% of its sales coming from outside China.
But, now China has taken their innovation in a completely different direction, and has given us a glimpse of what the future of world-wide shopping might look like.
The Gamification of E-Commerce
Chinese e-commerce pros have made huge advances in the “gamification” of purchases. After taking part in virtual exhibitions and performances, shoppers can seamlessly make their purchases on the platform itself through branded games and quizzes that blur the line between commerce and game play.
Shein, the Chinese fast fashion retailer founded in 2008, is well versed in this exciting new form of e-commerce, and recently passed Zara and is fast approaching H&M as one of the world’s biggest fashion brands. Shein is known for its viral social media tactics, including a strong video presence on both TikTok and YouTube.
JD.com is a Chinese e-commerce company headquartered in Beijing that has invested in high tech and AI delivery through drones, autonomous technology and robots. Both JD.com and Nike have incorporated virtual try-on features such as AI and AR, which highlight additional ways that a shopping trip has more similarities with a video game than a trip to a brick and mortar store.
Don’t like the idea of balancing awkwardly one one leg in a tiny changing room? Snapchat users can now try on clothing and accessories virtually with technology that responds to your own specific physical dimensions.
For the last several years, China has also been behind the surge of selling through livestream events. It’s like the Home Shopping Network on steroids, but with hip, media-savvy (usually younger) influencers.
Livestream Video 101
With livestream selling, a host demonstrates a product in a live online video either through a social media platform, or direct video calls with groups of customers.
In addition to prospective customers being able to “shop” (watch the feed) from wherever they want, they can interact with the personalities in real time, and seek the answers to any questions they might have. Then, they can make their purchase directly from the livestream platform.
According to Forbes, over 30% of China’s population viewed e-commerce livestreams in 2020, which gives us a pretty clear idea of what’s in store in the near future for U.S.-based commerce.
KOL’s are Influencing China’s Purchases
Chinese livestream hosts are known as KOL’s (key opinion leaders), and the platform has made them extremely popular, well-paid celebrities. The KOLs collaborate with many fast fashion and luxury fashion brands as an integral part of marketing campaigns. As with the “influencer marketing” that has become an important part of contemporary marketing strategy, the KOLs then turn around and spread the brand’s message to their own audience and followers.
Top influencers star on their own shows that sometimes last three to four hours. Instead of the pre-negotiated fee that traditional influencers are offered, in addition to an “appearance fee,” Chinese KOLs frequently receive a percentage of the sales that are made during the livestream itself.
In the last year, there has been a lot of talk about the gradual move throughout global e-commerce from Kardashian-sized influencers to what are referred to as “micro influencers.” Even though their number of followers are but a tiny fraction of mega influencers, they are not only more affordable, their conversion rate is also significantly higher.
TikTok Has Made a Believer out of Walmart
Last year, TikTok announced a new partnership to assist US merchants with advertising on the app, giving them access to core functions of the TikTok For Business Ads Manager without requiring them to leave their own business platform.
TikTok says that, “TikTok For Business is where you can unleash your brand’s creative side. A fully immersive no judgement world where there’s an audience for every voice.”
From their own e-commerce platforms, merchants can create and manage TikTok campaigns, using features like the video app’s creative tools and one-click Ads Pixel. This allows brands both big and small to be able to engage with users who are at the forefront of the latest marketing trends.
Walmart Chief Marketing Officer William White informed Business Insider, “We’re excited that we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this innovation in a shoppable live stream – a first on TikTok in the US.”
Amazon’s Own “Live” Feature is Catching Fire
Amazon says that its Live feature allows sellers to, “Engage with shoppers in real-time and drive sales with interactive livestreams.”
Using Amazon Live, sellers can bring products to life by featuring them in their product carousel. To engage with their audience during the streams, sellers can take advantage of features such as:
- Product highlighting,
- Live promotions
- Interactive chat
To help brands and influencers create, capture and manage livestreams, Amazon has also launched the Amazon Live Creator app.
Grow Your Following with Amazon’s Help
Here is Amazon’s checklist for brands and influencers as well as an overview of the levels attainable for brands participating in the program.
- Work to level up. When you meet the requirements to increase your Amazon Live level, you can unlock more benefits – including additional placements for your livestreams on Amazon.com. As an Insider, you are eligible to appear on product detail pages of products featured in your livestreams. At A-List, you are eligible to appear on the Amazon.com home page.
- Share tune-in posts on social media and other marketing channels. Let your audience know when you are going live. You can get a shareable link for your livestream or channel in the app. If you’re an influencer, you can also share your storefront link. On Instagram, remember to tag @amazonlive for a chance to get reposted on the Amazon Live story and gain followers who already follow Amazon Live.
- Verbally remind viewers to follow you. For example, “Remember to follow me for more content like this.” Followers are eligible to get notified from the Amazon mobile shopping app when you go live.
- Create custom overlays during your stream. For example, “Unmute to hear tips”, “Follow to stay connected”, or “Shop all items below.” You can add these while using broadcasting software.
- Use special deals to incentivize your audience. Add value to shoppers by surfacing promo codes in your livestreams on products you are featuring. If you’re a brand, consider creating live-only deals that are showcased exclusively during a livestream.
- Ask viewers what they want to see. During your livestream, ask viewers about what they want to see from your future livestreams. For a brand, this could be showcasing different scenarios of how your products can be used. For an influencer, this could be featuring different brands or specific products. You can also ask your audience in other places where you engage with them, like on social media.
- Pay attention to follow notifications in chat. When a viewer follows you during your livestream, you will see a notification in the chat. Make sure to thank new followers and encourage others to do the same if they haven’t already. Remind viewers that followers are eligible to get notified from the Amazon mobile shopping app when you go live.
Broadcasting Your First Livestream
Live video gives you a way to bring your product to life and engage with shoppers. When you go live, your stream will appear automatically on your influencer storefront and on the Amazon Live home page. Through the Amazon Influencer Program, you’ll also earn commissions from all qualifying purchases of products you feature in your livestream.
There are many different broadcast software options available for streaming video. Amazon recommends the following settings when setting-up a livestream.
- Video Resolution: 1280×720
- AVC Level: 31
- Keyframe Interval: 2 (Amazon does not support keyframe intervals greater than 4 seconds)
If you are just getting started and choosing a broadcast software to learn with, Amazon has singled out OBS Studio as a great choice. It is a free, open source broadcasting software that you can download.
Change Can Be Good
One of the most surprising results of recent e-commerce polling has been that the average age of both buyers and sellers is much younger than marketing experts had realized. That’s why now might be a great time to try livestream strategies to connect with that demographic.
The months we’ve all spent cooped up inside as we navigate our recent global challenges has significantly increased our screen time. One possible upside has been that it has helped make us more aware of the new ways that shoppers are interacting with sellers, and ultimately making their purchases.
Might be an ideal time to try a little livestream. After the year(s) we’ve had, more connection is probably a good thing.
The CANOPY Management ‘Tribe’ is a team founded by top Amazon professionals, multi-million dollar sellers, and award winning e-commerce experts. When you’re with Canopy you’re more than a client, you’re a partner.