Livestreaming a huge boost for China's economic rebound

By Jorge Holloway
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 4, 2020
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A woman sells clothes through the live webcast platform of Taobao at Zhili town of Huzhou, east China's Zhejiang province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's annual online shopping spree known as "Single's Day" is fast approaching, which means a huge commercial boom for e-commerce in the country. Ranging from established giants such as Alibaba which can rake in as much as $30 billion, to independent small businesses which cater for China's complex and diverse niche youth markets, trading on Nov. 11 dwarfs sales from Black Friday in the U.S. by an order of magnitude. Technology is playing a significant role in accelerating this annual shopping frenzy, with the phenomenon of livestreamers helping to drive sales.

Livestreamers internationally are becoming household names, and in China this system can both advertise and facilitate growth for e-commerce businesses via convenient in-app infrastructure and influencer-specific discount codes. In the West, the term influencer is used increasingly as marketing jargon evolves to keep up with the world of Instagram and TikTok. 

Well-known livestreaming hosts are classified as influencers when they possess a large following and have the power to affect purchasing decisions through their vast number of followers. This may be due to their authority, knowledge of the product or relationship that they may have with their audience. This factor cannot be understated, and the fact that young people tend to follow both trends and trendsetters underpins this force driving sales. 

The reason why livestreamers are so powerful and contribute toward the success of events such as Single's Day is because these influencers are not just mere marketing tools. Technology has made advertising much more personal, and so the relationships these hosts maintain with their audiences means they may be seen more as assets for brands to capitalize on. 

The accessibility of livestreaming has also created a large number of diverse livestreamers, each with their own distinct niche. Smartphone ownership in China reached 96% in 2018 according to a survey by Deloitte. As such, anyone can turn on their phone, talk about their interests and develop a following which can then be marketed. Whether you are a company selling gym equipment for women in their 20s or fishing equipment for middle-aged men, chances are there will be a livestreamer who will have access to your chosen market. 

This phenomenon has been acknowledged in China on a national level. Back in May, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security added "livestreaming host" to a list of officially recognized professions. The hope is that new job opportunities may emerge in an economy which has been hit by the pandemic. 

How long this can be sustained for, however, remains to be seen. Early adopters of this trend were able to achieve strong results with quite amateurish production due to the novelty of livestreaming. Nowadays, however, competition is high. Studio-grade equipment, lighting teams and professional editors helping to polish influencers' messages are commonplace. Paradoxically, pumping money into the streaming industry may in fact result in it losing its appeal, as streaming shows become more and more like generic television adverts. 

To continue growing into an industry which can support jobs as streaming hosts, influencers must be wary of over-polished commercial images and losing their intimate relationship with their followers. An investment into streamlining app infrastructure to help deepen the bonds between streamers and followers may be a better method of strengthening the industry's contribution towards China's economic rebound. 

Live chat options, strong 5G internet connections for seamless shows, giveaways and other creative interaction options are additional ways in which China's livestreaming market can grow to sustain vast sums during events such as Single's Day for years to come. 

Jorge Holloway is a global technology and business commentator based in London, initially specializing in start-ups and technology PR.

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