Many people are convinced that influencers are not real professionals and that this new category of workers is essentially made up of comet stars that shine for a short time and then disappear into oblivion on the web.
But if you hope that e-commerce and influencers are destined to disappear, you might be disappointed.
Despite one of the most famous influencers in the world, Chiara Ferragni, is actually Italian, the idea that millions of people could go shopping thanks to the advice of an “influential” person and moreover during an online show, has not yet convinced everyone. Perhaps looking at what is happening in China – where 79% of the population is involved in online shopping – could change your mind.
Live streaming shopping, launched in China by e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com , exploded with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which consumers were forced to stay at home. Why? Buyers have grown tired of scrolling through endless pages full of photos of items to buy, they require a more interactive and engaging shopping experience. In fact, during a live streaming, in addition to watching, people can ask questions, chat with other participants and make purchases, all at the same time.
In recent years, Chinese brands have hired more and more influencers with a large social media follower base or professional sellers to promote their products via live streaming. As the streamer introduces the products, links to the products and vouchers appear on the screen to viewers. The country’s major online shopping platforms such as Taobao and its rival JD.com have both launched their own live streaming platforms, Taobao Live and JD Live, which have helped fuel the live streaming trend.
The key to a good live streaming shopping experience is a dynamic and engaging host. Cherie (朱 宸 慧), along with live streaming queen Viya and “the lipstick king” Lǐ Jiāqí (李加琦), are the most popular live streamers in China.
YiWu is the livestream hub in China
Becoming a successful livestreamer isn’t as easy as it sounds. Aspiring web celebrities gather in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, known as the “factory of China” – or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say “of the world” as the city produces 80% of the world’s Christmas decorations, as well as toys, jewelery, suitcases and all kinds of small objects.
In 2018, the city didn’t miss the chance given by the burgeoning live streaming industry and implemented a number of policies to support live streamers. It currently hosts 5,000 live streamers and 20,000 professionals in relevant industries. Two miles south of downtown Yiwu is Beixiazhu, a village dedicated to the live streaming business that has become the first stop for newcomers. A sign plastered on a wall at the entrance to the village reads: “The Chinese village famous for live streaming. A paradise for entrepreneurs, Beixiazhu welcomes you.”
If you are in Yiwu, your dream is to sell thousands of products in no time and become famous, but beware, almost 60% of live streaming hosts leave the industry after less than a year, forced to give up due to the fierce competition and of low incomes.
The livestreamer profession is officially recognized by the government
Live streaming has become so important in China that being a live streaming host is recognized by the government as an official occupation. Many local governments have run training courses to prepare livestreamers – who otherwise might not be recognized as skilled workers. According to a research report from Boss Hire, an online recruiting platform in China, more than 30% of live streamers in China have only high school graduation. Alibaba has also set up a temporary live-streaming training center in a city in Zhejiang province and plans to run similar programs in the future. Based on a program shared by the Yiwu Live Streaming School, it is a four days course of training and includes classes with titles such as “Shooting and Editing of Short Videos”, “How to Attract Fans to Douyin” and “Live Streaming Workshop.”
Singles’ Day is the most important day for a live streamer
Beginners and established live streamers alike need to give their best on “Singles’ Day,” the online shopping festival held on November 11th, started by Alibaba and quickly adopted by all platforms. The event brings tens of billions of dollars to Chinese e-commerce companies each year. What does it mean for a streamer? In the days leading up to the 2020 festival, live streamer Cherie hosted 24 live shows in preparation for November 11th. On the the big day’s eve, she hosted a nine-hour live show. Her work paid off: she was the champion of women’s clothing sales for Singles’ Day, outstripping big companies like Zara and Uniqlo in terms of sales. On the same day the livestream of the king of Lipstick, LijiaQi was seen by 154 million people, while Vinya got 131 million viewers.
Artificial intelligence has also landed in the livestream
Meanwhile, live streaming is racing towards the next frontier: artificial intelligence. AI live streamers – virtual characters using computer-generated voices and 3D graphics – now compete with humans.
During this year’s Signles day, several brands such as Philips, L’Oreal, Unilever and L’Occitane used virtual hosts to promote their products online around the clock.
AI-powered virtual hosts are making a foray into the industry as they offer a cost-effective alternative to hiring real people. According to a report from IDC, China’s smart app and AI software market reached US $ 2.89 billion last year.
As of today, the AI streamer market is still in its beginning, and many companies decide to use virtual characters that interact with human hosts, but for how long will this be true? We can’t wait to find out.