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Does Angelababy’s Poor Ecommerce Livestream Debut Mean Consumers are Losing Interest?

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On July 18, actress and influencer Angelababy held her first livestream vending show on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, becoming the latest star to hop on the ecommerce livestreaming trend in China. But has her appearance also coincided with waning interest in such stunts?

Angelababy’s 5-hour vending stream reached 26 million viewers and hit 12.15 million RMB (about 1.8 million USD) in sales. Those may seem like huge numbers, but considering the superstar’s 40 million Douyin followers and 103 million Weibo followers, the results were viewed as underwhelming.

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Livestream vending in China is the marketing method of the moment, in which online celebrities sell partnered products and offer special deals. Amid China’s recovering economy, livestreaming has gone from novel marketing trend to necessity. Quarantines shut out China’s already dwindling brick and mortar retail sector and livestream numbers went up as people scrolled on their phones in bed. 

In the past, influencers like “lipstick king” Li Jiaqi have routinely sold millions of dollars worth of products in single streams. But now, they’re increasingly joined by well-known names from other industries trying their hand at such livestreams. Even international politicians have joined the fray to kickstart consumption. 

Although Angelababy has livestreamed before, this was her first time entering the crucial ecommerce arena of Douyin. Against a backdrop of virality and constant one-upping, Angelababy’s relatively modest numbers during her ecommerce livestream debut have drawn scrutiny.

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For comparison, Luo Yonghao, a heavily-memed smartphone CEO who promised to crush Apple before he was put onto a “deadbeat blacklist,” made his livestream debut to 48 million viewers, drawing over 100 million RMB in sales during the first two hours (about 14 million USD).

But Angelababy isn’t the only one struggling with potential ecommerce livestream fatigued viewers. A recent livestreaming collaboration between celebrity Xiao Shenyang and a baijiu company resulted in only 20 units of sales — of which 16 units were returned the next day. Similarly, when actress Ye Yiqian livestreamed to sell a 200RMB (about 30USD) tea set, she had 900,000 viewers — but total sales didn’t exceed 2,000RMB. 

It’d be foolish to write the trend off of course, but after all the hype, livestream vending is still largely uncharted territory and carries accompanying risks. And even with the raw power of one of China’s biggest celebrities behind you, it seems sales aren’t guaranteed.

Lakshmi Iyengar
    Lakshmi Iyengar is a Yenching Scholar studying health, economics, and modern China. Before moving to Beijing, she majored in Biomedical Engineering at Yale. Follow her on twitter @vlakshmiiyengar for insights on China and life