Brandstorm is a monthly series featuring the most notable names in the worlds of fashion, beauty, and retail in China. From edgy streetwear brands to top influencers, these are the names on everyone’s lips.
In China, livestreaming has fast become a lucrative business, with an estimated market worth of over 66 billion USD. Countless hopeful content creators are jostling to stand out in this increasingly competitive industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to bolster livestream ecommerce, as it became one of the most popular ways for people to shop from home. On platforms like T-Mall and Taobao, streamers push everything from luxury handbags, fresh produce, to deeds to a house. It takes a certain type of person to truly make a name for themselves in the industry.
Li Jiaqi and Viya have managed to do just that, and have been lovingly crowned the king and queen of Chinese livestreaming.
“Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!” is a phrase that you will most likely hear when watching Li Jiaqi’s livestreams.
Known as the “Lipstick King,” Li is the top salesman of beauty products in China. The 27-year-old’s specialty is luxury lipsticks (hence the nickname), once selling a whopping 15,000 tubes in just five minutes.
With over 40 million fans on Douyin (China’s TikTok) and millions more on other platforms, Li’s reach is huge. However, it’s perhaps his approach to selling products that allows him to stand out from the crowd. Li walks the line between influencer and salesperson, while his grounded personality has captured the hearts of fans. By presenting himself as a friend, he sells in a way that doesn’t seem forceful whilst helping people navigate the maze of merchandise available by offering his own personal opinions. On China’s Q&A platform, Zhihu, one fan wrote “I haven’t bought any of the things he recommended, but ever since I first saw his videos, he’s always come off as a very sincere person.”
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Li is also known for his speed and stamina when it comes to trying on lip products — which has earned him the nickname “Iron Lips.” He is able to showcase hundreds of different lipsticks in seven or eight hour-long livestreams, and he once tested 380 lipsticks during a seven-hour livestream. His skills have even nabbed him a Guinness World Record for “most lipstick applications to models in 30 seconds” – with him managing to put lipstick on four separate models in that time.
The “Livestream Queen,” to Li Jiaqi’s “Lipstick King” is Viya Huang. She can truly sell anything — last April she sold a rocket launcher for 5.6 million USD. If that’s not impressive enough, audience views of her daily shopping livestreams have reached 37 million — more than the viewership for Game of Thrones, The Bachelor and Breaking Bad finales combined.
Her livestream record breaking streak has been out of this world. In October 2020, she set a new record: 49.7 million USD in sales in a single day. She has consistently been ranked as Taobao’s top seller, and has collaborated with numerous celebrities to drive sales on Alibaba’s ecommerce platform, T-Mall. Last year, ahead of China’s 11.11 shopping holiday, Viya virtually collaborated with Taylor Swift; in 2019, she hosted a similar livestream featuring Kim Kardashian. Together they managed to sell out 15,000 bottles of Kim’s KKW beauty perfume in minutes.
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Huang hosts a daily livestreaming show described by Bloomberg as “part variety show, part infomercial, part group chat,” which garners millions of views from loyal fans. Fans praise her easy-going and personable nature; she’s able to interact with anyone in a genuine way, from celebrities, to her assistants and fans, which has built her reputation for approachability. Viewers feel as though they’re listening to a friend rather than a salesperson.
Furthermore, all the products Huang sells undergo a rigorous filtering process to ensure customers get the best quality items available. She spends about four hours a day testing products that are to be featured on her shows, and has a dedicated team that curates products sent to her. Viya said, “I position myself as someone who helps the customer make a decision – I need to think about their needs.”
The industry’s growth shows no signs of slowing down and the pandemic has only served to bring it further into the mainstream.
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The model is similar to TV shopping channels in the US, however the Chinese version is distinctly more creative, entertaining and modern. The following that livestreamers cultivate and the interactions between them and their fans have grown the industry immensely during a time when human contact is limited — in March of 2020, over 560 million people in China watched shopping livestreams and nearly half used livestreaming as their primary way of online shopping.
This interactive element is a key component in the success of the industry. Whatever question a participant has can be answered immediately by the livestream host, and shows up in the chat for everyone else, so other viewers can bounce off each other’s questions and gain insights from other customers.
These interactions often lead to communities forming around livestream sessions, and livestreamers are able to build up a loyal audience who attend each of their events. Top viewers will even help out their favorite streamers, answering questions that new viewers may have and sharing their personal experiences.
Many large companies have capitalized on this trend, with Alibaba leading the way with its platform Taobao Live. Douyin and Little Red Book were quick to follow and have become popular platforms for influencers. The push from big brands is also causing growth, as they see livestreaming as a way to connect with consumers in lower-tier Chinese cities.
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With livestreaming’s annual growth rate reaching 119% and the market size increasing from 19.46 billion RMB (2017) to 456.12 billion RMB in only the first half of 2020, it is safe to say that 2021 will see another year of exponential growth, with more companies and brands hopping on board the livestream train and the King and Queen front and center.
Viya is already proving just how versatile she is, having expanded her brand into selling physical products by launching a food company with her husband Dong Haifeng at the beginning of 2021. Li Jiaqi, on the other hand, has just made the 2021 TIME 100 Next list alongside Dua Lipa and Doja Cat, as one of the “100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future.”
With China on the brink of becoming the first country in the world to have the majority of its retail sales made online, Viya and Li Jiaqi have firmly taken the reins as leaders in the industry.
Cover image via DepositPhotos, Weibo
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