The much-hyped social commerce platform Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) has been reportedly suspended from the Android store since yesterday, July 29. A search for the app on the Android Store indicates that its “temporarily not available,” though it’s still accessible on the Apple store.
A spokesperson from Red responded that they are actively investigating the issue and that current Red users are not affected. The news spread like wildfire on Weibo, with over 900,000 discussions. Many netizens were not surprised and criticized the platform for being poorly managed and stuffed with fake reviews and paid ads. Some also complained that the quality of the posts has gone down since its launch.
Little Red Book, founded in 2013, is a social media and e-commerce platform that has become a popular app for sharing product reviews and purchasing cross-border goods. The platform grew quickly, and within six years, it had 200 million monthly active users. It’s currently in talks to secure $500 million in additional funding. To tighten its quality control issues, Red has undergone a series of content control measures. This past January, it launched its “brand partner platform,” which insisted on KOLs clearly labeling their sponsored posts. In May, it overhauled its entire KOL ecosystem and in the process wiped out over 13,000 KOLs who had under 5,000 followers. However, in June, officials from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a warning to Red about soliciting consumers’ information.
Under pressure from investors, the platform seems to be caught between trying to expand while trying to keep content quality high. To date, many luxury brands are taking a wait-and-see approach towards the platform despite its popularity. “We are still watching how the platform grows and whether the demographic fits our targeted consumers,” said an anonymous New York-based executive in charge of U.S.-based luxury brands in the China market. Additionally, some brands have questioned the ROI in terms of actual sales because Red is largely a platform where consumers write and read reviews — not a literal sales site like the traditional e-commerce platforms Tmall and JD.com.
Still, many luxury brands, especially high-end beauty brands, have set up official account profile pages on the site, though for now, they’re mainly for sponsored KOL posts. Most noticeably, French fashion house Louis Vuitton was an early adopter of the platform, inviting the Chinese influencer Mr. Bags to review its bags for their first post. To date, however, most other luxury brands have yet to post anything. Perhaps once Red solves its current platform issues, things will change.