Are Kuaishou’s Luxury Ambitions a Pipe Dream?

    While Kuaishou is making strides in areas such as e-commerce, there are signs that the platform may not quite be ready for its big luxury moment. 
    Coach was able to sidestep long-lasting brand damage though decisive crisis management. Photo: Shutterstock
      Published   in Finance

    With a 578 million-strong monthly active user base and nearly $40 billion in revenue as of the fourth quarter of 2021, short video platform Kuaishou is steadily attracting the attention of global brands interested in tapping China’s inland and lower-tier urban consumers. But while the platform is making strides in areas such as e-commerce and boasts impressive stickiness – users spend an average of 119 minutes on the app per day – there are signs that Kuaishou may not quite be ready for its big luxury moment.

    While many luxury brands have focused on platforms like Douyin (TikTok’s China market sibling) or invested in program sponsorships on iQiyi or Tencent Video over the past couple of years, Coach recently gave Kuaishou a shot, launching an official channel on the platform earlier this year and experimenting with a series of e-commerce livestreaming broadcasts in April. Yet Coach’s livestreaming debut was reportedly something of a flop, with its first live broadcast racking up 86,000 views but dropping to around 20,000 on the second and third days, with the number of simultaneous viewers occasionally hovering around the triple digits.

    Coach’s failure to attract strong (for a platform of Kuaishou’s size) viewership stirred debate among Chinese netizens, some of whom remarked that consumers seemed more interested in buying from livestreaming e-commerce stars like Li Jiaqi than from the brand itself. This could point to a mismatch between the individuals Coach hopes to sell to on Kuaishou and the viewership it actually attracted. While Coach does have a presence in some lower-tier Chinese cities such as Baoji, Baotou, and Daqing, it is only in the last year that the brand has announced plans to more aggressively expand in these markets. (Which are home to many of Kuaishou’s users.)

    Posts on Coach's Kuaishou account range from a few hundred likes to more than 10,000.
    Posts on Coach's Kuaishou account range from a few hundred likes to more than 10,000.

    Compared to other platforms like Douyin and Dewu (Poizon) – both of which Coach actively joined in 2021 – Kuaishou is relatively untested as a luxury e-commerce player. For its part, Coach looks to be experimenting with different price-points for different platforms to see what works best where. According to Sohu, Coach products on Kuaishou range from 545 yuan-5,950 yuan ($82-$900), with products maxing out far lower than on Coach’s official Tmall flagship (450 yuan-22,000 yuan ($68-$3,329)) or the brand’s Douyin sales channel (357 yuan-17,500 yuan ($54-$2,648)).

    So far, Coach seems to be having good luck with Douyin, which maintains a primary user base in the first- and second-tier cities favored by most global luxury brands. Unlike its Kuaishou account, which launched with relatively little fanfare, Coach promoted its Douyin account with pop-up stores and high-priced limited-edition products available only on Douyin. It is not impossible that Coach may try the same thing to boost audience interest in its Kuaishou account and attract more viewers for upcoming broadcasts.

    In addition to a vast and captive audience, Kuaishou is shaping up to be a leader in medium-form video, a somewhat newer area dominated by Bytedance’s Xigua Video and Bilibili that offers room for experimentation in terms of brand sponsorships, product placement, and other content-commerce opportunities. With Bilibili in freefall over the past year and hit hard by Beijing’s ongoing crackdowns on the entertainment and gaming segments, there is room in the market for Kuaishou to see success in its medium-form video effort, provided it can attract influential creators, offer compelling programming, and entice the right brands to advertise or sponsor new programs. The big question raised by Coach’s Kuaishou gamble is whether – or when – the platform could live up to its e-commerce potential.

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