Live-Streaming Goes Mainstream in China as Two-Thirds of Beauty Brands Sign On

    A new report by L2 finds that China's massive live-streaming boom offers brands a direct line to tech-savvy millennial consumers.
    A screenshot of actor Shawn Dou promoting a live-stream event on Alibaba's Tmall for beauty brand Origins.
    Liz FloraAuthor
      Published   in Technology

    As China’s online live-streaming platforms have seen record levels of engagement in the past year, beauty brands have been quick to adopt them in order to reach Chinese consumers—especially millennials.

    According to a newly released report by L2 on the rise of live-streaming as a marketing tool in China, around two-thirds of global cosmetics brands now utilize it on one or more of the 31 most prominent live-streaming platforms in China. With popularity largely driven by celebrities and key opinion leaders (KOLs), live-streaming can be especially useful when famous brand ambassadors serve as hosts to the online events.

    While popular live-streaming apps like Meipai and Yizhibo are used by many beauty companies for marketing in China, Alibaba’s Tmall is the dominant channel they’re using. A total of 49 percent of beauty brands have live-streamed on Tmall between April and October 2016, followed by the e-commerce giant’s Taobao with 35 percent. The combination of e-commerce with live-streaming makes Alibaba’s platforms more popular than fourth-place Meipai with 21 percent and Yizhibo at 19 percent.

    According to the report, the ascent of Tmall’s live-streaming operation has been rapid as brands have jumped onboard—an average of 733,000 users engaged per live-stream event September, a number that skyrocketed to 4.7 million in October as Singles’ Day approached and Tmall held a live-streamed fashion show with “see now, buy now” capabilities to promote the online shopping bonanza. Beauty brands were heavily active in the event, such as L’Oreal, which used pop star Li Yuchun to attract over 21 million viewers.

    The variety of platforms available means that many beauty brands are logging on to multiple live-streaming apps, with 49 percent broadcasting on between one and three, while 14 percent use between four and six.

    Millennials are a key target through live-streaming, as they “crave interactive, real-time, and reality content,” according to the report. Chinese millennial KOLs can be especially valuable for brands, such as the outspoken vlogger Papi Jiang. When she appeared on a live-stream event for Chinese brand MG on Tmall, she was able to net 10.5 million interactions.

    Celebrities and KOLs are a crucial way to maximize engagement, with celebrity promotions attracting an average of 4 million viewers per event and KOL live-streamed videos luring 1.4 million, while those featuring neither only get about 400,000. As an example, the report highlights a campaign by Origins on Tmall for Singles’ Day, which featured actor Shawn Dou (窦骁) and received 817,000 likes. The brands promoted the live-streamed event ahead of time on Weibo by keeping his identity a secret and asking users to guess who the “mystery guest” would be. Those who guessed correctly were entered to win free products, while Dou promoted the event to his own massive fan base. The brand also advertised that participants in the live-stream could win prizes if they shared their travel stories.

    The case study was used to show that in order to be successful, a live-streamed video shouldn’t be a one-off event that’s separate from a brand's other marketing efforts. Rather, the report recommends that a live-streamed show should be one part of a larger campaign, and promoted beforehand with a strong communication strategy across multiple platforms. In addition, celebrity or KOL ambassadors should be chosen wisely—while they can receive up to eight times the engagement of a regular live-stream, it’s important for brands to choose hosts that appeal to the their specific audience or the target demographic they're trying to reach.

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