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    Douyin’s playbook: How to crack the Chinese livesteam app

    Douyin is a crucial battleground for luxury brands trying to close the loop from buzz to sale. We break down the platform with case studies on brands like Loewe, Prada, Valentino and Burberry.
    Jing Daily
      Published   in Technology

    From luxury brands Gucci, Dior, and Louis Vuitton landing on Douyin, fast fashion retailer Zara introducing an innovative livestreaming format on the short video app, to Lululemon opening its official flagship store on the platform last week, TikTok’s counterpart in China is increasingly expanding its share of voice in the fashion industry.

    According to a Douyin sponsored luxury industry whitepaper released by Deloitte and Ocean Engine, in the first half of 2023, bimonthly luxury livestream sessions amassed 20 billion bimonthly views.

    The total GMV (gross merchandise value) of goods sold on Douyin grew more than 623 percent year on year in H1 2023.

    Given its content is mostly lighthearted short videos, Douyin’s e-commerce arm, launched in 2018, specialized in selling common goods at the lowest price at first, targeting impulse consumption. For instance, top KOL Crazy Little Brother Yang’s Douyin live broadcast attracted a huge following thanks to its massive discounts on everyday items.

    Luxury brands breaking in#

    But today the social tool is fast becoming a crucial battleground for luxury brands trying to coax consumers through the conversion funnel. Here we break down how to utilize the platform and introduce how brands like Loewe, Prada, Valentino and Burberry have used the influential app.

    In May 2021, Douyin (launched in 2016) e-commerce launched its luxury product category. The move visibly improved Douyin’s position in high-end retail, especially the beauty sector. In July 2022, Dior Beauty was the first foreign luxury brand to host a livestream session to sell cosmetics on Douyin.

    Douyin is fast becoming a crucial battleground for luxury brands, such as Prada, Valentino, and Burberry. Image: Prada
    Douyin is fast becoming a crucial battleground for luxury brands, such as Prada, Valentino, and Burberry. Image: Prada

    Testing the waters with beauty first#

    Douyin boasts a mature ecosystem of KOLs and user generated content. Countless beauty KOLs daily share their makeup tutorial, skincare routine, and product review, making Douyin a gateway for brands to market their beauty products and to sell them. Its powerful algorithm and data analysis enables brands to optimize the stickiness of its user community, as well as providing guidance for localized R&D and operations.

    Dior Beauty went on to partner with the platform four months later for a marketing event dubbed “Douyin E-commerce SuperBrand Opening Ceremony,” held to announce that it would be the first prestige beauty brand to join Douyin’s e-commerce platform.

    Luxury beauty brands including Guerlain, Helena Rubenstein, Lancôme, Estée Lauder, SK-II, Givenchy, then all rushed to enter Douyin e-commerce space.

    Dior is the first prestige beauty brand to join Douyin’s e-commerce platform. Image: Dior
    Dior is the first prestige beauty brand to join Douyin’s e-commerce platform. Image: Dior

    The beauty category can provide a springboard for luxury brands to test the water of new channels. Beauty’s lower entry price point and discounts allows them to reach a wider audience.

    From the users’ side, they are also hesitant to pay for high ticket items at the beginning. Instead, starting with affordable beauty products will make them get acquainted with the brand. After a few purchases with positive experiences, they will naturally trust the channel and make bigger purchases.

    How fashion followed#

    High-end fashion and luxury brands are more cautious when venturing into new platforms. At present, luxury fashion brands such as Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, and Tory Burch have opened their flagship stores on Douyin.

    Luxury’s cheaper sublines can be a springboard for maisons to test the waters in this unknown territory. For example, last year from July 28 to August 2, Versace held six livestream sessions on Douyin.

    Unlike other luxury brands which mainly used the feature to showcase the brand’s collection inspiration and style, Versace directly sold products during the livestreaming. However, it mainly sold Versace Jeans Couture, which is its subline, priced between $14-$140 (100 RMB - 1,000 RMB).

    This is Versace’s first livestream since it opened its official flagship store on Douyin e-commerce a year ago. The selection of products in the live broadcast room is more affordable than the products sold in the official Versace Douyin flagship store, which are priced between $65-$2160 (470 RMB-15,500 RMB), covering luxury handbags, shoes and some ready-to-wear.

    Versace Jeans Couture Spring Summer 2022. Image: Versace
    Versace Jeans Couture Spring Summer 2022. Image: Versace

    On Qixi, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day, Burberry participated in the Douyin e-commerce Super Brand Day event. Alongside its usual collection — men's ready-to-wear, women's ready-to-wear, bags, and accessories — it launched an exclusive gift box for the romantic occasion.

    For shoppers spending over 12,000 RMB on Burberry’s lady handbag on Douyin, the British house gives a lipstick; while purchasing a men’s handbag priced over (8,000 RMB) it gifted a perfume.

    Besides heavy discounts and affordable pricing, special edition gift boxes and presents are well received from Douyin’s users, who look for festivity inspirations to give to their partners during celebrations.

    Brand building for Gen Z#

    Traditionally, luxury brands’ livestreams on Douyin have been mostly limited to branding, messaging, publicity and showcasing. Houses used the platform to engage with a new community, deliver their messages, showcase their craftsmanship, and create viral moments.

    For instance, Gucci attempted to attract users with challenges, such as the Unexpected Style Leader and Gucci Eden Garden Challenge hashtag challenge and competitive campaign. The activation provided a playful approach to the app’s young users and through the resulting user generated content, brands can understand its image through Chinese users’ eyes.

    Gucci attempted to attract users with challenges, such as the Unexpected Style Leader and Gucci Eden Garden Challenge hashtag challenge and competitive campaign. Image: Gucci
    Gucci attempted to attract users with challenges, such as the Unexpected Style Leader and Gucci Eden Garden Challenge hashtag challenge and competitive campaign. Image: Gucci

    These campaigns were promotional and did not involve sales conversions, but they transmitted brands’ values and visions. Prada collaborated with Douyin to shoot a series of short films under the theme of ‘Beauty Has Power’, starring three members of the Chinese National Women’s Football team, in light of a shifting preference for sports athletes instead of idols.

    Spanish brand Loewe cleverly showcased the making of a bag in a series of fully immersive ASMR videos on Douyin, where viewers can only see the artisan’s craftsmanship,and hear the noise made during the making, no other sounds, voices, or explanation appear in the video.

    Sales conversion can be immediate, or not#

    In November 2023, luxury travel retailer DFS Hong Kong and Douyin Life Service staged a first livestream event for four days to introduce over 80 beauty products to Douyin users.

    Statistics show that 30 percent of the direct revenue generated in the first livestream event came from new customers, and the sales per visit from customers attracted by the livestream event were 88 percent more than those from new customers at offline stores. DFS’s move has unleashed a new clientele base willing to spend more on a debut livestream than in their duty free IRL stores. This shows the vast potential of the platform if the offering and execution is right.

    Due to the overwhelming response, DFS and Douyin Life Service have set their sights on a second collaborative beauty product livestream event on February 2-3, 2024.

    If some are welcoming immediate stellar sales results, others seem to be playing the long game with Douyin. Fast fashion company Zara took a more innovative approach than most brands with a concept that both enhanced brand image and introduced sales.

    The business adopted a glossy “see now, buy now” strategy for the slick production, which was shot with nine cameras. While watching the live broadcast, viewers could simultaneously place orders on Zara’s official Douyin flagship store. The retailer invited Chinese supermodel You Tianyi to host and model the brand’s latest Fall/Winter collection - and the livestream session gained close to one million cumulative views, though sales were reportedly low.

    Zara’s concept was novel as the video scenes included behind and in front of the runway, and the entire process of models walking on the show, changing makeup, and photographers shooting were streamed, offering behind-the-scenes access to a runway.

    In terms of transactions, the ROI (return on investment) wasn’t outstanding. According to estimates by industry insiders, the total investment was about $140,000 (1 million RMB), and recorded GMV was $35,000-$70,000 (250,000-500,000 RMB).

    However, Zara has successfully built a presence on Douyin and elevated its brand image through the broadcast. Recently, the company has been subtly undergoing a premiumization process - and luxury brands can even take note of this retailer’s smart strategy.

    New critical functions to use#

    Recently, Douyin tested a new “worth watching” (值得看看) function. To find out a product’s hyperlink, users simply pause any Douyin video, and the information appears on the screen, directing them to the item’s purchase page. The goal is to improve the user experience and achieve closed-loop transactions within the site.

    This new feature helps brands to sell to users a wider range of offerings compared to their best-selling hero products. By creating fashionable and interesting content they can inspire shoppers to buy the item.

    Recently, Douyin tested a new “worth watching” (值得看看) function. Image: Douyin
    Recently, Douyin tested a new “worth watching” (值得看看) function. Image: Douyin

    Capturing a new category clients on Douyin#

    Shoppers on Douyin show different preferences from those on Tmall. Since launching in January this year, sales at Lululemon’s official flagship Douyin store have topped 18,000 pieces. Notably, the best performing product is not Lululemon’s iconic Align yoga pants, but the Groove ultra-high-waisted bell-bottom pants. This was attributed to Lululemon’s content co-creation with renowned local yoga and pilates trainers each providing a detailed explanation of each of its yoga suits and what fits best for different scenarios.

    On Tmall, yoga pants account for six of Lululemon’s 10 best-sellers, but on Douyin except for Groove, there are no other yoga pants on the store's top 10 list. Instead sports jackets, down jackets, sweatshirts, and hoodies rank high. Because of their new strategy, Lululemon has reached new consumers on the short video app, broadening its audience while also expanding the brand's market influence.

    Rising social media platforms, such as Douyin, Xiaohongshu and Bilibili have gradually cultivated different content ecosystems and e-commerce models. Ultimately they are attracting different users and consumers. Only by being present on these emerging channels and developing appropriate strategies for each channel brands can attempt to fire up another growth engine.


    - Douyin, TikTok’s counterpart in China, is increasingly expanding its share of voice in the fashion industry. In the first half of 2023, bimonthly luxury livestream sessions amassed 20 billion bimonthly views.

    - In July 2022, Dior Beauty was the first foreign luxury brand to host a livestream session to sell cosmetics on Douyin. The beauty category can provide a springboard for luxury brands to test the water of new channels.

    - Luxury fashion brands such as Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, and Tory Burch have opened their flagship stores on Douyin. Luxury’s cheaper sublines can be a springboard for maisons to test the waters in this unknown territory.

    - Besides heavy discounts and affordable pricing, special edition gift boxes and presents are well received from Douyin’s users, who look for festivity inspirations to give to their partners during celebrations.

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