Tmall Live-Stream Campaign Gives Chinese Shoppers Virtual U.S. Shopping Trip

    GNC, Macy's, and others team up with Tmall to engage with consumers in China in real-time for a live-stream event highlighting American brands on Independence Day.
    A screenshot of a video highlighting Tmall's live stream events directed at Chinese consumers.
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Technology

    Live-streaming has China's internet users hooked, with broadcasts spanning everything from celebrities at Cannes Film Festival to wannabe chefs. While it's not uncommon for brands to team up with Chinese KOLs for endorsements in order to reach mainland consumers, Alibaba recently cut to the chase by using the app to bring viewers straight into their stores halfway around the world.

    On July 4 and 5, sports nutrition seller GNC, retailing giant Macy's, children's vitamins brand ChildLife and supplement companies Puritan's Pride and Nature's Bounty teamed up with Alibaba's e-commerce site Tmall to host live-streaming events so that Chinese consumers could learn about their products without ever having to leave the comfort of their home, much less hop on a plane to head to the United States.

    GNC, which has five stores in China, said exposure to Chinese customers in this way was “critical” in terms of reaching more clients.

    “It helps us interact with our users directly and discover potential shoppers by ‘bringing’ them into our stores in the U.S. and educating them about our products,” Leo Liu, GNC’s brand manager in China, said. GNC reached 122,000 Chinese consumers through its live-streaming event on Tmall's mobile app, in which a Chinese-speaking host took viewers on a tour of their store in Pittsburgh. The host walked viewers through the company's products and history, and also showed them how to purchase their supplements, protein powders, and other goods online.

    Consumers are often concerned about the quality and safety of goods bought in China and thus demand luxury and food products from foreign brands, which in part prompted Alibaba and its competitor to introduce cross-border e-commerce channels in 2014 and 2015. Tmall Global essentially lets customers shop as if they were abroad, but its live-streaming campaign gave fans another layer of peace of mind that what they were buying was indeed real. GNC offering this security to customers was especially imperative at a time when many Chinese consumers are stocking up on vitamins and health supplements on their trips abroad as healthy and active lifestyles rise in importance in China.

    Macy's, which sells officially through Tmall Global in China, also used live-streaming to give about 100,000 Chinese consumers a look at its flagship store in Manhattan. During the tour, a Chinese-speaking host not only gave guests an overview of the store's brands and products, but also took viewers outdoors on a short walk around the surrounding shopping area. In another layer of engagement, Macy's offered viewers coupons of the items showcased in the livestream, which they could then use when purchasing them on Tmall. Viewers also had a chance to win prizes if they could correctly predict which brands the department store would feature in their live-stream event.

    The other brands that participated in the Tmall event did similar tours, except the videos were prepared beforehand instead of hosted live. They offered their Chinese viewers insight on Independence Day in the United States by showing clips of various parades in different cities, but it was the live-streaming that gave brands the opportunity for not only real-time engagement, but an extra layer of interaction with their customers that could likely be the next best thing to face-to-face communication.

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