In contrast to the fast-paced dialogue and heavy promotions associated with livestreaming sales, rising hosts Teresa Cheung and Dong Jie achieved success by engaging customers via a more subtle and refined approach.
“The reason the brand put this color ‘Vermeer’ in this Renaissance-themed eyeshadow palette, even though Johannes Vermeer is not officially part of the Renaissance movement, may be a nod to the painter’s majestic use of light. That is the common ground he shared with other Renaissance masters,” said Teresa Cheung, a Hong Kong socialite and beauty influencer, as she dipped a brush into the light pink shade from Anastasia Beverly Hills’ “Modern Renaissance” eyeshadow palette and swatched the color on her inner wrist.
It may sound like an art history class, but it was in fact Cheung’s Xiaohongshu livestreaming sales debut on May 22.
She went on to introduce the eyeshadow palette by explaining the meaning of each color’s name — including “Buon Fresco,” “Primavera,” and “Tempera” — through art and culture references.
For the color “Love Letter,” she read aloud an excerpt from the love poem “A Valediction of the Book,” by English poet John Donne. “It is simply too beautiful, I want to share it with you,” said Cheung.
Cheung’s session was slow-placed and flowed gently like a cultural show, a style dubbed “quiet selling” or “slow selling.” According to official Xiaohongshu data, the six-hour-long livestreaming debut generated nearly 1 million views and over 50 million RMB ($7 million) in sales.
Quiet selling is China’s answer to the global rise of quiet luxury. A renowned luxury and beauty columnist and blogger, Cheung is a mix of Gwyneth Paltrow and “Carrie Bradshaw” from Sex and the City, famous for both her Goop-ish curated lifestyle and Carrie-like shopping addiction.
“Even before going into the livestreaming industry, Teresa Cheung was already a top voice in beauty and fashion because of her extravagant lifestyle and the exquisite taste she shows on social media. People see her as the embodiment of real old-money taste,” says Zhuang Jun, a brand consultant at Shanghai-based advertising agency OneClap.
Li Jiaqi, China’s most famous livestreaming host, had set the industry standard with his adrenaline-fueled, intense hard-selling style. He deployed signature catchphrases, like “1,2,3, grab the link!” and “Oh my God! Go buy it now,” to spark excitement and urgency and to turn the livestreaming sales sessions into nighttime spectacles that attract tens of millions of views.
Juxtaposing Li’s approach, Cheung named her livestreaming channel “Window of Dreams” (梦想橱窗), refers to staff members as “editors” and herself as “Miss Cheung,” and calls viewers “my readers.” In the discount-driven world of livestream commerce, Cheung’s unique approach to influencing consumers stands out.
Another rising star of the “quiet selling” trend is Dong Jie, a former actress turned livestreamer. One of the first Chinese celebrities to launch a livestreaming channel on Xiaohongshu in early January this year, Dong quickly became known for her zen-like approach to livestreaming and impeccable fashion sense. According to Xiaohongshu, Dong’s April livestream achieved 60 million RMB ($850,000) in gross merchandise volume (GMV). Her eight-hour-long livestream on May 25 attracted more than 2.2 million views.
“I almost never watched livestreaming since I thought it consisted of energetic hosts yelling about deals and discounts in a high-pitch voice. Dong Jie is very different; she has such a good taste in fashion. I learned about new brands and emerging designer names from her show, and it gave me a lot of inspiration,” said Chelsea Yang, a showroom buyer based in Chongqing.
A discerning fashionista herself, Yang found items she liked from Dong’s selection: retro dresses from Italian haute couture label Curiel, streetwear from South Korean brand Mardi Mercredi, and pieces from Chinese designers like Ms Min, Uma Wang, and Märchen.
Like Cheung, Dong is a soft-spoken livestream host who transforms each session into a fashion-buyer’s product brief. Both hosts’ subtle salesmanship and discerning taste offer a refreshing counterpoint to the ever-escalating spectacle of most livestreaming presenters.
The success of “quiet selling” hosts is also a testament to the enduring power of curated luxury. To the millions of her Chinese viewers, Dong’s livestream channel has become a sort of virtual high-end store, where they come for inspiration and to learn about fashion trends.
Meanwhile, Cheung’s expertise in personal care makes her a natural influencer for curated beauty boxes. The top six bestsellers from Cheung’s livestreaming debut were curated haircare boxes from her personal “A Rose is a Rose” brand, according to e-commerce analytics firm Qingguo Data.
The “entry-level” box, priced at 1,154 RMB ($163), included hair oil from Sudtana, organic shampoo from OM.Organics, a hair mask from Gotukola, argan oil, and satin pillow scrunchies. The brand reportedly made more than $640,000 in sales overnight.
More brands, platforms and influencers have started to engage customers through a refined, storytelling-oriented approach to livestream commerce. On Xiaohongshu, a wave of celebrities, including actresses Zhang Jingchu, Dong Xuan, and Zhang Li, have recently joined the livestreaming race, trying to emulate these successes by building a personal brand centered on aesthetics and culture.
For luxury businesses, the rise of “quiet selling” presents a new way to engage consumers and convey value beyond flashy discounts and free shipping offers. As the premiumization trend continues to reshape livestreamed e-commerce in China, providing an entertaining, nuanced, and immersive shopping experience for consumers will be these brands’ next challenge.