Leading Chinese social commerce app Xiaohongshu has quietly begun testing a new live streaming feature, becoming the latest platform to join the e-commerce live streaming trend. Many marketers have been expecting this move, as Xiaohongshu’s lead investor, Alibaba, is a leader in the space.
Over the past two years, e-commerce live streaming has become quite popular in China, particularly among consumers in 2nd tier cities and lower, because it creates a transparent and trustworthy e-commerce experience. Viewers are able to watch a live streaming host demonstrate a product and purchase said product while viewing the stream. When it comes to fashion items, streamers often act as stylists, teaching viewers how to wear the items. Viewers are able to directly ask questions about the product, thereby increasing their trust in the product and reducing the likelihood that the customer will be unsatisfied.
What we know so far
The feature is still in the early phases of beta testing and only select accounts are able to stream. So far it appears they are working with micro and mid-tier influencers. According to Chinese media outlets Ebrun and 36Kr, the first known stream on Xiaohongshu occurred on June 7. The broadcasters were the lower mid-tier fashion and lifestyle account @ariaandbrandon run by mixed-race couple Aria and Brandon with over 200k followers. Currently there is no playback feature and the couple did not publicly share the results of the stream. Then on June 11, micro-influencer Wanzi (@丸子), with approximately 100k followers, held an hour-long stream, which according to the screenshot she shared on her account, got a total of 2,233 views and 10.9k likes.
While only select accounts can stream, anyone can view the streams. Users can either discover the streams in their home page feed (an icon will appear in the top right corner of the image stating that the account is currently streaming) or, if they are following the influencer, they can enter by clicking the influencers homepage avatar.
Right now, the in-stream functions are very basic, and there is actually no e-commerce feature at the moment but considering Xiaohongshu is a social commerce platform, it is highly likely that they will be adding e-commerce functionality very soon.
Why it’s significant
Launched in 2016 Alibaba’s Taobao Livestreaming platform has been driving impressive sales results for brands on both Taobao and Tmall. Most recently, top Taobao live streamer Austin Li worked with Israeli cosmetics brand Ahava and sold out 14,000 mud masks in one minute.
Co-founder of the Xiaohongshu Agency Double V Consulting, Miro Li, shared, “Alibaba is a main investor in Xiaohongshu and appears to hold a significant amount of influence over the platform’s development. With the success that Alibaba is having with livestreaming, I’m not surprised that Xiaohongshu would want to follow a similar path. It also might help stimulate sales on the platform.”
And Alibaba is not the only one. E-commerce live streaming has become a main driver of sales for Chinese fast fashion social commerce platform Mogujie and not long ago WeChat began beta-testing their own live stream Mini Program linking Official Accounts with e-commerce Mini Programs. E-commerce live streaming could be a strong fit for Xiaohongshu as it falls in line with the type of content the platform is known for — authentic, honest product reviews and product recommendations.
While the feature has the potential to bring a lot of benefits to the Xiaohongshu ecosystem, it’s not a guaranteed win. Not all influencers are effective live streamers and Xiaohongshu will need to work to cultivate and attract the right talent, especially if they want the KOLs to drive sales.
Another major concern is whether or not KOLs will be limited to linking only to products available for sale on Xiaohongshu. If this is the case, which is likely based on current strict platform linking rules banning external links, it will be much harder for KOLs to drive sales as the product selection will be limited. Right now, many Xiaohongshu users will research products on the platform, and then turn to other platforms, such as Tmall and Taobao, to actually complete the purchase.
While it’s still very early on in the development stage, for brands using Xiaohongshu, this is an important feature to keep an eye on.