How brands can navigate China’s livestreaming market

By Carol Chan, MD, Comms8

An astounding 98% of people in China experience the internet through their mobile phone, which instantly makes over 800 million users a formidable cohort for marketers to tap into. When combined with the steady growth of the Chinese middle-class it is clear to see the business opportunities waiting for the now world’s biggest retail market.

While the market is ripe for marketers, a unique set of technological and cultural factors has led the internet to develop differently from the UK. Having a large population, being awash with cash, and excellent mobile coverage rollout means the mobile app ecosystem is home to emerging online habits.

Live-streaming has noticeably become a mass cultural phenomenon that is arguably the most popular form of online entertainment. Sitting between the crossroads of a modern-day QVC and communal socialising, platforms such as Kuaishou, Douyu, Meipai, Inke, and Momo are offering wide-spectrum appeal in any niche with seamless shopping and gifting options for fans.

The attraction to the format, just as with social media, is the convenience it offers to meet like-minded people and share common interests in real time – and for free. Despite being a relatively new digital trend, Deloitte has estimated the value of the live-streaming market in China to be $4.4 billion in 2018, an 86 per cent increase from 2016.

The biggest hurdle for brands is how to enter methodically into a fast-moving market without succumbing to social or legal faux pas. The line between advertiser, endorser, advocate, and consumer is increasingly blurred, so much so, that viewers are uncertain if they are being marketed to.

Given the rise of live-streaming in China what can international brands learn from the market in the East?

New forms of sales relationships.

It is almost unheard of to use pay-per-click (PPC) marketing or pay-per-sale (PPS), as arrangements are almost always a flat rate fee. That said, platforms like Bangtuike are trying to make all live-streamers and online influencers in advertisers, not matter how small their audience is. The desire to work with micro content providers is seeing greater demand as brands are able to capitalise on a wider viewer base.

Being mindful of corporate social responsibility.

Unlike TV and Radio, regulatory bodies are still catching up to the technology and so there is a legal blind spot in the way brands are able to use the platform. Brands need step back from their campaign from time to time and assess how the overall impact might be interpreted, rightly or wrongly.

Adaptation not translation.

Localising content is the key to winning hearts and minds. As David Ogilvy once said, if you going to sell to someone, it is best to do so in their own language. While that makes absolute sense, Kantar reported that brands like P&G and Unilever are struggling in China because their organisational structure does not enable localisation.

That said, brands like Starbucks, L’Oréal, and Swarovski have avoided this error and as such are making significant inroads. Their level of adaptation is so high that their Chinese product range is a world away from the products which gave rise to their fame.

Further localisation efforts can also be placed with influencers who are in smaller cities instead of the larger metropolises. Moving away from the well-beaten path of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong does reap huge rewards as ‘small’ cities in China still rival the size of London’s population.

In essence, developing a flexible brand that communicates well, using Chinese cultural architypes, is vital to winning market share.

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

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