Taobao’s live streaming function has become the main platform for internet celebrities (网红 wǎnghóng in Chinese) to monetize their fanbase.

Recording 180% growth in 2016, live streaming (直播 zhíbō) was one of the hottest topics in China last year and is still wielding influence in the country. While some investors have raised their eyebrows about the sustainability of mushrooming live streaming apps that secured less than 10 million downloads in China last year, the wanghong business itself is getting bigger and is now targeting for content-hungry niche audiences. For example, as Taobao live streaming serves more detailed and vertical needs of consumers, introducing more categories of products including food, maternal and child product, beauty product, sports, and fitness product.

Taobao, as the biggest C2C marketplace in China, stands on the throne of other live streaming apps, since its live streaming goes directly to sales. After gaining fans, wanghong have clear intention to make more money, and they find various ways to monetize their fanbase, such as being part of a weishang to sell cosmetics, become a fashion influencer to start their own store on Taobao or live stream brand products to viewers.

Taobao added up its gross merchandise volume transacted in FY2016/17 to RMB 2.2 trillion (US$ 320 billion), an increase of 17 percent year-on-year, and mobile monthly active users on Taobao’s retail marketplaces reached 507 million in March, an increase of 14 million over December 2016 according to Taobao.

The e-commerce giant is planning to breed its own wanghong too. Last year, the Alibaba reportedly injected 300 million yuan (US$46 million) in Hangzhou-based Ruhan, a celebrity incubator that teaches wannabe stars how to blog, pose for photos and interact with fans.

Here are 6 things you didn’t know about Taobao live streaming.

1. Taobao wanghong can generate up to US$ 46 million in revenue

For both Taobao shop owners and live streaming wanghong, Taobao provides an optimal platform for them to increase their awareness, as well as to achieve sales. Top Taobao wanghong such as Zhang Dayi and Zhu Chenhui made RMB 300 million (US$ 46 million) and 150 million yuan (US$ 22 million) respectively in 2015, according to data from brokerage Guotai Junan Securities. Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing generated US$ 74 million revenue on Taobao, according to Taobao.

2. Taobao Live currently has more than 10,000 wanghong

Taobao Live currently hosts more than 10,000 people, including content creators, wanghong who has their own shops, and wanghong who works for professional agencies. Taobao act as a platform, to help more hosts to achieve better growth and make more money.

Based on its content on the live production capacity, Taobao Live offers different registration processes and mechanisms for individuals, and businesses. To provide complete and true identity information, is the prerequisite for registration Taobao live. In addition, Taobao live does not charge any fees on the registration process,.

3. Consumer upgrade will be the trend on Taobao Live.

As China’s GNI per capita increased from US$ 990 in 1990 to US$ 22,760 in 2015, Chinese people turned their heads from mass products to premium products. This trend, dubbed as ‘consumption upgrade (消费升级)’ brought in more lifestyle and entertainment services into cities as well as awareness of food safety. Taobao Live itself is the product of this consumption upgrade.

4. Wanghong live stream consumption totals 15,800 years

Over the past year, users in Taobao watch live time totaled 140 million hours, equivalent to 15,800 years, according to a survey conducted by Chinese media.

5. Taobao will soon launch VR live broadcast

Director of Taobao Live, Chen Lei says that Taobao will soon launch a VR live streaming: “Live streaming brings a strong sense of integration and interaction, and virtual reality is also a very strong sense of the product, the combination of the two will bring a stronger sense of reality.”

6. Merchants will be able to use big data and AI to find the target user

From this year, Taobao Live will improve its analysis on the crowd, content, traffic, content consuming pattern, monetization with the help of big data aggregated from its platform. 

“Taobao’s advantage is that we have a large number of user base, a lot of data, we have a decent data distribution capabilities. In the future, we will focus on the trending subject and theme to attract our consumers,” Chen Lei said. “Through analyzing different groups of consumers, businesses will be able to directly reach potential target customers, and optimize their product to meet the consumer’s taste.”

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Eva Yoo

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at

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