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Speakers discuss the power of livestreams during the TechNode Emerge 2020 event on Oct. 29, 2020 in Shanghai. (Image credit: TechNode)

In China’s tech context, livestreams are inextricably linked with e-commerce. Its sales-boosting effect is enticing more brands to integrate livestreams into their digital marketing and brand communication strategies in order to deliver compelling content for a strong brand connection, according to experts at TechNode’s Emerge 2020 conference held in Shanghai on Thursday.

Livestream-driven sales, though still important, is no longer the sole metric used to gauge its value. It is increasingly becoming a branding and marketing tactic that allows brands on various e-commerce platforms to show their products, build consumer rapport, and influence purchasing decisions. Tmall has integrated livestream replays to its product pages, for example, and Chinese millennial brand Shein launched a virtual livestream festival.

More livestream applications

YouTube video

Applications for livestream are various and it is a matter of what merchants or brands want to achieve by leveraging the format, Pablo Mauron, partner and managing director of Digital Luxury Group (DLG), said during the panel discussion. He cited a recent example from Louis Vuitton which staged and streamed its Spring/Summer 2021 Show in Shanghai as a typical non-sales-driven approach for livestreaming.

Michael Norris, research and strategy manager of Agency China, agreed. “Larger brands, such as SK-II and Aptamil, use elaborate branded sets to broadcast their livestreams. These broadcast studios become the home of product information, Q&A with the audience, celebrity cameos, as well as special offers and promotions.”

With this shift, Mauron said that companies should adjust their strategies accordingly. “Strategy around [livestreaming] is not the same as… a sales associate that is going to stream to a closed audience of existing clients to generate impulse buying and selling them new products,” he said.

However, changing the consumer’s perception of livestream could take time, because “the industry matures with other channels developing specific approaches… Also it requires brands and marketers in general to build the right understanding and framework around it, and to tackle it the right way,” Mauron explained.

Brands—particularly luxury brands once considered conservative in adopting new marketing strategies—are signaling they are ready to relinquish total control. “Livestreaming is a perfect example where it is going to be hosted by someone that is different from [the brand], that the codes according to which that performance that is going to be delivered is going to be different from what a brand would stage,” Mauron said.

What makes a great livestreamer

The livestream e-commerce boom has catapulted livestreamers to the center of the spotlight.

Speaking from her own experience, Maggie Fu, an internet influencer and co-founder of social media brand Melilim Fu, said livestreaming allows users to get a sense of being close to hosts. “People can see what you are doing, feel your personality through real-time interactions.”

Fu said that the key is to actually understand what the consumers want, rather than forcing consumers to buy. The entertainment aspect of watching the livestream and nice discounts are also crucial factors to attract eyeballs.

For Mauron, livestreamers’ success also depends on the ability to generate an element of credibility. “One of the key recipes of successful livestreaming if you talk about sales-driven livestreaming, is the fact that that raw format delivers something that somehow appears as more trustworthy than highly staged and polished and somehow artificial communication.”

Top livestream hosts like Viya and “Lipstick King” Li Jiaqi have become known worldwide. But they have not appeared out of nowhere. “They actually gone through many business cycles with ups and downs from a long time ago,” helping them to build their personality, and therefore strong connections with the users, Fu said.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

Shi Jiayi is the Shanghai-based visual reporter helping provide multimedia elements about China’s fast-changing technology and culture. She holds a B.A. in Convergence Journalism from the University...