Bilibili the Chinese video platform

The commercialization of the Bilibili, gen z’s favorite Chinese video platform

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What is Bilibili?

Bilibili (哔哩哔哩 in Chinese, also known as B Site) is one of the most popular video sharing platforms in China. Users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos. After more than ten years of development, the video platform built an ecosystem that continuously produces high-quality content around users and creators. This platform has covered a multicultural community with more than 7,000 interest circles. QuestMobile Research Institute selected it as “Gen Z Preference APP”. As of 2020, the monthly active users of Bilibili reached 172 million, showing 26% growth YoY.

Number of monthly active users on Bilibili

Data Source: Bilibili Financial Report, Number of monthly active users

What makes Bilibili different from other Chinese video platforms

Unlike other major video platforms like iQiyi and Tencent video, Bilibili focuses on ACG (anime, comics, and games). In Chinese, this type of content called 2nd-dimensional space (二次元).  Unlike platforms like TikTok that rely heavily on algorithms that push viral content to increase and maintain engagement, the Chinese video platform uses the power of its communities to achieve this goal.

Bilibili is known for its video commenting feature, Danmu (弹幕). Users can make a quick comment at a particular moment during the video, those comments will shoot across the video from the side of the screen at the time when the comment was made.

Bilibili headquarters in Wujiaochang, Shanghai’s Yangpu district.

Image source: daxue consulting, Bilibili headquarters in Wujiaochang, Shanghai’s Yangpu district.

How the Bilibili platform enriches the Gen Z lifestyle    

The popularity of this platform represents gen Z’s stay at home economy in China. According to QuestMobile, 80% of Bilibili’s user base was born between 1990 and 2009. They typically receive a high-quality education and are technology savvy, with strong demand for culture products and avenues for self-expression.

In March 2019, Bilibili launched a mini-program named “势能种草机-potential energy grass planter”. The main products in the mini-program are cosmetics sold by celebrities. the Chinese video platform uses Mini Programs just like Chinese e-commerce platforms Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, and Toutiao. It is the part of the Bilibili’s e-commerce function, which is currently in the stage of internal testing. 

E-commerce on Bilibili

In April 2019, Bilibili’s new e-commerce mini-programs appeared on the platform.  Before that, the Chinese video platform had made many attempts in e-commerce, including premium membership. But after Alibaba invested in Bilibili, it has made changes to its online marketing strategy, shifting the main focus from user acquisition to e-commerce. It recently it became a more lucrative business because of the changing Gen-Z lifestyle that takes online shopping as one of their most popular pastimes.

Bilibili e-commerce mini-program

Source: Bilibili platform, e-commerce mini-program

Bilibili’s barriers to fruitful e-commerce

One of the major reasons that Bilibili has lagged behind its competitors in e-commerce its unique user groups. The Chinese video platform has retained many loyal users and Chinese KOLs attached to its platform through its own influence. However, these users strongly oppose to the commercialization of Bilibili.

Bilibili’s previous E-commerce strategies

Before the trial implementation of mini-programs, Bilibili had done several tests. Back in 2018, the platform announced that it would encourage content creators to open their own E-commerce businesses.  Users can open stores by clicking on the “commodities” column on the homepage to see the goods on sale. Cosmetics and skin care products are the key products sold on the platform.

Users can purchase directly in the platform without jumping to third-party sites like Taobao. Also, content creators can advertise their own products under the video, where users can buy directly with the click of the link. At the same time, there is a review area on the purchase page, on which users can post and comment freely.

Commercialization of Bilibili

Source: Bilibili, e-commerce function where uploaders, or content creators, can open their own stores

Business collaborations in e-commerce

The Chinese video platform has been collaborating with other big e-commerce players. For example, in December 2018, Bilibili cooperated with Taobao to explore the approach “content + e-commerce”. 

Alibaba allows video content creators to register KOC accounts on Taobao. The focus is on products and services related to lifestyle, fashion, as well as ACG movies and novels. The two companies also commercialize Bilibili’s assets with more tie-in products. Additionally, Taobao provides Bilibili with e-commerce technical support to ensure more efficient user experience, as well as users’ analyzing tools.

Massive user demand meets robust supply

The Gen Z lifestyle represents the future trend of online entertainment in China

Bilibili platform China

Source: Bilibili investor presentation, Gen Z lifestyle

Bilibili is the leading subculture community in China with more than 7,000 vertical interest circles. The average age of current users on Bilibili is 21 years old and the average age of newly registered users is 19.8 years old.

The Gen Z population in China is contributing a lot to the future entertainment market. ACG (animation, comics, games) are an essential part of today’s entertainment indsutry. The Chinese video platform began to deepen the layout of the Gen Z industrial chain and continues to explore in the fields of animation, cartoons, and e-sports. Content consumption promotes the creation of community and consumer tribes. Bilibili will also bet its commercialized future on the consumption capacity of Gen Z.

Bilibili creates highly engaged communities 

In the fourth quarter of 2018, UGVs (user generated videos) accounted for 89% of the total broadcasting volume of Bilibili. The number of active uploaders and upload numbers increased by 143% and 148% respectively. The high quality content is the core driver of user loyalty and its biggest competitive advantage.

commercialization of the video platform

Source: Bilibili investor presentation May 2019, Highly engaged users

Providing content creators with a stable income is important to maintain the richness of content. Starting from 2018, Bilibili has launched projects such as “Creative Incentive Plan,” “Creative Incentive Rookie Award” and “New Star Plan”. These initiatives  provide official bonuses to the high-quality content creators.

More loyal Bilibili official members

As of the first quarter of 2020, Bilibili has 172 million monthly active users, who were using the platform of an average of 87 minutes a day, which no doubt was boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, only 8% of these users are paying, versus a vast majority of the competing platform, iQiyi, which boasts 119 million monthly active users in 2020.

Currently, Bilibili is the only large-scale video-sharing platform in China with the strict access standards. If a new user wants to register as an official member, they will need to complete a 100-question quiz.  

Although such a strict access system limits the growth of content creator volume, it largely guarantees high quality content. Most importantly, it protects the overall community environment of the Bilibili platform.

Live broadcasting: Core competitiveness of Bilibili

Bilibili users

Source: Bilibili investor presentation May, Mobile game business

Live-streaming has become the second largest revenue generator for Bilibili, after gaming.

The live broadcasting MAU increased from 7.5 million in 2018 Q1 to 11.4 million in 2019 Q1. Also, the users on the platform demonstrates a high willingness to pay for happiness and appreciation. The live broadcasting quarterly paying users increased from 0.5 million in 2018 Q1 to 1.2 million in 2019 Q1.

live-streaming monthly active users bilibili
Source: Bilibili investor presentation May, “data of Live broadcasting”

How brands can leverage Bilibili

In 2020 Bilibili launched a “matchmaking” service for content creators and advertisers, to help them reach their target audience.

The marketing platform, called “Sparkle” (Huahuo), was initially an internal tool of Bilibili. Now it is open to content creators, advertisers, multi-channel networks (MCNs), and brands. According to the Chinese video platform, Sparkle can provide services including smart pricing recommendations, showcasing of sample work, and access to data on followers and user engagement to facilitate monetization. For advertisers, Sparkle offers influencer recommendations, data analytics, and project management tools to smoothen collaborations.

Brands can partner with popular KOLs or KOCs to promote products on Bilibili

Apart from anime and gaming, Bilibili hosts sections devoted to beauty, fashion, entertainment, advertising and digital. Brands can partner with popular key opinion leaders (KOLs) or key opinion consumers (KOCs) who engage with Gen Z consumers. Meanwhile, brands can also leverage Bilibili’s performance-based advertising to promote products. With in-program advertising, KOLs and KOCs can agree to have ads placed within their Bilibili channels. Meanwhile, the platform also runs traditional display ads. Customized and innovative performance-based ads also help advertisers reach target audiences and convert them into potential customers.

Content creators can agree to have ads placed in their videos

Source: Bilibili Financial Report, Content creators can agree to have ads placed in their videos

How luxury brands can market on Bilibili: Fendi’s case

In terms of advertising, resources are only available on the discovery feed, personal feed and video page. Compared to other video platforms such as Tencent Video or iQiyi, advertising resources and opportunities on Bilibili may seem more restrictive. However, it did not stop big names like as Estee Lauder, Chanel Beauty and Gucci.

In 2020 Fendi also dropped a promotion campaign about its Peekaboo Bar across the personal and discovery feeds, as well as on the video page (with a redirect to the official Fendi site). It allows consumers to customize the brand’s well-known Peekaboo handbag. To reach the Gen-Z community, the campaign featured a comic-influenced illustration that was created by Bilibili’s in-house design team. The ad was well-received and sparked many consumer comments on the novel idea.

Fendi  “Peekaboo Bar” campaign featuring animation visual

Source: Jing Daily, Fendi collaborated with Bilibili on the “Peekaboo Bar” campaign featuring animation visual


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