live-stream marketing in China

A guide to live streaming in China

While most of the western internet users still associated live streaming with gaming and entertainment, it has become a ubiquitous shopping channel among Chinese online shoppers. What makes live streaming in China unique, and should brands be investing more in this marketing method?

Live streaming is a shopping mode where live streamers, often times KOLs, broadcast in real time with products they are selling. Viewers can then immediately purchase that item from an embedded link.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, restrictions on mobility led Chinese consumers to even further shift shopping online. Notably, revenue from live streaming in China increased vastly after COVID-19. According to Chongqing Morning Post, in the first half of 2020, the market size of live streaming in China soared up to 456.12 billion yuan, predicted to attain 971.23 billion yuan, compared with 19.64 billion yuan in 2017. The growth rate of 2020 is about 119%.

Moreover, a report from Dianshang Bao stated that the number of live streaming users in 2019 had reached 309 billion, which is 34.2% of the total internet users in China. This shows that live streaming in China has become a part of mainstream internet use.

China live streaming market revenue

Data sourceDianshang Bao, China live streaming market revenue

The difference of live streaming in China from other shopping channels

Live streaming takes advantage of both online and offline channels, giving consumers the comprehensive shopping experience.

  1. The largest motivation for consumption is for special deals. Consumers can get exclusive deals during live-streaming sessions because live streamers often give out coupons or free gifts. Viewers can buy at a lower price than they buy in stores, and get their hands on special products.
  2. Live streaming enhances interactions between potential buyers and sellers. It allows viewers to leave comments or ask questions. Then, live streamers can see and address them during the live broadcast, offer more comprehensive information about the products they are selling. When consumers are ready to purchase, they can click the embedded link. This offers a pseudo “in-store” shopping experience without the travel costs or time investment.
  3. User Generated Content (UGC) combined with Professional Generated Content (PGC) enrich the live streaming ecosystem. The combination of ‘live + variety’ help the platforms get out of station traffic, expand user volume, and drain traditional media users to live streaming. On the other hand, it can also achieve the differentiation of live content. It is foreseeable that in the future, the proportion of PGC live streaming will be improved. But how to find out a replicable pattern and combine the content with the goods is still a problem that needs to be considered at this stage.

Which Chinese platforms have live stream shopping?

Because of gigantic profit of live streaming, many platforms started venturing into the live streaming to enrich their own traffic. Thus, live streaming in China was not only a rivalry between online retail giants, but also a “hot potato” in China’s short video market. Bridging entertainment and online shopping, live streaming has the huge potential to change the status quo and become the new norm for e-commerce in China.

According to Statista, the top 3 leading platforms known for live streaming in China as of May 2020 are Taobao, Douyin and Kuaishou.

Learn how to master live stream marketing in China

The #1 live-streaming platform in China: Taobao

Alibaba launched Taobao Live in 2016, it has since seen significant growth in popularity and success. Taobao live took 4 years to create a brand-new industry and pushed it into maturity.

As of 2019, Taobao Live had accumulated over 400 million users, reporting over 20 billion yuan in sales transactions, with over 20 billion GMV on Double 11 Festival and over 100 million GMV generated by 177 top live streamers, such as Li Jiaqi and Weiya. For example, Weiya’s  live streaming turnover volume even reached 30 billion yuan.

Interestingly, Taobao has also started to promote a new style of live streaming on their platform, called cunbo (村播), which refers to rural sellers. Taobao has even given them their own category in the app, with the purpose of making it easier for these rural sellers to find customers and help farmers live stream themselves out of poverty. Until now, the number of live streaming sessions on agriculture related products have attained 1.4 million, leading over 60 thousand new farmers to join in the Taobao Live community.

Now, opening a Taobao Live account is a “must” for most sellers in Taobao.

Taobangdan, 2020 Taobao Live Report

Source: Taobangdan, 2020 Taobao Live Report

Live streaming marketing tactics

There are three necessary elements to consider for a successful live stream session: Place, Product, Person

Place is the premise to arouse consumer’s desire to purchase

A live streaming session needs to have safe and stable traffic source before going live. Therefore, preparing for a good warm-up to attract the as wide range of viewers as possible to enter the live session is crucial. Follow the 3-hour rule: launch the referral video 3 hours before live session starts. First, it gives the platform enough time to tag the video and find more refined viewers for the live session. Secondly, it can also enable you to get the first wave of traffic peak through “external force” (like DOU+ in Douyin).

The product has to be both cost-effective and quality-driven

Product determines the life or death of a live streaming session. There are two reasons why:

First, one of the biggest reason people choose to spend their time watching live streaming is that the products are cheaper than usual. Live streamers will negotiate with the merchants for a price that is alluring enough to attract consumers to buy the product, most of the time abundant gifts are attached too. Besides price, quality has the same importance. A cost-effective price can attract consumers to buy a product once by impulsion, but a cost-effective and quality-driven product can keep the customer and build trust to follow the live streaming and make purchasing decisions again. Exclusivity will drive consumers to partake in the live stream, otherwise, they will be more inclined to purchase the product elsewhere or later.

Choose the right people to represent the brand

Live streamers, by introducing products and communicating with potential consumers, can upgrade consumer’s shopping experience and elevate the quality of serving, thus stimulating consumer’s impulsion to purchase. At the same time, live streamers need to combine big data, dividing consumers into different categories and analyzed their purchasing behaviors to design a best way to promote products.

Who are some top live streamers?

With the craze of live streaming in China, more than 100 professions have switched to live streaming. For now, a “triangle” was formed in the camp of live streamers: KOLs, celebrities, and business people.

KOLs (Influencers)

The main objective is to sell goods. They are more experienced and sophisticated on the procedure and bring high infectivity to viewers, motivating viewers to making a purchase impulsively.

Top 3 KOLs in the Taobangdan are Austin (Jiaqi Li), Viya (Ya Wei) and Cherie (Xue Li).

Taobao Live, 3 Top live streamers: Austin (Jiaqi Li), Viya (Ya Wei) and Cherie (Xue Li)

Source: Taobao Live, 3 Top live streamers: Austin (Jiaqi Li), Viya (Ya Wei) and Cherie (Xue Li)


In 2020, many celebrities started to join the live streaming in China to sell products and interact with their own fans. Compared with KOLs, although celebrities maybe less effective, they can gather popularity faster and have better effects to turn viewers into fans. Having some famous celebrities to promote the products they endorsed can publicize the brands.

Some of the top celebrities in the field: Yonghao Luo, Xiang Li and Dan Li.

Taobao Live, 3 Top live streamers: Austin (Jiaqi Li), Viya (Ya Wei) and Cherie (Xue Li)

Source: Weibo, top celebrities: Yonghao Luo, Xiang Li, Dan Li

Business people

Members from the company, such as CEOs or salespeople know precisely and detailly about their own products and their target population. Therefore, they can speak with authority in front of the camera, transforming live streaming into a “2nd product launch” and touching consumers via magisterial content.

Famous authorities are known as Laichun Sun (founder and CEO of Lin Qing Xuan, a local beauty brand in China), Chuyuan Li (CEO of Guangzhou Phar. Holdings) and Jianzhang Liang (chairman of Ctrip) etc.

Source: NBD NEWS, Business People drive into in live streaming in China only for sale?

How to stand out while live streaming in China

In order to make distinctions in China’s giant live streaming pool, it’s crucial for business to be well prepared and make a good choice on live streamers.

Since 2019, many businesses combine KOLs with celebrities to joint strength and establish a powerful win-win cooperation. By using this mode, one well-implemented live stream strategy can not only help brands amplify their reputation but also boost their sales. For example, data from NBD NEWS stated that on April 28, 2019, Chuyuan Li’s one-hour live streaming session mainly on company’s product “Ci Ji Niing” ended up with volume of transaction 1.03 million, with more than 2.58 million views and over 8.35 million thumbs up.

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