“What’s the inspiration for your perfume?,” asked Viya, China’s top livestreamer, who’s holding up a lip-shaped KKW perfume bottle to the notoriously-known American personality, Kim Kardashian, sitting on the other side of the screen, in California.
“It’s modeled after my sister Kelly’s lips. She is a big fan of perfume,” Kim answered and smiled politely.
Outside of the livestream screen, Viya’s fan typed “kkw record sale” one after another, dominating the entire comment section. Nicknamed “Viya’s woman,” they behave like a virtual army, acting fast to Viya’s every command. Viya counted down: “3, 2, 1” and the rest of 1,000 perfume bottles magically sold out.
“Kim, you really need to give us more stock,” Viya joked, while one of her staff showed Kim the latest sales record. All 15,000 bottles sold out within 10 minutes of live streaming.
It was a surreal moment to have Kim Kardashian, the OG of influencers, live stream with a Chinese KOL. It was also a transactional performance — most of their conversation revolved around her perfumes, describing the scents of each of the three perfumes, while also sharing their common interest in Chinese food.
Regardless of their different skin color and language, both Viya and Kim shared the same superpower — the ability to sell to millions of products through a tiny phone screen. Last year, Viya sold $49.7 million (353 million yuan) on Singles’ Day. Similarly, Kim sold $2 million dollars’ worth of her new shapewear in minutes. Needless to say, making record sales takes a massive fan base, which both have: Viya has over 9.64 million fans on Weibo, whereas Kim has almost 16 times of that — an astonishing amount of 150 million — on Instagram.
But in truth, for Kim to be able to sell such quantities within minutes in China, she needs a bit of help from local KOL like Viya. Last year, when the social media queen of the West first launched on the Chinese social commerce channel, Little Red Book, her campaign was criticized for being tone-deaf. Today, the success of the livestream is a testament to the popularity between Kim and Viya, the viewership each attracted were quite different. Kim’s side, operated under Tmall Global, had over 100,000 people tuned in, while Viya had a truly whopping 13,338,000 people. So, for this livestream, Viya did most of the selling. Plus, she is familiar with the platform and understands that her fans want something functional with a bargain. She kept reminding fans to get her discount coupon and emphasized that shipping costs and tax were already included in the price.
This live streaming session between Viya and Kim Kardashian kicked off a bigger initiative from Tmall Global (of Alibaba), called the Wall of Fame program, which invites Western name-stake brand founders, such as Rihanna, Miranda Kerr, Charlotte Tilbury to join livestreaming session with local Chinese KOLs. It appears to be a triple win strategy. While the celebs give their stamp of approval to the e-commerce giant, livestreaming jettisons their brand to record sales. Consumers can get their hands on star products fast and secure and without going through Daigou.
Livestreaming is not new in China, but it has recently become a mainstream way of shopping. Similar to QVC, viewers get to ask questions in real-time, all the while discounts and limited quantity stats get viewers’ adrenaline flowing. According to Alibaba, the number of e-commerce merchants that used livestreaming have doubled. Last year alone, Taobao’s 4,000 livestream hosts sold over $15 billion USD worth of goods, up over 400% from a year earlier.
While livestreaming can offer foreign brands sales and viewership, a quick boost of revenue, what’s the trade-off? Well, on Taobao, the products livestreamed are primarily FMCG brands. For example, before the livestream with Kim, Viya showcased a list of products, ranging from snacks to facial masks, many items that are not in the same category and pricings as the perfume. Another question is how many of those consumers will become fans of the brand? Before diving into a livestream, brands should weigh the pros and cons, especially when entering the Chinese market with a fresh identity — cultivating a brand DNA is a must before digging the livestream goldmine.