Livestreaming ads explore new strategies
Laomiao Group is rather unusual in its approach to the livestreaming craze used by businesses to peddle goods to shoppers.
The time-honored Shanghai jewellery and gold store chain turned to livestream marketing in late 2019, but instead of just relying on the usual online “celebrities” who typically hawk products, it set up its own dedicated marketing team to bring a bit more depth to the task.
Laomiao is a subsidiary of Yuyuan Inc, which is now handling the jeweler’s sales promotions.
Si Yu, a staffer in Yuyuan’s marketing department, moved to do part-time livestreaming for Laomiao on Alibaba’s Taobao platform earlier this year. She usually livestreams promotions for two or three hours a day.
“I have had to get used to the quick working pace and to answering viewers’ questions promptly,” she said.
She spends time before each broadcast familiarizing herself with the products she is to sell, preparing to discuss the designs and cultural significance of individual jewelry pieces.
“In that way, viewers develop trust, and I can better understand their needs and recommend jewellery they may like,” she said.
Laomiao has nearly tripled its Taobao followers with its marketing strategy.
The average age of its online shoppers is about 10 years younger than shoppers who visit its brick-and-mortar stores.
Yuyuan, whose shareholders include the local retailing conglomerate Fosun International and the Shanghai government, launched family day sales on May 15. The event attracted more than 100,000 online viewers.
Si Yu said she achieved a personal sales record of 2.7 million yuan (US$380,281) that day. The combined sales of all Yuyuan-affiliated brands livestreamed that day totaled more than 10 million yuan.
Jia Xiaowei, co-general manager of Shanghai Yuyuan Tourist Mart (Group) Co’s C2M and Excellent Product Marketing Center, said livestreaming promotions started last year with jewellery and gold accessories.
It was so successful that the strategy was expanded to all affiliated brands.
“It reflects our determination to really stay close to consumers and use their feedback to design better products,” she said. “We also want to revive older venerated brands.”
One of the time-honored brands in the Yuyuan stable is Song He Lou, a Suzhou style noodle house. It sells half-cooked noodle packets, minced crab spices and herbal spices, half-cooked pork and Chinese-style deserts. Products from other affiliates include ready-to-drink herbal remedies and crunchy sesame candies.
During livestreaming, Jia said the team receives quick feedback on how consumers feel about each product with real-time comments and exchange of opinions. This helps the company decide which products are best sold online and which design elements are most popular.
Normally, not many online shoppers like to write comments on e-tail sites.
Most consumers prefer to exchange shopping ideas with friends or acquaintances on social media sites.
Yuyuan said it plans to set up a dedicated livestreaming studio and offer more staff training sessions. From Taobao, it collects data about the age groups of livestreaming viewers and how long they spend watching.
"I want to visit a Laomiao shop to try on jewelry myself, even after watching the promotions on livestreaming,” said Shanghai office worker Eva Xu. “I want to see how jewellery looks on me before buying it. ”
at Taobao Livestream, compliments Yuyuan’s deep understanding of its brands and how the company positions offerings to attract the largest segments of buyers.
“We want livestreamers to be familiar with all kinds of brands within the Yuyuan family, and we complement our own expertise with some influential online personalities,” said Yuan Gang, chief innovation officer of Yuyuan Jewelry & Fashion Group.
The number of livestreaming viewers who actually buy products has doubled, compared with other formats of online selling.
About two dozen of its employees currently do part-time work livestreaming.
Last week, three “online influencers” teamed up with three Yuyuan part-time livestreamers to promote products rich in Shanghai culture.
Stepping aside from their digital roles, they also took to the street stalls of Yuyuan Garden to show passers-by decorative elements and how they relate to Shanghai culture.
However, there are still many people who are dubious about products hawked by online celebrities, though they may watch them out of sheer boredom at times.
Jenny Xie, who works as a marketing consultant at a multinational drug firm in Shanghai, said she tunes into Taobao livestreaming even when she doesn’t intend to buy anything.
“Sometimes I do buy some snacks or personal hygiene products if heavy discounts are offered,” she said.
Established e-commerce giants are keen to work with livestreaming brands.
JD.com, an arch rival of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has teamed up with leading short-video site Kuaishou in a new effort to grab more of the livestreaming market.
Over 100 Kuaishou “online influencers” have been promoting JD products during mid-year sales activities. JD provides merchant and supply-chain support for Kuaishou viewers so they don’t have to leave the short-video site to place orders.
Heavy discounts are offered for products such as Apple devices, Moutai liquor, Nintendo game consoles and various personal care brands.
Despite all the recent hype about livestreaming, this relatively new sales channel is still in its early stages of development. It’s not clear yet whether such promotions strategy works equally well for all brands.
“It’s a challenge for newcomers and less well-known livestreamers to win consumer trust,” said Shi Jialong, head of China Internet studies at Nomura Securities.
More brands and retailers are expected to join the livestreaming trend in the future, but those who don’t find it satisfactory for their needs will return to more traditional sales methods, he added.
After all, there are only so many “key opinion leaders” who have the sway to rack up high sales, and high discounts can’t be sustained forever.