Living And Breathing e-Commerce Through Livestreaming

02/10/2020 10:07 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
By :
Feng Yu

A fundamental change in consumer habits due to the pandemic means e-commerce is now on top. Brands can maximise success by riding on e-commerce’s latest tool – Livestreaming.

Livestreaming – the practice of using broadcasting features on e-commerce platforms and social media channels to showcase and sell products – may have started out as an online shopping fad in China pioneered by Alibaba, but it is quickly gaining momentum in other markets too.

For Malaysian brands, its popularity amongst consumers worldwide is now impossible to ignore and, as mobile devices become an ever more prolific part of daily life, it should be incorporated into every company’s marketing mix.

The next evolution in e-commerce

One of the biggest draws for brands is undoubtedly that live e-commerce allows selling from anywhere, anytime to anyone. Done right, it is typically a low-risk, high-return strategy that can help brands to build a loyal customer base in both domestic and new markets, as well as directly drive immediate sales.

Its inherent interactivity also adds to its appeal. For consumers, being able to interact with products that they are interested in and with influencers they follow greatly enhances the whole experience of online shopping. At the same time, livestreaming provides retailers with immediate, valuable insights into buyer feedback and shopper trends that they can use to refine their product and marketing strategies in close to real-time.

And it isn’t just the preserve of multi-national fashion and FMCG brands, either – small- and medium-sized businesses in a wide range of sectors can just as easily use it as part of their marketing mix too. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Alibaba has been using live e-commerce to help rural Chinese farmers in poverty-stricken areas – enabling them to sell their produce to much wider audiences online when traditional supply chains were severely disrupted.

A runaway success story demonstrating the power of livestreaming is a single session by a Huimin county official in Shandong province, which attracted more than a million consumers and selling over 39,000 eggs, 7,500 ears of corn, 1,800 kilograms of garlic and 1,200 kilograms of mushrooms in just three hours – proving that it’s not just ‘fast fashion’ that sells through this format.

But whilst China remains the front-runner for now, live e-commerce has gone truly international in the past year, too. South Korea and Japan were amongst the first countries to embrace live e-commerce after China, and we have since started to see it gaining ground in Russia, the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia as well, undoubtedly helped by COVID-19 which has created a large ‘at-home’ audience looking for ways to replicate the experience and buzz of shopping from their couches.

Malaysian brands livestreaming success

With such a large audience in China alone – valued at around RM260 billion in 2019 and still growing at a staggering rate – the sales and marketing benefits for Malaysian brands looking to sell to China are obvious.

Last year, we brought together some of China’s top livestreaming Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to promote a selection of Malaysian brands to the China market, as part of Alibaba Group’s annual ‘Malaysia Week’ campaign. The livestreaming approach was wildly successful, with more than 80,000 bottles of birds’ nests sold in five minutes, and more than 3,000 units of Boh Tea packs sold in just three seconds.

This year’s Malaysia Week extended the success for local brands through livestreaming. More than 80 million viewers tuned in on Taobao Live at the peak, contributing to staggering sales milestones like 20,000 packs of durian snow skin mooncakes selling out in just seconds, 2,000 Musang King durians snatched up in 15 minutes, and well-known bird’s nest brand, PT Swift selling over 120,000 grams of dried bird’s nest in five minutes.

Malaysian footwear brand Flipper saw similar success recently too during the annual mid-year sales, selling 4,000 pairs of slippers in just five minutes through a livestream with Cherrie, one of China’s top livestreaming stars.

Tips to succeed

Of course, one of the biggest questions facing any novice brand is ‘where to start?’

The first thing to understand is that there are three key elements to a successful live e-commerce strategy that all need to work in harmony. Live broadcast is the tool; seamless experience is at the core; and having a comprehensive payment, logistics and customer service ecosystem through a trusted e-commerce platform partner is essential to removing friction from the end-to-end shopping experience.

Four top tips that all Malaysian brands taking their first steps in live e-commerce, or looking to scale up this part of their marketing strategy, should keep in mind are:

1.Nail the basics – ensure the video quality is good, make sure you show the product from all angles, include subtitles in other languages, make your content mobile friendly and encourage sharing across social media. Having said that, authenticity also works even without a professional set-up; our rural livestreamers are still finding success from their farms and fields!

2.Start with a ‘bang’ and do it consistently – with so much content online, one of the biggest challenges is to capture and hold the audience’s attention. Open with a bang to attract eyeballs in the first place, and then use both information and interactivity to keep them there. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all, it does take time for your fans to find you and share it with future fans.

3.Choose the right partners – half of the battle lies in picking the right partners to reach your target audience. Having a livestreaming KOL on board to promote your product can pay huge dividends, but it’s important to do your research and make sure that they complement your brand values, as well as reach the ‘right’ audience for your product.

4.Invest in a solid infrastructure – such as shopping pages and online payment functions, and ensure that these are seamlessly integrated into the livestream to remove friction at all stages in the ‘discovery’ and ‘shopping’ processes. A strong and consistent Internet connection is needed too – the last thing you want is to lose a sale at the final hurdle due to a clunky buying experience.

Creating local livestreaming legends

The trend towards livestreaming applies to Malaysia as well, and local brands should see livestreaming as an increasingly important way to reach and engage with domestic audiences too. We also believe livestreaming will be one of the most in-demand skills of the future and will unlock even more opportunities for Malaysians to participate in e-commerce.

To provide Malaysians with a head-start in this relatively new shopping space and sell better to local and overseas audiences, we launched a training course – the LiveNOW KOL Livestreaming Training Programme – to equip brands of all sizes and budding livestreamers from all sectors with the new skills that they need to get the best results from live e-commerce.

Participants will be taught technical skills including how to design key visuals, copywrite and produce livestreams, as well as soft skills in the areas of engaging with an audience effectively, capturing attention, product detailing, promotion selling and persuasive selling.

Ultimately, the influence of livestreaming can’t be ignored and the Malaysian brands that embrace it as a central part of their marketing strategies will be best placed to grow their businesses both domestically and internationally in the near future.

For the greatest ROI, this must go hand-in-hand with other parts of the e-commerce ecosystem too – like making sure that products are easy to find and buy – so that customers who are initially attracted by livestreams have a positive experience across the rest of the buying process as well.


Feng Yu is the General Manager of e-Commerce Content at Taobao.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)