Liu Xuan, the owner of a boutique shop in northwest China’s Gansu Province, keeps her store away from the crowded downtown area, as she believes attracting customers is something she can do elsewhere — on the internet.
Putting her cellphone on a stand, Liu, 26, started a live streaming session where she introduced the clothes in her store and interacted with the viewers. She attracted 100 viewers in 10 minutes, many interested in her store and products.
Live streaming has become a trend that is taking over not only Chinese online shopping platforms such as Taobao but also entity stores like Liu’s.
According to a report released by Taobao in April, over 100 billion yuan (US$14.18 billion) worth of goods were sold with the help of livestreaming in 2018, up 400 percent year on year. There are on average over 60,000 daily livestreaming sessions and 180 percent more broadcasters registered on the platform compared with 2017.
During this year’s Singles’ Day shopping spree on Nov. 11, more than 100,000 online shops provided a live broadcast for consumer interaction.
The broadcasters include online celebrities and influencers that have millions of fans. For example, Li Jiaqi, a well-known influencer who first made his name by selling lipsticks on Taobao, now boasts over 8 million followers on Chinese microblogging site Weibo.
For Liu, the crowd is much smaller, but she believes in the opportunity the internet brings. In early November, she even enrolled in a course on photography techniques.
“The Internet has made the market flat, and livestreaming can help my products reach more potential customers,” she said.
Niu Zhengchao, head of the economic studies institute of Lanzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said the decentralized internet has blurred the difference between opening a store downtown and in suburban areas.
“The live broadcasts bring views that can be turned into profits,” Niu said.
Many customers find shopping through livestreaming a more time-saving alternative than going to malls.
Mi Sitian, a new mom from Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, is a die-hard fan of livestreaming. She spends around two hours watching the broadcasts every day and midnight is often her preferred time to make the purchases.
“It’s quite a luxury to go to shopping malls after having a baby,” she said. “Only at night can I have some leisure time to watch the broadcasts and shop.”
Mi said the broadcasts enable her to communicate with the seller face-to-face, which is an advantage over only browsing the introduction pages. “It’s just like shopping in the real stores,” she said.
Wang Xiaolu, a girl from Lanzhou, is fascinated with broadcasts of farmers opening up mussels in search of pearls.
In these sessions, the farmers charge viewers a small amount of money for opening up mussels from their farms, and once a pearl is found, it belongs to the paid viewer. In one session, Wang paid over 100 yuan to open five mussels and was very satisfied to find four pearls in them.
“Each opening can be a surprise, I can use the pearls to make jewelry,” Wang said. “Moreover, I live in the northwestern inland, but I can experience how people in coastal areas shop through the broadcasts.”