Livestreaming transforms beauty industry with sales girls taking the lead
By Chen Tong

With everyone wearing face masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, you wouldn't think it's an ideal time to sell cosmetics – but as other businesses have found, livestreaming is there to help.

According to a survey by Bain Capital and Tmall, online sales of cosmetics dropped by 30 percent year on year during this year's spring festival, with the luxury sector seeing an even larger decline of 40 percent. Cosmetics brands are exploring diversified ways to win customers back.

Instead of key opinion leaders (KOL) selling makeup online, however, cosmetics livestreaming have made broadcasters out of beauty salon advisers. And it turns out they do better online than offline.

Staff at a cosmetic store in downtown Shanghai have been learning some new techniques. When COVID-19 began spreading last month, domestic skincare brand Forest Cabin began encouraging its beauty advisers to start livestreaming promotions. They opened personal livestream accounts – and instead of just introducing the makeup, they also give skin care tips to attract viewers. 

And now, they're making more money than they ever did.

Wang Cuixiang, a beauty adviser from Forest Cabin, said they gained an extensive following from customers after they started presenting skincare techniques and how to use products online. 

“We'll have four or five hundred viewers watching our programs now, and sales from one show can go up to 10,000 or 20,000 yuan," said Wang. 

Livestreaming is having a dramatic effect on the company's sales. 

With more than 100 beauty advisors broadcasting last month, sales rose 45 percent year on year in the first half of February. 

Bigger brands are also picking up the idea. L'Oreal beauty brand Yuesai has worked with well-known KOLs in the past, but the pandemic has led the company to open social media accounts to get its beauty advisers on screen.

“The beauty advisers' broadcasts provide real-life experience to viewers. They broadcast from the shopping mall or from home. And they don't use fancy language, but they do understand the products well and they understand the consumers. That's the advantage of letting the beauty advisors broadcast,” said Yuan Minghui, the training manager at Yuesai.

Yuesai has not revealed the results of its livestreaming promotions, but a survey from marketing intelligence firm Mintel shows that recommendations from cosmetic store staff are just as influential as those of KOLs in driving consumers to buy new products. 38 percent of those surveyed trusted the beauty advisers more, while 39 percent tended to trust the KOLs. 

Industry analysts are concluding that the next beauty brand battleground will be on livestreams.

Alice Li, senior analyst from Mintel Beauty & Personal Care, projected that the positioning of livestreaming will change or evolve. 

“The outbreak of COVID-19 made more people used to livestreaming in daily life, accordingly beauty brands increasingly use it as sales channel to approach more clients who shop online.”

Li added that digital experience is also important to consumers' shopping journey, as livestreaming has made it more interactive and efficient compared to images and videos.

All of this could well result in more amateur broadcasters who used to be shop assistants. Taobao data show the number of livestreams has rocketed by more than 110 percent since February, and that the number of new broadcasters is now ten times what it was in January.

(Cover: VCG)