New Money: China's top beauty influencer Li Jiaqi on livestream e-commerce myths
Updated 08:12, 05-May-2020
By Xia Cheng and Jin Yang

Editor note: CGTN's New Money will return on May 7. The flagship segment will take a look at the most popular way to shop online in China livestream e-commerce and dive deeper to get an inside look into content, sales, money and jobs in this fast growing sector.

The coronavirus pandemic is adding fuel to the rampant growth of livestream e-commerce, because that's the only best way possible for product promotions under the circumstances, as customers can't visit physical stores or other types of offline events.

Livestream e-commerce became mainstream in 2019. It's basically people selling products live online. Think of U.S. flagship shopping channel QVC but on mobile internet. But instead of calling in, consumers can snap up discounts with just one click. TV shopping sales person usually represent the interest of brands, not consumers, but live streamers need to negotiate the best deals with brands for their followers to pump up the viewership and sales.

iResearch data shows livestream e-commerce in China has become a 434-billion-yuan market, that's worth 61 billion U.S. dollars. It is likely to double the size this year. That would be close to a trillion-yuan market. That's on top of the 600-percent growth in 2018 and more than 200-percent growth in 2019.

In the first quarter of this year, there were four million online sales events. As a result, online retail sales kept up with a year ago.

Some stay-at-home-related products have seen a jump in sales. Sales of home and kitchen wares and gym equipment surged by 40 percent. Farm produce saw a 30-percent hike in online sales, thanks to many online sales events. Sales of food and beverages and medicines rose by 20 percent. Laptops, printers and keyboards, crucial for work from home, went up by 10 percent. But overall, Alibaba's Taobao has the biggest share in the livestream e-commerce market. Can anyone challenge this dominance?

But as more live streamers start to sell products, skepticism rises. According to an online survey by CGTN, the attitude towards livestream e-commerce is increasingly polarizing. Some swear by new shopping experience, mostly fans of Alibaba's Taobao Live, while some doubt that live streamers sell products that are both affordable and authentic. 

Li Jiaqi (L) sells products with his assistant via a live stream. /CGTN

Li Jiaqi (L) sells products with his assistant via a live stream. /CGTN

"I believe that once people realize we truly offer affordable and authentic products with guaranteed quality and after-sales service, and if all live streamers in China can strictly self-regulate, then those who never watched or were skeptical about livestream e-commerce will also gradually change their minds," said Li Jiaqi, one of the top influencers in China who has built his online fandom and e-commerce business on Taobao.

The majority of people who refuse to buy from live streamers are concerned that some of the influencers over exaggerate the functions or quality of some products. Some of the influencers have also been called out for reporting fake data traffic, viewership and sales to their brand sponsors. That's on the back of a Chinese consumer population that's getting increasingly picky, less loyal to brands and more tech savvy. The lack of regulation on the state level is also behind the market dysfunction.

Li Jiaqi said that his livestreams only carry products from brands' flagship stores on Taobao's T-mall marketplace, to ensure the quality of products and after-sales services. "Recently we upgraded our product selection process to be stricter and more sophisticated with our own quality-control review team," said Li.