For years, Chinese e-commerce exporters have learned the advantages and disadvantages of placing ads on Facebook, Instagram and other popular social media platforms to reach customers around the world. But they have recently found a new way to get people's attention that has never felt so familiar.
Shopping via video is currently the latest craze in China. There are efforts by short video apps like Douyin – TikToks Chinese sister – which brings retailers together with content creators for advertising. During the Corona virus blockade, millions of consumers trusted live video to review products and asked retailers questions remotely. This practice has been recognized by local governments as a means of increasing domestic consumption. In just the first quarter of this year, more than 4 million live shopping sessions took place in China.
In other parts of the world, brands and video artists – especially influencers with substantial followers – are also becoming increasingly popular. Some American venture capitalists have recognized the early potential for collaboration. Amazon, a few years behind its Chinese peers in live streaming, launched Amazon Live last year.
Now Alibaba, one of the pioneers of buyable videos in China, has big plans to attract and train international influencers – so that it can sell more worldwide through AliExpress . The platform is one of Alibaba's marketplaces for international consumers, which total 180 million active consumers annually.
"Chinese manufacturers are always looking for sales opportunities and influencers are the fastest way to increase traffic these days," said Miranda Tan, managing director of Robin8, a data-driven marketing platform for influencers.
In fact, some Shenzhen-based e-commerce exporters told theinformationsuperhighway that they want to actively work with international content creators, particularly TikTok influencers, to market their products. They are currently relying on their Chinese employees to create low-budget promotional videos that often lack important cultural nuances.
Everyone is a seller
AliExpress plans to recruit up to 100,000 “promoters” to help merchants and brands on AliExpress promote through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other popular internet platforms. In addition to popular influencers, the platform is also looking for talented content creators behind the camera and experienced marketers with access to customer acquisition channels.
"Live shopping is still in its infancy in the overseas consumer market," Martin Wang, director of overseas sales operations and social commerce collaboration at AliExpress, told theinformationsuperhighway. "Our initiative will help drive the overseas ecosystem."
To this end, the team developed the “Connect” matchmaking system for influencers to find advertising tasks and offers training and analysis tools to support their creative process. While Alibaba sellers in China have been offering live sales since 2016, AliExpress only added the feature last year and announced the recruitment program in April.
The call for talent came at a time when millions of people around the world had lost their jobs due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. It is no surprise that AliExpress charges the recruitment as an invoice that "could help individuals rebuild after COVID-19".
"Many people are currently out of money and are looking for ways to make money during the corona virus outbreak," said Tan, who has observed that many people are learning to be product promoters on social media to make extra money. "Everyone becomes their own independent company."
An obvious goal for AliExpress is the upcoming harvest of bilingual foreign influencers living in China. “Many are foreign students in China with a positive image and a knack for expression. In the evenings, they have a flexible schedule so that agencies can contact them, train them to be live streaming hosts, and finally sign with them, ”said Wang.
The influencers, who speak fluent Chinese and their mother tongue, may appear to be ideal ambassadors in the target markets of the sellers, but there is a possible disadvantage. "You could see Li Jiaqi and Weiya as role models," said Wang, referring to China's top beauty influencers known for their record-breaking sales. "But what works in China may not work in their home countries."
On the demand side, Wang feared that Chinese traders were too used to seeing meteoric sales that influencers generate in China. "The overseas market (live streaming) has not yet reached maturity, so it is our priority to manage the expectations of both sides (from sellers and content creators)."
Most AliExpress sellers come from China, the world's factory, of course, while Russia is the largest sales market. The platform has worked to increase its inventory by opening up to sellers in Turkey, Russia, Spain and Italy last year. For example, Russia is a big market for the Turkish AliExpress retailers. The expansion poses an even greater challenge for the Chinese company to cope with the differences in business dynamics and consumer behavior in the regions.