Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Tuesday, Mar 28, 2023

‘Oh my God, buy it!’ China’s livestream shopping stars risk being censored

‘Oh my God, buy it!’ China’s livestream shopping stars risk being censored

Online sales stars enjoy huge influence but can fall foul of the authorities and vanish from the retail multiverse

Hua Shao stands knee-deep in water at the edge of the sea, behind a table piled high with large crabs. The famous Chinese TV host is sweaty, sunburnt and laughing with a co-host as a red-and-blue fishing boat bobs behind them.

“The sea-ears taste so good, it must have been collected from a sea area where the water is very clear,” he tells more than 100,000 people who are watching online.

It’s the eve of “618”, one of China’s biggest retail festivals, which are increasingly driven by the weird world of livestream shopping channels.

Amid major economic concerns in China and arduous zero-Covid policies, 618 will give a strong indication of just how people’s urge to shop has been affected. Discounts and deals are ubiquitous, promoted by legions of actual and aspiring retail celebrities. Hua is a big gun.

Hua Shao sells crabs, sea-ears and soap while standing in the sea on the eve of one of China’s biggest shopping festivals, 618.

The livestreams, which are spread across China’s internet and social media, occupy a space in between Instagram influencers and the late-night TV shopping channels of the 1980s and 90s.

On platforms such as Taobao and Douyin – China’s TikTok – billions of dollars are spent on the interactive pages of livestream shopping anchors. Many of these fast-talking and charismatic hosts have now become A-list celebrities. Some channels are slickly produced, surrounded by products and brands, guests, frenetic bells, whistles and countdowns creating a sense of urgency among viewers to splash the cash.

The most successful hosts have tens of millions of loyal viewers, and sell hundreds of millions of items. Li Jiaqi is arguably China’s most famous, known among his tens of millions of followers for his enthusiastic catchphrase: “Oh my God, buy it!” He earned the nickname the Lipstick King after he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds”. In 2020, Li claimed he could do 389 broadcasts in 365 days, often working from midday to 4am.

Livestreaming accounts for 10% of Chinese e-commerce revenue, according to the management consultancy firm McKinsey. It now underpins retail campaigns such as Singles Day and Double 11 – annual shopping festivals that eclipse the US Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. In 2020, the industry had an estimated merchandise value of $171bn (£140bn). This year, McKinsey predicts it will surpass $420bn.

More than a third of the products are fashion-related, followed by beauty products, fresh food and tech. Occasionally, there’s an eyebrow-raising outlier – in 2020 one of the country’s most popular sellers hawked a $5.6m commercial rocket-launch service.

Analysts estimate that almost half a billion people made purchases on a shopping livestream in 2021, a 20% increase on the previous year, probably boosted by the pandemic keeping so many people at home.

Shopper Ms Du, in Zhengzhou, Henan, says the Douyin live streams were good for her and her daughter.

“For plus-size women’s clothing, the models are indeed large-sized, and it is more down-to-earth than other platforms,” she says.

Trust in the hosts is key. Often they use their clout to negotiate cheap deals for their viewers. The biggest names in live shopping are seen as having reliable opinions on the products they sell, despite the big-money contracts between them and brands such as L’Oréal, Adidas, McDonald’s and KFC.

But the explosive growth of the industry has drawn the attention of regulators. In December last year, one of the industry’s biggest stars, Huang Wei, who goes by the name Viya, was fined more than $210m for tax evasion. After the fine was announced, Huang apologised on her social media account, telling followers she felt “deeply guilty” and accepted the punishment.

Some fans said their discussion of Huang’s case was blocked on social media. Some spoke out in defence of her, and the product lines she endorsed.

“I was also very, very, very angry at Viya for evading taxes, but … her selection is more in line with my taste, especially home appliances and furniture and daily necessities,” said one Weibo user.

The most recent scandal is a little more complicated. On 3 June – the eve of the Tiananmen Square massacre – Li appeared to present to camera an ice-cream cake that resembled a tank. It wasn’t clear that Li was aware of the possible significance of the cake. But his feed was abruptly cut and social media mentions of his name censored.

Li hasn’t been back online since. What that means for the brands he promoted to his tens of millions of followers isn’t clear. Some companies, however, are now choosing to sell via AI-generated hosts instead.


Related Articles

Brand new security footage has just been released to the public showing the Active shooter Audrey Elizabeth Hale drove to Covenant Church School in her Honda Fit this morning, parked, and shot her way into the building
U.S. charges FTX's Bankman-Fried with paying $40 million bribe
Fallen 'Crypto King' Who Owes Millions to Investors Was Kidnapped and Tortured
Regulators blame social media for SVB's rapid collapse: 'Complete game changer'
AOC explains why she opposes banning TikTok
UK: Humza Yousaf replaces Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister in Scotland
In a dramatic U-turn against His Government: Judicial Reform Legislation Must Be Halted, Says Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant
Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel Corporation, died at 94
Powell: Silicon Valley Bank was an 'outlier'
Donald Trump arrested – Twitter goes wild with doctored pictures
NYPD is setting up barricades outside Manhattan Criminal Court ahead of Trump arrest.
Credit Suisse's Scandalous History Resulted in an Obvious Collapse - It's time for regulators who fail to do their job to be held accountable and serve as an example by being behind bars.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman tours potential migrant housing in Rwanda as asylum deal remains mired in legal challenges
Paris Rioting vs Macron anti democratic law
'Sexual Fantasy' Assignment At US School Outrages Parents
Credit Suisse to borrow $54 billion from Swiss central bank
Russian Hackers Preparing New Cyber Assault Against Ukraine
Jeremy Hunt insists his Budget will get young parents and over-50s back into work
If this was in Tehran, Moscow or Hong Kong
TRUMP: "Standing before you today, I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent World War III."
Mexican President Claims Mexico is Safer than the U.S.
A brief banking situation report
Lady bites police officer and gets instantly reaction
We are witnessing widespread bank fails and the president just gave a 5 min speech then walked off camera.
Donald Trump's asked by Tucker Carlson question on if the U.S. should support regime change in Russia?.
Silicon Valley Bank exec was Lehman Brothers CFO
In a potential last-ditch effort, HSBC is considering a rescue deal to save Silicon Valley Bank UK from insolvency
BBC Director General, Tim Davie, has apologized, but not resigned, yet, following the disruption of sports programmes over the weekend
Elon Musk Is Planning To Build A Town In Texas For His Employees
The Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse effect is spreading around the world, affecting startup companies across the globe
City officials in Berlin announced on Thursday that all swimmers at public pools will soon be allowed to swim topless
Fitness scam
Market Chaos as USDC Loses Peg to USD after $3.3 Billion Reserves Held by Silicon Valley Bank Closed.
Senator Tom Cotton: If the Mexican Government Won’t Stop Cartels from Killing Americans, Then U.S. Government Should
Banking regulators close SVB, the largest bank failure since the financial crisis
The unelected UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, an immigrant himself, defends new controversial crackdown on illegal migration
Man’s penis amputated by mistake after he’s wrongly diagnosed with a tumour
In a major snub to Downing Street's Silicon Valley dreams, UK chip giant Arm has dealt a serious blow to the government's economic strategy by opting for a US listing
It's the question on everyone's lips: could a four-day workweek be the future of employment?
Is Gold the Ultimate Safe Haven Asset in Times of Uncertainty?
Spain officials quit over trains that were too wide for tunnels...
Don Lemon, a CNN anchor, has provided a list of five areas that he believes the black community needs to address.
Hello. Here is our news digest from London.
Corruption and Influence Buying Uncovered in International Mainstream Media: Investigation Reveals Growing Disinformation Mercenaries
Givenchy Store in New York Robbed of $50,000 in Merchandise
European MP Clare Daly condemns US attack on Nord Stream
Former U.S. President Carter will spend his remaining time at home and receive hospice care instead of medication
Tucker Carlson called Trump a 'demonic force'
US Joins 15 NATO Nations in Largest Space Data Collection Initiative in History